After recently writing an article on black cumin seed oil health benefits, writing about how cumin benefits health only makes sense! Black seed oil actually doesn’t come from cumin Cuminimum cyminum, you see. It is from the plant Nigella sativa.
However, the cumin that we are all likely familiar with does exhibit therapeutic effects, and may be used for a range of ailments and to improve health!
In today’s article, we’re going to explore these, and learn about why this Indian spice is worth including in your diet!
Let’s spice things up a bit!
This classic Indian spice, much like Ginger, benefits digestive health in multiple ways. The most similar way is that they can both enhance and encourage digestion.
A study conducted in India concluded that cumin can actually significantly increase enzyme activity (^). We require enzymes in order to break down food during digestion. So, by increasing their activities, we are in effect increasing digestibility.
Additionally, we also improve our absorption of iron and zinc by increasing phytase (an enzyme) activity!
Interestingly, cumin may also benefit those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). One study worked with 57 patients suffering from IBS. They were advised to discontinue other treatments, and only use 20 drops of cumin essential oil per day, and results were measured after 2 and 4 weeks.
This significantly improved a range of different symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, and frequency (^)!
Plant compounds and antioxidants found in cumin also exhibit anti-inflammatory properties, aiding in its therapeutic potential!
Inflammation is linked to pretty much every illness and ailment that there is! From chronic pain, to Alzheimer’s, to cancer, and much more in between, controlling inflammation levels is extremely important in a healthy life and a healthy body!
Kaempferol is a flavonoid aglycone present in cumin, and also in fennel, garlic, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, beans, and even more. It is highly anti-inflammatory, and even shows anticancer potential (^). We will discuss that more later.
In the roots, stems, and leaves, we also know of other beneficial phenolic compounds. Quercetin, an antioxidant particularly high in onions and kale is found in a roots, and helps to reduce inflammation and boost immunity(^).
P-coumaric is a plant acid with many benefits (^). It shows little toxicity in mice, and has a whole range of potent positive health effects. It is found in the stems and leaves, as are rosmarinic, rescorcinol, and cinnamic acid (^).
When answering how cumin benefits health, the anti-inflammatory properties are crucial! By preventing illness, improving health, and even helping with chronic disease, cumin is rather impressive.
Let’s explore this further…
Relating to the previous point, cumin may also boost our immunity.
Free radicals such as DPPH can cause a lot of damage to our bodies. Fortunately, cumin helps to scavenge harmful free radicals support a healthy immune system (^).
It even fights the common cold (^), allergies (^), and provides vitamins A and C, along with iron. These nutrients help to maintain and develop a strong immune system. This in turn helps to maintain and develop a strong body and a healthy life!
Kappa-B is a nuclear transcription factor very closely linked to inflammatory diseases. The phytochemicals found in cumin and other spices can prevent its activation (^). Potentially, this reduces the risk of many diseases, including:
- Alzheimer’s and Chron’s
In immunosuppressed mice, cumin extract was shown to help modulate the immune system (^). This could show potential in humans by increasing immune system activity, helping to fight illness.
Studies also demonstrate that cumin seed extracts highly antimicrobial, and help to fight unwelcome bacteria and infections (^)!
Another way how cumin benefits health is by improving cholesterol profile.
Numerous studies demonstrate that cumin can effectively reduce oxidised cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides. At the same time, it can potentially help to increase heart-healthy HDL cholesterol.
A detailed meta-analysis of 26 separate studies also concluded that paraoxonase and arylesterase activities are increased by cumin (^). These are two enzymes which are important in protecting against cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and lipoprotein oxidation (^)(^).
These health benefits can help to prevent heart disease, atherosclerosis, inflammation, and high blood pressure.
I’ve said in many posts up until now that vegetable (including sunflower and other) oils are extremely bad for us. The oxidised polyunsaturated fats in them can cause major levels of free radicals in the body. They are also toxic to the liver, as is alcohol.
A study conducted in India found that cumin can effectively decrease lipid levels in rats with alcohol- and oxidised oil-induced liver toxicity (hepatotoxicity) (^). This included lower levels of tissue cholesterol and triglycerides. Therefore, cumin also shows protective effects on the liver.
However, one study did find that there was no cholesterol-lowering effect in rats. Very little information is given about the study and its method though (^).
Cumin is very high in iron. This essential mineral is essential for the formation of haemoglobin in red blood cells, and plays an important role in delivering oxygen throughout the body. The lack of iron can lead to a lack of red blood cells, and this is called (iron-deficiency) anaemia. Symptoms are fatigue, tiredness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and maybe paleness.
By including plenty of cumin in your diet, especially for vegetarians or vegans, you could actually be doing yourself a favour in preventing the development of anaemia!
On average, one tablespoon of whole seeds will provide you with 4 mg of iron (^). That’s 22% of the recommended daily amount! However, this is non-heme iron, as it is from plants.
Our absoprtion of this is typically low, but by increasing Vitamin C intake, we could potentially absorb almost all of this(^)!
Getting even a tablespoon in each day can also be pretty easy! Cumin is a very versatile spice, and works well in Indian food, herbal teas, rice, soups, and more!
This relates to our first point about digestion as well. Since cumin help increase the bioavailability of iron, including it with other foods will help us to absorb their iron content,!
Diabetes UK define diabetes as a lifelong condition in which one’s blood sugar levels are too high. This can cause a range of serious complications, and is best treated in its early stages before it’s fully developed.
