Small Cumin, big benefits

There are numerous reasons to include cumin in your diet. Here's an alphabetical listing of some of them


Cumin [also known as Jeera] goes way back in history. Did you know cumin is mentioned in the Bible as a mode of payment? Ancient Egyptians used it for the mummification process, and its paste is supposed to treat a scorpion sting. Cumin continues to be highly beneficial even today.

Here’s why you should add it in your diet:

Anaemia – Cumin seeds contain a good amount of iron [100g of cumin contain approximately 11.7 mg of iron]. Iron is an essential element for the formation of haemoglobin in the blood required for transport of oxygen. Anaemia [lowered levels of haemoglobin in the blood] has always been a concern in women, children and adolescents. It’s a good idea to include jeera in everyday preparations like parathas, curries, cookies, soups, bread, rice, lentil and cheese preparations.

Boils – Externally cumin helps to treat skin problems such as psoriasis, eczema and dry skin. Beneficial effects are commonly seen in cumin oil. However adding a dash of ground cumin in your face pack can help you treat skin issues. It can help you get rid of burn marks and wrinkles too. If you are troubled with acne or boils try applying vinegar with ground cumin seeds.

Common cold – Antiseptic properties of cumin can help fight flu, by boosting your immune system. A cup of warm tea [2-3 times a day] boiled with cumin seeds, ginger and honey, can give great relief.

Digestion – You will commonly find people popping in Jeera Goli after meals, but did you know it works well for digestive disorders? Cumin helps control flatulence, stomach pain, indigestion, diarrhoea, nausea and morning sickness. In fact, the aroma [due to a compound called cuminaldehyde] activates saliva secretion, which in turn facilitates digestion. Thymol — another compound in cumin — further activates gastric secretion which improves digestion. It can be consumed by boiling 1 tsp of cumin seeds in 200 ml of water [later strain the seeds]. 1tsp. of cumin boiled in water mixed with 1 tsp. coriander leaf juice and a pinch of salt can help to control diarrhoea.

Effective in stimulating menstrual cycle in women.

Fight cancer – Cumin seeds are rich in anti-oxidants like eugenol and limonene, which have strong anti-tumour properties. Recent studies indicate the ability of cumin to reduce the risk of stomach and liver tumours in animals. Black cumin seeds, when combined with garlic, can further boost your immunity.

Great taste and flavour makes it a popular spice in every kitchen. Cumin is the most important spice in garam masala. Its distinctive, powerful and pungent flavour makes it a regular ingredient in many Indian delicacies.

Haemorrhoids or piles – Cumin can be used in the treatment of piles due to its fibre content, anti-fungal, laxative and carminative properties. The best way to relieve constipation – especially if you are suffering with piles – is to add freshly roasted and ground jeera powder to the flour used for making chapatis.

Insomnia – Some of the components in cumin oil have a tranquilising effect, hence it can act as a relaxant [It can also relieve headaches].

Jeera helps to strengthen nails and hair, making hair shiny and glossy.

Kidney functioning is improved with the consumption of cumin seeds [increased secretion and discharge of urine].

Lactation – Cumin is a galactogogue i.e. a substance which increases milk flow in nursing mothers [due to the presence of Thymol]. CAUTION: Herbal products with cumin should be avoided by pregnant women; they can induce abortion.

Metabolism – If your feeling cold, opt for some jeera tea or just keep some washed jeera on your tongue. Cumin increases the body heat making metabolism more efficient.

Nutrient assimilation is usually triggered in the presence of cumin, due to its effect on enzyme secretions.

Oil extract from cumin acts as a stimulant, anti-oxidant, carminative, and diuretic [also useful for hypertensives]. It’s also used for massage, aroma therapy and scalp treatments [can help you get rid of dandruff].

Pancreatic enzyme secretion is stimulated by cumin seeds. This helps in improving the nutrient absorption in the digestive tract.

Quality check – When opting for cumin, look out for good quality seeds, especially if they are powdered. Cumin doesn’t have a long shelf-life in powdered form. Also watch out for adulteration of cumin powder with sand. Seeds and powder should be stored in tightly sealed glass container in a cool place.

