I probably use cumin more often than any other spice in my cabinet, except salt and pepper. It’s one of my favorite flavors, and if you look through my herb pantry, you’ll find both ground cumin and cumin seeds.
Cumin is also an ingredient in curry powder and garam masala, and sometimes I even mix up my own blends.
Cumin is commonly used in Indian, Asian, Middle Eastern, African, Mediterranean, Southwestern, Mexican, and Central and South American foods. During the Middle Ages, it was one of the most popular spices in Europe as well, so it’s truly a global spice.
Although you might only think of cumin for culinary purposes, it has many medicinal properties, too. It’s mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, and in the works of Hippocrates, Dioscorides, and Pliny.
Cumin is an excellent carminative spice (relieving flatulence or gas) and is often used by naturopathic veterinarians for this purpose. Who wants to ride a gassy horse during a jumping competition, after all? It helps humans in the same way, which is perhaps why it’s often combined with beans. Cumin is believed to help with other digestive issues like bowel spasms, cramps, diarrhea, and colic.
Additionally, cumin is a diuretic and is beneficial for heart health due to high levels of phytochemicals, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. Although most people don’t eat large enough amounts of cumin to make a big difference, it is possible to take powdered cumin in capsules. There are no known side effects or proven contraindications, so feel free to use it generously in your cooking.
And moms: Cumin is an old folk remedy used to support a healthy uterus and increase breast milk production after childbirth.
© Bobbi Mullins, February 2015
Grieve, M. A Modern Herbal. 1971. New York: Dover Publications
Tierra, M. The Way of Herbs. 1980. New York.