Fortunately, cumin has hypoglycemic effects, which help to lower blood sugar levels. In order to prevent diabetes, and even help treat it, this is essential. If you have diabetes, you also need to watch out for too low levels of blood sugar. So if you use cumin, take caution and monitor your symptoms, making sure not to take too much.
Studies have shown that both dietary and supplementary cumin can have this effect. One study on cuminaldehyde – an essential oil in cumin – found that it inhibited alpha-glucosidase (^). This is an enzyme which breaks down starch into glucose, so by inhibiting its action, less glucose ends up in the body. However, this amount was not as much as quercetin or acerbose (an antidiabetic drug).
Another indicated that cumin was highly beneficial in reducing high levels of blood sugar (^). This was shown in part by a reduction in urine glucose levels. Usually, urine contains no glucose, but when levels are too high in the blood, this is our body trying to flush it out.
I mentioned a study earlier which showed improved lipid and cholesterol profiles due to the effects of cumin. This is beneficial for those with diabetes by improving beta-cell functions and improving insulin production (^).
The same study found that in diabetic rats, cumin supplementation of 0.25g / kg of body weight for 6 weeks significantly reduced blood glucose levels (^). At the same time, this lowered inflammation.
For an impressive way how cumin benefits health, I’m sure this has to be here!
Prevents and Fights Cancer
We’ve already covered that our many powerful antioxidants in cumin. We find these in the seeds, root, stems, and leaves. These contribute to how cumin benefits health, but there’s more!
Cumin also has anti-cancer properties related to this.
A number of specific cancers have been studied in relation to cumin. These include lung, colon, stomach, brain, liver, cervical, and ovarian varieties. For example, one in vitro study on 7 different types of cancer found that one type of colon cancer growth was inhibited by it up to 40% using cumin (^).
Additionally, an Indian study found that in mice, a diet consisting of varying percentages of cumin seeds reduced cervical carcinoma incidence (^). In the control group receiving no dosage, that was a percentage of 66.67%. With 5% cumin seeds in the diet, the incidence was more than halved. And, this reduced to 12.50% with a diet of 7.5% cumin seeds.
By increasing enzyme activities, boosting antioxidants, and improving carcinogen metabolism, human helps to fight and prevent the growth of cancer. The other health benefits listed in this article help to explain this. Furthermore, the nutrients and phytochemicals (^) provided by cumin may also help to prevent its formation.
Because of this, and cumin’s low toxicity levels, perhaps it’s extracts could be considered one day as an alternative treatment.
Reduces the Risk of Foodborne-Illness
We mentioned the antimicrobial properties of cumin, and their benefits to the immune system. But this isn’t all they benefit.
Many of us will be a victim to one kind of food poisoning or other in our lifetime. Sometimes, unwelcome bacteria which find their way into our crops, meat, or stored food cause this. Fungi are also a possibility.
Thymol is a phenol found most in thyme, but also in other foods. I spoke about it in some detail in my post about black cumin seed oil.
We actually find some thymol in cumin, too. Researchers consider it to be an eco-friendly pesticide which also could protect crops from certain bacteria and fungi.
Studies have shown that cumin and its oils like cuminaldehyde inhibit a number of different bacteria found in food considerably. Cumin seems to be most effective against Staphylococcus bacteria. This includes Staphylococcus aureus – a common cause of psoriasis and eczema in too high amounts.
In one study, however, the fungi tested were particularly resistant compared to bacteria. Up to 10-20 times in fact (^).
Candida albicans is a yeast that lives in humans in small amounts. However, it is also the largest cause of fungal infection in the world. Impaired immune systems or mucosal barriers can allow it to cause disease due to candida overgrowth.
Researchers from Germany found that multiple cumin essential oils were effectively inhibitory against Candida albicans and bacteria from sausages, pork and mincemeat (^).
Including some extra cumin in your diet might help to prevent food-borne illness due to its antimicrobial and antibiotic components.
Brain Boosting and Relaxing
Cumin has multiple therapeutic effects on our brain and mind. As you might expect, the antioxidants could help to prevent free radical damage (such as that in neurodegenerative diseases), and keep the brain healthier for longer.
In Ayurvedic traditional medicine, cumin is a useful remedy for encourage sleep. The oils found in it are tranquilising, making cumin an effective relaxant!
An interesting study conducted in South Korea also points out other benefits (^). Much as is found in the liver, cumin significantly reduces lipid peroxidation in the brain! One inevitable outcome of this is a lower level of free radicals.
The study actually focused on stress and memory capacity, though. The findings tell us that in rats, cumin can help reduce stress (particularly if administrated prior to the stress causing event), whilst also enhancing memory!
Science therefore backs up traditional remedies using the spice in combating stress, inducing sleep, and improving brain function.
Try some mixed in with your ginger tea before bed and see how it works, or even try burning the essential oil!
Cool Cumin For High Health…
In this article we’ve learnt a lot about how cumin benefits health, discovering its impressive therapeutic uses, and finding out how it works along the way!
Not only can this powerful spice help to improve overall health, it may even be effective in certain treatments! And, I mean, who doesn’t like cumin!? 🙂
It’s an excellent addition to this so many dishes and especially Indian cuisine. If you’re looking for some ideas, why not try my post on healthy food from India!
That’s it for this one (so far)! I hope you all enjoy it, and as usual…
Until the next one, stay healthy