Cumin is usually purchased in the form of whole dried seeds or as ground powder. It is a typical ingredient in many spice blends, such as curry powder. Cumin is a staple spice in many cuisines, especially Mexican, Indian, African, and Asian.
Aside from cooking, cumin has also been used medicinally in many parts of the world for some years.
In some Southeast Asian countries, it is used to help with digestion, coughs, pain, and liver health. In Iran, people use cumin to treat seizures, while people in Tunisia use it to help fight infections and lower blood pressure.
Interest in cumin has been growing as newer research supports some of its acclaimed health benefits. Read on to learn more about the potential health benefits and risks associated with cumin, as well as how to add cumin to your diet.
1. Weight loss
Recent studies indicate cumin may be effective in lowering cholesterol and in weight loss.
After 8 weeks, the researchers found that the cumin and weight-loss medication groups both lost significant amounts of weight. People in the cumin group also experienced a decrease in their insulin levels.
The previously mentioned study in overweight and obese women also found that consuming 3 g of cumin powder per day resulted in lower total cholesterol, LDL or "bad" cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
The women who consumed the cumin powder also had higher HDL or "good" cholesterol levels.
A study in adults with type 2 diabetes looked at the effects of cumin essential oil on blood sugar. Study participants received either 100 milligrams (mg) of cumin oil per day, 50 mg of cumin oil per day, or a placebo.
After 8 weeks, both cumin-oil groups had significantly lower blood sugar, insulin, and hemoglobin A1c levels.
4. Irritable bowel syndrome
After 4 weeks, study participants noted improvements in many symptoms, such as stomach pain and bloating.
At the end of the study, those with IBS who had mainly experienced constipation as a symptom had more frequent bowel movements. Those who had mainly experienced diarrhea as a symptom had fewer bowel movements.
When the animals received cumin extract before a stressful activity, their bodies had significantly less of a stress response than when they did not receive the treatment.
Cumin may help fight the effects of stress by working as an antioxidant. The same researchers found that cumin was a more effective antioxidant than vitamin C in the rats they studied.
6. Memory loss
The same study in rats also looked at the impact of cumin extract on memory. The study found that the animals that had received cumin extract had better and faster recall.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database, 1 teaspoon of whole cumin seeds contains:
- 8 kilocalories
- 0.37 g of protein
- 0.47 g of fat
- 0.93 g of carbohydrate
Additionally, cumin contains antioxidants, which may be responsible for some of its associated health benefits.
Further research is required before cumin can be recommended as a supplement.
Consuming foods that are cooked with cumin is likely safe for most people. Some people may have an allergy to cumin, in which case they should avoid it.
More research is needed before supplemental doses of cumin are recommended. In one study, some people experienced nausea, dizziness, and stomach pain after consuming cumin extract.
As with all supplements, people should tell their healthcare provider what they are taking. Many supplements may impact how certain prescription medications work. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not monitor supplements for quality or purity. Do your research on different brands.
People with diabetes, especially those who take medication for diabetes, should use cumin with caution since it may change their blood sugar levels.
Cumin is a common ingredient in many savory ethnic dishes. It adds a warm flavor and works especially well in soups, stews, and curries.
This spice can also be used to season vegetables or meats before roasting.
See below for links to tasty recipes that contain cumin:
- healthful two-grain southwest salad
- heart-healthy chipotle chili
- six-layer tempeh taco dip
- spicy coconut curry with sweet jasmine rice
- chicken shawarma pita pitza
Cumin may have the potential for use in addressing a variety of health conditions.
Research has shown that cumin may boost the immune system and help fight certain types of bacterial and fungal infections. Animal studies have also suggested cumin may help prevent some types of cancer.
More research is needed, especially in humans, but cumin seems to have promise in the medical world. The best supplement form and dose is currently unknown.
For now, cumin is likely best enjoyed in food instead of as a supplement.