Also known as
Cuminum cyminum, Should not be confused with black cumin, the Chinese medicinal herb, or sweet cumin, better known as fennel, or caraway.
Cumin is the seed of a small plant in the parsley family. Its use goes back 5000 years to the Egyptians, who used it not only as a spice but as an ingredient in the mummification process. The Greeks and Romans also used cumin and highly regarded it as one of the essential spices. In the Middle Ages cumin seed was thought to promote love and fidelity, so it was carried by attendees of weddings, and solders were always sent off to battle with a fresh loaf of cumin seed bread. Pungent, sharp, and slightly sweet, the greenish brown powder of this herb is an essential ingredient in Mexican and Indian cuisine.
Cumin contains 2.5 to 4% essential oil. In the essential oil, cumin aldehyde (p-isopropyl-benzaldehyde , 25 to 35%) is dominant, but there are also perilla aldehyde, cumin alcohol, a- and b-pinene (21%), dipentene, p-cymene and b-phellandrene. In toasted cumin fruits, a large number of pyrazines are known to serve as flavor compounds. Alkyl derivatives (particularly, 2,5- and 2,6-dimethyl pyrazine), 2-alkoxy-3-alkylpyrazines seem to be the key compounds (2-ethoxy-3-isopropyl pyrazine, 2-methoxy-3-sec-butyl pyrazine, 2-methoxy-3-methyl pyrazine). Also a sulfur compound, 2-methylthio-3-isopropyl pyrazine, was found. These compounds are also found in toasted (but not fresh) fennel or coriander seed.
The fruits ("seeds"), whole or ground, fresh or toasted.
Most often used in cooking, can be added to other herbs in teas, tinctures, or encapsulations.
In traditional herbal medicine, cumin is used as a diuretic and to treat stomach upset and flatulence. It is thought to promote a healthy digestive system. Cumin stimulates menstruation, and also can be added to gargles to treat laryngitis. Poultices of cumin are used to treat swellings of the breasts or testicles. In Ayurvedic medicine, cumin with ghee is smoked to relieve hiccups. According to the Bible, cumin was so valuable that it could be used in the place of money when it came time to tithe in church.
Ground cumin should be kept in an air-tight container. Add to cooking in moderation; the pungency of cumin can overwhelm other flavors in a dish. Be forewarned that cumin stimulates the appetite and may increase lactation in nursing mothers.
For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.