13 Surprising Benefits of Cumin

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated - Medically reviewed by Vanessa Voltolina (MS, RD)

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The health benefits of cumin include its ability to aid in digestion, improve immunity, and treat skin disorders and insomnia. It also helps treat anemia, boils, cancer, and respiratory disorders such as asthma and bronchitis.

What is Cumin?

Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) is a flowering plant which belongs to the family Apiaceae. Cumin seeds are extensively used as a condiment or a spice in culinary practices in India and other Asian, African, and Latin American countries. Both whole and ground cumin is used as a staple in various dishes, as it has a distinctly warm and earthy flavor. Because of its strong aroma, only a small amount of cumin essential oil is used in recipes; this is enough to provide them with a powerful punch. Both cumin and its essential oil boast a number of important nutrients that can help keep you healthy.

Nutrition Facts

Spices, cumin seed
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]8.06
Energy [kcal]375
Protein [g]17.81
Total lipid (fat) [g]22.27
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]44.24
Fiber, total dietary [g]10.5
Sugars, total [g]2.25
Calcium, Ca [mg]931
Iron, Fe [mg]66.36
Magnesium, Mg [mg]366
Phosphorus, P [mg]499
Potassium, K [mg]1788
Sodium, Na [mg]168
Zinc, Zn [mg]4.8
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]7.7
Thiamin [mg]0.63
Riboflavin [mg]0.33
Niacin [mg]4.58
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.44
Folate, DFE [µg]10
Vitamin B-12 [µg]0
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]64
Vitamin A, IU [IU]1270
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]3.33
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) [µg]0
Vitamin D [IU]0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]5.4
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]1.54
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]14.04
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]3.28
Cholesterol [mg]0
Caffeine [mg]0
Sources include : USDA

Cumin Nutrition

Cumin is a good source of iron, manganese, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. Other vitamins present in it include thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin A, C, E, K, and vitamin B6. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, it contains minerals such as copper, zinc, and potassium. It is very low in saturated fats, sodium, and cholesterol. A 2015 report co-published by the Food & Drug Toxicology Research Centre in the BMC Nutrition Journal revealed that consuming about one teaspoon of cumin daily can help you meet your daily nutrient requirements

Health Benefits of Cumin

Let us look at some of the most important benefits of cumin in detail.

Regulates Digestion

Cumin has been found to be beneficial for alleviating digestive problems. It is also a carminative, which means that it relieves you from gas troubles. Due to its essential oils, magnesium, and sodium content, it promotes digestion and also gives relief from stomachaches when taken with hot water. Irritable bowel syndrome is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders. In a 2013 paper published in the Middle East Journal of Digestive Diseases, the efficacy of cumin extract in treating gastrointestinal disorders like bloating, and other symptoms of IBS, was revealed.

The very aroma of cumin – which comes from an organic compound called cuminaldehyde, the main component of its essential oil – activates the salivary glands in the mouth, which facilitate the primary digestion of food. Next is thymol, a compound present in cumin, which stimulates the glands that secrete acids, bile, and enzymes responsible for complete digestion of the food in the stomach and intestines.

A close up view of wooden spoon filled with cumin seeds

Rich in Iron

Cumin is a good source of iron, a mineral which helps in increasing hemoglobin levels, improving blood flow and also promoting a healthy menstrual cycle.

Boosts Immunity

As previously discussed, key nutrients in cumin including iron, essential oils, vitamin C, and vitamin A boost our immune system in a number of ways. Vitamin C is one of the most powerful antioxidants that stimulate the function and activity of white blood cells. It further helps neutralize free radicals that lead to many diseases, including, but not limited to, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

Helps with Asthma & Bronchitis

The presence of caffeine (a stimulating agent), and the richly aromatic essential oils (the disinfectants) make cumin an ideal anti-congestive combination for those suffering from respiratory disorders such as asthma and bronchitis. It can act as an expectorant, meaning that it loosens up the accumulated phlegm and mucus in the respiratory tracts, and making it easier to eliminate them from the system via sneezing or coughing up and spitting. By eliminating as much mucus and phlegm as possible, it can inhibit the formation of additional material and help heal the initial condition that led to its formation in the first place.

Skin Care

Cumin helps in protecting skin against fungal and microbial infections due to its disinfectant and antifungal properties. It also aids in reducing signs of premature aging like wrinkles, age spots, and sagging skin. This effect is due to the presence of vitamin E which acts as an antioxidant and combats the free radicals.

Promotes Sleep

It is simultaneously a stimulant as well as a relaxant. Some of the components of cumin essential oil are hypnotic in nature and have tranquilizing effects, which also help relieve stress and anxiety that commonly cause insomnia.

Reduces the Risk of Diabetes

It aids in diabetes prevention by reducing the chances of hypoglycemia. A report published in Pharmacological Research revealed cumin seeds may help in preventing diabetes. The study which utilized a population of diabetic rats, orally administered a set dosage of cumin seeds for six weeks, during which they were monitored closely. The consumption of cumin resulted in a significant reduction in blood glucose and decrease glucosuria, which is a condition where the urine contains too much glucose, also resulting in hypoglycemia and diabetes. Studies such as this have positive implications for the usage of this seed on the reduction of glucose in human populations.

Food-borne Illness

The antiviral and antibacterial properties of cumin mentioned above help fight infections and foodborne illnesses; it also acts as a disinfectant. The components carvacrol and thymol are responsible for this particular health benefit of cumin.

Lowers Cholesterol

Cumin has hypolipidemic properties, which helps to control high levels of cholesterol in the body. Other benefits include aiding in weight reduction. Cumin powder mixed with yogurt is one way to get in a daily dose.

