13 Surprising Benefits of Cumin

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated -

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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 of the Indian Subcontinent and some other Asian, African and Latin American countries. Both whole and ground cumin is used as a staple in various dishes due to its distinct warm and earthy flavor. Because of its strong aroma, only a small amount of cumin essential oil is used in recipes to provide them with a powerful punch. Both cumin and its essential oil boasts a number of important nutrients that can help keep you healthy.

Nutrition Facts

Spices, cumin seed
Serving Size :
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 an excellent 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 also rich in protein, amino acids, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and a reasonable amount of fats and fatty acids. It is very low in saturated fats, sodium, and cholesterol. A 2015 report co-published by Food & Drug Toxicology Research Centre, National Institute of Nutrition ICMR, and Centre for Science, Society, and Culture in the 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 is extremely good for treating digestive problems. It is also a carminative, which means that it relieves you from gas troubles, and thereby, improves digestion and appetite. 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, cumin extract’s efficacy in treating gastrointestinal disorders like bloating, and other symptoms of IBS was revealed.

The very aroma, which comes from an organic compound called cuminaldehyde, the main component of its essential oil, activates the salivary glands in the mouth, which facilitates 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 rich source of iron which helps in increasing hemoglobin levels, improving blood flow and also promoting a healthy menstrual cycle.

Boosts Immunity

An abundance of iron, the presence of essential oils, vitamin C, and vitamin A in cumin boosts 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 acts as an expectorant, meaning that it loosens up the accumulated phlegm and mucus in the respiratory tracts, and makes it easier to eliminate them from the system via sneezing or coughing up and spitting. By eliminating as much of the 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

Cumin is a stimulant as well as a relaxant at the same time. 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.

Prevents Diabetes

Cumin aids in preventing diabetes by reducing the chances of hypoglycemia. A report published in the Pharmacological Research revealed a study that was conducted on diabetic rats to prove that cumin seeds help in preventing diabetes. The rats were orally administered 0.25 kg to 1 body weight of cumin seeds for 6 weeks following which they were monitored closely. The consumption of cumin resulted in a significant reduction in blood glucose and an increase in total hemoglobin and glycosylated hemoglobin. Cumin also helps to decrease glucosuria, which is a condition where the urine contains too much glucose, also resulting in hypoglycemia and diabetes.

Food-borne Illness

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

Lowers Cholesterol

Cumin has hypolipidemic properties, which helps to control high levels of fats. To reduce your cholesterol levels you can eat cumin powder mixed with yogurt.

Prevents Anemia

Iron-rich cumin can be a nutritious addition to the daily diet of anemic people. It helps relieve the symptoms of anemia like fatigue, anxiety, cognitive malfunction, and digestive issues.

Bone Health

Calcium in cumin helps in increasing the bone-density, thereby delaying the onset of osteoporosis.

Treats Boils

Regular use of cumin in food also helps in preventing 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. The healthy way of removing toxins is through the excretory system, not through boils.

Anticancer Potential

Cumin due to its antioxidant, chemopreventive, and anti-carcinogenic properties prevents 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 were evaluated against benzo(a)pyrene [B(a)P]-induced forestomach tumorigenesis and 3-methylcholanthrene (MCA)-induced uterine cervix tumorigenesis, which showed a significant reduction of stomach tumor burden by cumin.

Another study by Kundu J, et al. states that thymoquinone present in cumin seeds exhibits antitumor, anticancer, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

Health benefits of cumin - infographic

Relieves Symptoms of Piles

Cumin aids in clearing up all the symptoms and causes of piles (hemorrhoids). Adding it to your diet also helps in healing infections in the digestive and excretory system and speeds up digestion as well.  This is due to the presence of dietary fiber content, and carminative, stimulating, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties in cumin that enables it to act as a natural laxative in a powdered form.

Fights Common Cold

The essential oils present in cumin act as disinfectants and help fight viral infections which are the cause of common cold. It also suppresses the development of coughing in the respiratory system 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 anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties that help in relieving pain and inflammation associated with arthritis

Treats Diarrhea

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

Increases Lactation

Cumin is rich in iron and thus very good 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 (more than 900 mg per 100 grams) which accounts for over 90% of our daily requirement of calcium.  This calcium is an important constituent of milk and hence it is very good for lactating mothers. Also, cumin is more beneficial if taken with honey.

Improves Cognitive Performance

Cumin rich in iron increases blood circulation to various organs including the brain and leads to increased cognitive performance. It also aids in reducing the risk of cognitive disorders. A study published in the Pharmaceutical Biology provided scientific evidence to demonstrate cumin extract’s anti-stress, antioxidant, and memory-enhancing activities. Furthermore, it stated that the use of cumin as an important culinary spice in foods plays an important 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

Cumin is highly effective in improving all 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 that’s used in treating gastrointestinal disorders like bloating, and other symptoms of IBS.

Reduces Drug Dependence

The compounds present in cumin help reduce the addictive behavior and withdrawal symptoms of opioid narcotics.

Improves Memory

Cumin stimulates the nervous system, resulting in sharper memory. It may also help treat Parkinson’s disease.

Other Benefits

Cumin is also beneficial in treating renal colic, weak memory, insect bites, and painful stings.

Uses of Cumin

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

  • 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 including 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 works as an aphrodisiac. This concoction is widely popular amongst Arabs.

Cumin Side Effects

Excess intake of cumin may result in severe side effects like:

  • Hypoglycemia: Cumin may lower blood sugar levels in some people so diabetics should keep a check. Also, avoid use if undergoing surgery as it may affect the blood sugar levels.
  • Blood clotting: Cumin may slow blood clotting process, therefore, people with bleeding disorders should avoid its intake.
  • Heartburn and liver damage: Excess intake of cumin may cause heartburn, kidney and liver damage due to the presence of highly volatile oil.
  • Infertility and miscarriage: Cumin suppresses testosterone levels and may reduce fertility in men. Also, avoid use during pregnancy as it may trigger miscarriage.

Some other minor side effects of cumin include:

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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