Spices play an important role in making a dish more flavorful. Indian cuisine is especially known to have some of the healthiest traditional spices as its main ingredients.
Cumin is one such spice that forms an integral part of various dishes in the Indian cuisine. Cumin or ‘Jeera’ in Hindi, ‘Jilakara‘ in Telugu, ‘Jeeragam‘ in Tamil, ‘Jeerakam‘ in Malayalam, ‘Jeerige‘ in Kannada, ‘Jeeru‘ in Gujarati, ‘Jeere‘ in Marathi and ‘Jeerey‘ in Bengali is basically a tiny seed of an annual plant in the parsley family, native to the Mediterranean (1). A typical cumin seed has a striped pattern of nine ridges and oil canals. It is brownish in colour and oblong shaped, tapering at each extremity with tiny stalks attached. Cumin seeds resemble caraway seeds in appearance. However, they are lighter in colour, hotter to taste, larger in size and unlike caraway, have minute bristles that are hardly visible to the naked eye.
The warm and bitter flavor of this aromatic spice as well as its abundant oil content make it usable in Indian, Mexican, North African, Middle Eastern and western Chinese cuisines. In India, cumin seeds are an important component of curry powder and “garam masala”. They are generally fried or roasted before usage. Cumin seeds are generally available dried or ground to a brownish-green powder.
Cumin seeds are generally available in three colours- amber, white and black. The amber seeds are the most common. The black ones have a complex flavor and cannot be substituted for the other two. Black cumin seeds or nigella are different from cumin seeds though both are similar in appearance. Known as “kalonji” in northern India and ‘kaalo jeere’ in Bengal, they have a pungent, powerful, sharp and slightly bitter flavor and a spicy-sweet aroma. They have a thin crescent shape.
Besides its culinary uses, this aromatic spice is known for its medicinal properties since ancient times. Being an excellent source of iron, it aids in digestion, boosts the immune system and has anti-carcinogenic properties.
Black cumin seeds contain about 100 chemical compounds including vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, minerals and fatty acids. They are known for their healing qualities. The Islam culture believes that these can heal any type of disease except death while in Bible they are referred to as the curative black seeds. Thus, this spice has a rich history and was particularly favored by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. In ancient times, it was even used as a method for payment of taxes and debts.
As stated earlier, this aromatic spice is renowned for its medicinal value and health benefits. Hence, it can be beneficial to your skin as well. Some of the cumin or jeera benefits in skincare are as follows.
Boils are outlet for the elimination of toxic substances and foreign matters such as microbes etc. Occurrence of boils indicates the accumulation of toxic substances in the body. Regular usage of cumin in your food helps in keeping your skin free from boils, rashes, pimples etc. This is because it has components such as Cuminaldehyde (2), Thymol and phosphorus which are good detoxifying agents. They help in facilitating regular removal of toxins from the body through the excretory system and not through boils.
If you are suffering from acne or boils, you can try applying vinegar with ground cumin seeds.
[ Read: Ayurvedic Treatment for Boils ]
Cumin has a high content of vitamin E which keeps your skin healthy and glowing. Besides, the essential oils, cumin have disinfectant and anti-fungal properties which protect your skin from fungal and microbial infections. Topical application of cumin paste on boils, pimples, eczema, psoriasis and other skin disorders facilitates quick healing (3). A dash of ground cumin powder can also be added to your face pack to treat skin issues. Cumin is also a good source of dietary fiber which helps in the cleaning process and removes toxins.
Vitamin E present in cumin triggers the anti-ageing processes within the body, thus preventing pre mature ageing symptoms. It acts as an antioxidant to combat the free radicals that attack the skin and cause signs of ageing like wrinkles, age spots and sagging skin. This combination of antioxidant effect and antibacterial capacity of cumin provides you with a healthy, beautiful skin that lasts far into your old age (4).
[ Read: Simple Homemade Tips For Anti Ageing ]
If you are suffering from body heat and skin itchiness, you can put some cumin seeds in boiled water. Once it is cooled, take a bath with that water (5).
Drinking cumin water can relieve the burning sensation of the palms and the soles (6).
You can prepare a face pack by mixing finely ground turmeric and cumin in the ratio 3: 1.
Our hair is composed of many nutrients such as protein, fat, water and carbohydrates. These nutrients are required to enable proper growth of hair. Black cumin contains more than 100 nutrients and vitamins to replenish your hair, thus providing you with a healthy mane. Benefits of cumin for hair are surplus, let’s have a look at few of them:
Nigella sativa or black cumin is known to combat thinning of hair, baldness and falling hair (7).