Prevents Anemia

Iron-rich cumin can be a nutritious addition to the daily diet for those with anemia. It may help relieve the symptoms of anemia such as fatigue, anxiety, and cognitive malfunction.

Bone Health

For those people looking for calcium-containing foods to build healthy bones, consider cumin. The calcium in cumin helps in increasing the bone-density, thereby delaying the onset of osteoporosis.

Treats Boils

Regular use of cumin in food is thought to help in the prevention of boils, rashes, pimples, and other signs of excess toxic content. Components such as cuminaldehyde, thymol, and phosphorus are good detoxifying agents which help in the regular removal of toxins from the body.

Anticancer Potential

Cumin is known for its antioxidant, chemopreventive, and anti-carcinogenic properties. Therefore it is thought to guard against various cancer, especially colon and breast cancer. In a study published in the Nutrition and Cancer journal, cancer chemopreventive potentials of different doses of a cumin seed-mixed diet in mice. The findings strongly suggest that cumin seeds’ cancer chemopreventive potential could be due to its ability to modulate carcinogen metabolism.

Other research by Khadar states that thymoquinone present in its seeds exhibits antitumor, anticancer, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

Health benefits of cumin - infographic

Relieves Symptoms of Piles (Hemorrhoids)

Cumin is known for its ability to aid in clearing up the symptoms and causes of piles (hemorrhoids). This is due to the presence of dietary fiber, as well as carminative, stimulating, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties that enable it to act as a natural laxative in a powdered form.

Fights Common Cold

The essential oils present in cumin help fight viral infections, which are often the cause of the common colds. It also suppresses the development of coughing, since it dries up the excess mucus. Further, the high content of iron and vitamin C helps to strengthen the immune system and keeps infections from forming or becoming worse.

Soothes Inflammation

Cumin extracts have been shown to contain anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties that help in relieving pain and inflammation associated with arthritis

Treats Diarrhea

Traditionally, it has been used as a potent antidiarrhoeal drug. It helps in giving relief from severe diarrhea.

Increases Lactation

As cumin is rich in iron, it is beneficial for lactating mothers or pregnant women, as well as for women who are undergoing menses. Moreover, it is said to help ease and increase the secretion of milk in lactating women due to the presence of thymol.

Cumin has a remarkable amount of calcium (60mg per tablespoon) which accounts for almost 20 percent of our daily requirement of calcium. Calcium is an important constituent of milk and hence it is very good for lactating mothers.

Improves Cognitive Performance

Given its good iron content, it may assist in increasing blood circulation to various organs, such as the brain, leading to increased cognitive performance. A study published in Pharmaceutical Biology provided scientific support for cumin extract’s anti-stress, antioxidant, and memory-enhancing properties. Furthermore, it promotes the use of cumin as an important culinary spice in foods given preliminary research on its role in fighting stress and related disorders.

Weight Loss

According to research published in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, cumin is as impactful as any popular diet pill when it comes to reducing weight and fat.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

It is highly effective in improving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) such as cramps, nausea, bloating, gas, and digestive spasms. Researchers at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences published a report in the Middle East Journal of Digestive Diseases (MEJDD) stating that cumin extract; is a type of herbal remedy effectively used in treating gastrointestinal disorders like bloating and other symptoms of IBS.

Reduces Drug Dependence

The compounds present in cumin may assist in the reduction of the addictive behavior and withdrawal symptoms of opioid narcotics. However, more research is needed to determine the generalizability and reach of these findings.

Improves Memory

Preliminary studies performed on animals show scientific support for cumin as providing antistress, antioxidant, and memory-enhancing activities. So, there is a science behind using it as part of your daily dishes to help fight stress and related disorders.

Other Benefits

Cumin is also thought to have beneficial properties in the treatment of renal colic, weak memory, insect bites, and painful stings.

Uses

Given its distinctive flavor and fragrance, cumin as seeds, ground cumin, or cumin oil, is used in various ways, including;

  • Culinary Uses: Cumin is traditionally used as a spice in Indian cooking, either as whole seeds or in powdered form. It is a major component in the preparation of curries, stews, soups and other food products.
  • Personal Care Product: Derived from cumin seeds, cumin essential oil is used as a scent in cosmetics such as creams, perfumes, and lotions.
  • Flavoring Agent: It is used to add flavor to alcoholic beverages and desserts.
  • Medicinal Uses: Cumin seeds are used to produce medicines that help in treating problems like diarrhea, colic, inflammation, bowel and muscle spasms, and gas.
  • Aphrodisiac: When ground cumin is mixed with honey and pepper, it is considered to function as an aphrodisiac. This concoction is widely popular amongst the Arabian population.

Side Effects

Excess intake of cumin may result in severe side effects such as:

  • Hypoglycemia: Cumin may lower blood sugar levels in some, so diabetics should be aware of their intake. Avoid use if undergoing surgery, as it may also affect the blood sugar levels.
  • Blood clotting: Cumin may slow blood clotting process, therefore, people with bleeding disorders should avoid intake.
  • Heartburn and liver damage: Excess intake of cumin may cause heartburn, or even kidney or liver damage.
  • Infertility and miscarriage: It suppresses testosterone levels and may reduce fertility in men. Also, it has been known to trigger miscarriage, so it is important to speak with a medical professional prior to consuming.

Some other minor side effects may include:

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve is a health and wellness enthusiast and started working on Organic Facts since 2012 and is currently responsible for managing it. She follows naturopathy and believes in healing with foods. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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