Respiratory system – Black cumin seeds are used as a natural medicine in treating asthma. Studies on compounds from the seed shows that they boost the production of bone marrow, natural interferon, and immune cells, helping to fight diseases.

Symbol of love – In Europe, cumin is considered a symbol of love and fidelity.

Tonic time – Cumin seeds make a great tonic for liver. It boosts the ability of the liver to detoxify the body. In fact, it is a good tonic to boost your memory as well, when consumed with honey.

Ulcers – Gargling with jeera water helps to keep the mouth fresh, heals mouth ulcers, and reduces foul smell. Massaging the gums with ground cumin seeds can also help in preventing bleeding gums.

Vapours of cumin on inhalation can help to relieve sinusitis. [Minimum 1 tsp. cumin seeds, 3 times a day].

Worms and parasites can be purged by the use of cumin seeds. Anti-microbial properties of cumin help in getting rid of worms in the intestines.

Xcellent blood sugar regulator. Research has shown that the natural chemicals,in cumin reduce blood sugar levels and improve the action of insulin.

You can hang small pouches of black cumin seeds in your living room to keep it fresh or in a wardrobe to control the growth of moths.

Zinc and manganese [both important co-factors for a number of reactions taking place in the body] are the two micronutrients abundant in cumin herb extract.

No one could have guessed that this humble little spice in the kitchen could do us so much good. Jeera is truly a nature’s gift to mankind. Rightly said, “God made all wonderful things in small packages”.

Magnifying lens over an exclamation markSpot an error in this article? A typo maybe? Or an incorrect source? Let us know!

Payal Ahuja
Payal Ahuja is a Mumbai-based dietician and consultant. She conducts workshops on lifestyle management and weight management programmes on TV. Ahuja is also IPC-certified auditor for ISO-9001:2000, and author of the book, Combating Childhood Obesity.


  1. it was great to read about the benefits of the cumin seeds ,,i have a question however ..i was very thirsty extremely thirsty that is throughout the day and thought diabetes but after many tests it was not diabetes but the thirst continued ,and i would drink about 5 litres of water a day,anyway a lady suggested that i chew cumin seeds in the morning followed by a big glass of water and the thirst symptoms disappeared ..and this cured me but my question is WHAT WAS I SUFFERING FROM ..ANYBODY PLEASE HELP


  3. Query 3. (Ms. Rosanne) I put way too much cumin in my chili and now it’s bitter. Is there any way to correct this?
    Reply: When making Chili you have to be careful with the timing of your cooking.
    If you let some of the spices cook too long or not long enough they can turn bitter. Initially when you start cooking chili, start with simmering chicken or beef broth add onion, chili and garlic powder to the same. Cook this mixture for at least 1 hour, only then add cumin to it, after cumin is added boil only for 30 minutes, not more, this will prevent the mixture from turning bitter.

  4. Query 2. (Ms. Donna)/ (Ms. Geetha) How would you apply cumin to your skin for Psoriasis?
    Do you make a paste from it with water?

    Reply: Cumin seeds are traditionally used in skin treatments. It is considered to be a skin friendly herb. 2 Tablespoons of cumin seeds soaked in water and ground to a paste usually works well for boils, acne, burn marks and wrinkles. In case of Psoriasis, I would suggest black cumin oil. 2 capsules of cumin oil taken orally OR application of 25 drops of black cumin oil in affected areas, 3 times a day is recommended. However before using any kind of oil or lotion on your skin, I would advice a patch test, i.e. apply the oil only in a small area, to check if it causes any kind of allergy or irritation. Before taking in any kind of medicine or application of anything new on your skin, please take advice from your dermatologist.

  5. Query 1. (Mr. Dev) What do you mean by ‘dash’ of ground cumin?

    Reply: ‘Dash’ is a small measure of an ingredient. It is as small as 1/16 teaspoon; it is as little as 0.3 gm. Another word used for ‘dash’ is a ‘pinch’. It is a small amount of a dry ingredient that can be held between the tips of your thumb and forefinger.


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