Black cumin seeds can provide you with those long and lustrous tresses.
Oil extract from cumin is a great stimulant, carminative, antioxidant and diuretic. It is often used for massage in aromatherapy and scalp treatments to get rid of dandruff (8).
Let’s have a look at the health benefits of cumin seeds:
Cumin seeds are very rich in iron, which makes it an essential natural health ingredient. This iron content helps to treat anaemia, makes blood rich in haemoglobin content and also helps in acting as a carrier of oxygen to the cells in the body (10).
Cumin seeds contain Thymoquinone, which reduces inflammatory processes and other mediators that cause asthma. They also act as a bronchodilator (11).
This is achieved by its anti-oxidant characteristics that fight against impurities and free radicals (12). This helps in making the body’s immunity better in combating diseases.
Cumin seeds are rich in iron which is necessary for the formation of haemoglobin in the blood. This in turn is required for the transportation of oxygen in the body. Consuming cumin seeds will keep one protected from anaemia (13).
[ Read: Nutritious Foods To Fight Anaemia ]
Cumin is healthy for women of all age groups and is known to influence a healthy menstrual cycle (14).
Cumin is helpful in treating colon and breast cancer. The seeds contain thymoquinone, dithymoquinone, thymohydroquinone and thymol which are anti-carcinogenic agents (15).
Good metabolism process helps to keep all the other body processes in check. Iron present in cumin helps to properly maintain our metabolic activity (17).
Enzymes present in cumin help to breakdown foods and thus aid in digestion (18).
[ Read: Healthy Foods For Good Digestion ]
This spice is widely available in supermarkets, local spice stores and ethnic markets in both whole and ground form.
It is advisable to buy spices like cumin from local stores or ethnic markets in your area as they feature an expansive collection of dried herbs and spices that are of superior quality and freshness in comparison to those available in regular markets.
Cumin is an important ingredient in Indian kitchen. Both ground and whole cumin seeds are used to season a variety of recipes such as curries, soups and stews. Since they might have a raw and unpleasant flavour, whole cumin seeds should be lightly roasted before adding them to any recipe to obtain their full aroma and flavour. Given below are certain tips for using this spice.
Jeera rice is a common dish in India which is prepared by roasting cumin seeds in butter, frying rice in it and cooking it with water. It is a tasty combination that can be used to flavour vegetables, chicken and fish dishes. Cumin seeds can also be added to brown rice along with dried apricots and almonds.
This spice is a healthy addition to enhance the flavour of legumes such as lentils, garbanzo beans etc. Its aroma and taste greatly complements the recipe made from these foods.
Chilli-cumin bean salad is a healthy meal that requires minimal preparation.
Dal is regarded as a staple diet of Indian cuisine. Whole cumin seeds are used for tempering (providing tadka) dal, thus imparting a warm flavour. It is also used to temper meat dishes, particularly North Indian tandoori dishes.
Healthy sautéed vegetables can be seasoned with cumin. For instance, beet can be easily prepared with cumin.
Besides dal and vegetables, cumin can be used in preparing chicken.
Cumin seeds are used in preparing Bengali spice mixture known as “panch phoron”. It is basically a combination of nigella seeds, black mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds and cumin. This spice mix is used in several dishes such as potato curry, pan roasted potatoes and salmon.
A warming and soothing cumin tea can be prepared by boiling cumin seeds in water and allowing it to steep for 8 to 10 minutes.
Roasted cumin seeds along with ground black pepper are used in flavouring rasams. They are toasted with coriander to provide a distinct aroma and are widely used in South Indian and Sri Lankan cuisines.
Cumin seeds are used in the preparation of soups, barbecue sauces, pickling and is one of the ingredients in curry powder. Black cumin seeds are used as a spice in Persian and Mughlai cuisine.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Dietary Fiber||10.5 g||26%|
|Vitamin A||1270 IU||42%|
|Vitamin C||7.7 mg||13%|
|Vitamin E||3.3 mg||22%|
|Vitamin K||5.4 µg||4.5%|
We will discuss the nutritional benefits of jeera in a quantity of a table spoon which weighs close to 6 grams.
These daily values are based on a daily 2000 calorie intake of a human body. It is mildly inflammatory and is a good source of proteins and fibers.
Experience all these jeera benefits and let us know if you already have them in your diet and list of topical treatments.