Cumin photo

Cuminum cyminum – Semen (Umbelliferae)

Common name: Cumin seed (E), Jira (H)

Sanskrit: Sanskrit Jiraka

This small shrubby annual thrives in dry conditions. It counteracts dampness and excessively wet conditions in the body. Its Sanskrit name literally means ‘promoting digestion’ and it is a superb addition to any formula when there is a compromised digestive system.

Botanical Description

Cumin is an annual herbaceous plant of the Apiaceae family characterized by presenting its flowers arranged in umbels; the plant grows up to 30–50 cm tall and is harvested by hand.

Its stem is slender and branched, and somewhat angular.

The leaves are 5 – 10cm long, pinnate or bipinnate and are of a deep green colour, generally turned back at the ends. The upper leaves are nearly stalk less, but the lower ones have longer leaf-stalks.

The flowers are small, rose-coloured or white, in stalked umbels with only four to six rays, each of which are only about 4 - 6cm long, and bloom in June and July, being succeeded by fruit, which is a lateral fusiform or ovoid achene 4 – 5mm long, containing a single seed.

The seeds are oblong in shape, thicker in the middle, compressed laterally and yellow-brown in colour. The odour and taste are somewhat like caraway, but less agreeable.

How it Works

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 is carminative remedy, it can reduce bloating and it can be used to treat aerophagia or flatulence and cramping caused by gases. It is also useful in diarrhoea, colic & dyspepsia.

The spice appears to stimulate the liver to secrete more bile, which aids in the breakdown of fats and the absorption of nutrients, leading to healthier digestions; Cumin helps the body to absorb nutrients efficiently and it can also make the metabolism work more quickly cutting down on cravings.

It is considered also very cooling, prescribed for whooping or spasmodic cough, and can be added to gargles to treat laryngitis. It has been also used to treat chest and lung disorders such as pneumonia.

Cumin is a very good source of iron[1], which is needed to transport oxygen to all the cells within the body, and it can be useful in case of anaemia.

Cumin can be useful for the reproductive system, in fact can stimulates menstruation and also can be used as a lactagogue. Poultices of cumin are used to treat swellings of the breasts or testicles, and enters into most of the prescriptions for gonorrhoea.

Into the Heart of Cumin

Cumin helps in digesting food properly. It is one of the best herbs for digestive sluggishness; it also helps in the cure of digestion related problems. This actions are due to the aromatic compound Cuminaldehyde, which helps to induce secretion of digestive juices just by the aroma and the stimulation of our salivary glands[2].

Thymol is another compound present in cumin that that stimulate the glands as well helping to promote the production of saliva, bile and other enzymes responsible for food digestion[2].

Cumin contain fatty oils (mainly petroselic acid and oil acid) which have anti-fungal, anti-microbial and disinfecting properties.  Numbers of investigations have shown the antimicrobial activity of cumin against a range of useful and pathogenic gram-positive and gram-negative bacterial strain.

Cuminaldehyde, carvone, limonene, linalool, and some other minor constituents have been suggested to contribute to the antimicrobial activity of cumin[3], preventing fungal and microbial infections from harming the skin.

Cumin is anti-congestive agent and is a good expectorant, due to its rich essential oils, therefore it is useful in case of cough, cold and bronchitis: the essential oils present in cumin also play an important role in strengthening the immunity.

Cumin contains riboflavin, vitamin B6 and niacin – useful in improving cognitive functions of brain.

Cumin seeds are reported to be estrogenic; the presence of phytoestrogens in cumin has been shown and also related to its anti-osteoporotic effects. In the animals receiving a methanolic extract of cumin, a significant reduction in urinary calcium excretion and augmentation of calcium content and mechanical strength of bones was found[4].


GIT: One of the best herbs for digestive sluggishness. Used as a flavouring in cooking to help the absorption of nutrients. Specifically implicated in bloating, gurgling, slow digestion from disturbed vata and kapha. Also of benefit if vata is rebelling upwards and causing nausea or indigestion. It corrects the flow of vata and directs the wind downwards. Its heating post-digestive property implies that it absorbs fluids from the large intestine; it is constipative when there is diarrhoea.[6]

Lungs: Because it digests ama it can be of use in counteracting catarrh and excess avalambaka kapha on the chest. It regulates the movement of udana and prana vayu in the chest and helps to relieve tightness.

Gynaecology: Its direct effect on rasa dhatu sends its beneficial properties straight to the uterus and female reproductive system. It reduces uterine inflammation and pain and also dries any excess discharge. Like many Umbelliferae family seeds it benefits stanyasrota and the production of breast milk.


[1] Leug Albert Y. et al., 1980: Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food Drugs and Cosmetic. 

[2] Pale Sebastian, 2006: Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principle of Traditional Practice.

[3] An Update on Pharmacological Properties of Cumin - Daljeet Kaur, Ramica Sharma

[4] Cumin: A spice or a drug? Anshul Bansal, Vaibhav Bansal, Rajeshwar Singh

[5] Williamson

[6] Bhavaprakasha

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