Medically reviewed on August 23, 2017
Scientific Name(s): Cuminum cyminum L. also referred to as Cuminum odorum Salisb, Cuminia cyminum J.F. Gmel, Cuminum hispanicum Bunge, Ligusticum cuminum (L.) Crantz. Family: Apiaceae (carrot family) 1 , 2
Common Name(s): Cumin , cummin
Cumin seeds are used in cooking and the oil is used to flavor food and scent cosmetics. Components may have antioxidant, anticancer, hypoglycemic, antiepileptic, antiosteoporotic, ophthalmic, antibacterial, and larvicidal effects; however, there is no clinical evidence to support these claims. Cumin is generally recognized as safe for human consumption as a spice and flavoring. 3
There are no recent clinical studies of cumin that provide a basis for dosage recommendations.
Contraindications have not yet been identified.
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.
None well documented.
The oil may have photosensitizing effects. Cumin may also cause hypoglycemia.
No data are available.
Cumin is a small annual plant native to the Mediterranean region, where it is cultivated extensively. The cumin seed is widely used in cooking. The dried seeds resemble those of caraway, but are straighter in form and have a coarser taste and odor. 4 Major cumin seed producers include Egypt, Iran, India, and Morocco. 5 The United States is one of the largest producers of cumin oil. This spice should not be confused with sweet cumin, which is a common name for anise ( Pimpinella anisum ). 1 Black cumin ( Bunium persicum ) has smaller and sweeter seeds than C. cyminum , but is not commercially important. Another black cumin ( Nigella sativa ) is not related to cumin. 1 , 3
Traditional uses of cumin include anti-inflammatory, diuretic, carminative, and antispasmodic. It has also been used as an aid for treating dyspepsia, jaundice, diarrhea, flatulence, and indigestion. Cumin powder has been used as a poultice and suppository and has been smoked in a pipe and taken orally. 6 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 11 In addition, cumin has been used historically for the treatment of toothaches and epilepsy in Iran. 12 Cumin is a major component of curry and chili powders and is used to flavor a variety of commercial food products. 5 Cumin has also been crushed and mixed with foods such as fish and meat, and the seeds sprinkled on bread and cakes. 2 The oil, derived by steam distillation, 3 is used to flavor alcoholic beverages, desserts, and condiments. It is also used as a fragrant component of creams, lotions, and perfumes. 5
Cumin seeds contain up to 5% of a volatile oil composed primarily of aldehydes (up to 60%). In addition, the seeds yield about 22% fats, numerous free amino acids, and a variety of flavonoid glycosides, including derivatives of apigenin and luteolin. 5 , 7 , 8 , 13 , 14 The cuminaldehyde content varies considerably, depending on the source of the oil (fresh vs ground seeds). Fine grinding of the seed can result in the loss of up to 50% of the volatile oil, 5 with the greatest loss occurring within 1 hour of milling. Monoterpene hydrocarbons are another major component of the oil; sesquiterpenes are minor constituents. 8 , 13
The chief components of the characteristic aroma of unheated whole seeds are 3p-menthen-7al and cuminaldehyde in combination with other related aldehydes. Cumin also contains safrole, a mutagen, which is degraded by cooking. 15
Uses and Pharmacology
Cumin is generally recognized as safe for human consumption as a spice and flavoring. 3Hypoglycemic effects
In studies conducted on rats with induced diabetes, cumin reduced blood glucose levels. 16 , 17 One mechanism for this reduction suggests the inhibition of aldose reductase and alpha-glucosidase. 18 In addition, reductions in plasma and tissue cholesterol, phospholipids, free fatty acids, and triglycerides (secondary to diabetes) were demonstrated in another animal study. 6 Cumin, given at a level 5 times higher than the usual culinary intake, did not reduce serum or liver cholesterol levels in rats fed a hypercholesterolemic diet. 19Clinical data
Cumin seeds contain flavonoids, many of which are now generally recognized to have antioxidant activity. The petroleum ether soluble fraction of cumin has shown antioxidant activity when mixed with lard. 5 In studies in mice, cumin seed elevated levels of glutathione and stimulated other antioxidant systems. 8
No human clinical data are available regarding the use of cumin for its antioxidant effects.Anticancer effects
In mice, cumin seeds demonstrated the ability to inhibit the induction of gastric squamous cell carcinomas. 8 , 24 Cumin also demonstrated a protective effect against induced colonic cancer in rats. Decreased beta-glucuronidase and mucinase activity was evident, and the rats had fewer papillae, no infiltration into the submucosa, and fewer morphological changes. 25
No human clinical data are available regarding the use of cumin for the treatment of cancer.Antiepileptic effects
In garden snails, extracellular application of the essential oil of C. cyminum 1% and 3% dramatically reduced epileptic activity induced by pentylenetetrazol by decreasing the firing rate of F1 neuronal cells, causing a significant depolarization in the resting membrane potential ( P < 0.05) and reducing the amplitude of after hyperpolarization potential as well as increasing the duration ( P < 0.05). 12Clinical data
No human clinical data are available regarding the use of cumin for antiepileptic effects.Antiosteoporotic effects
Cumin is recognized as a phytoestrogen-rich plant containing estrogenic components, such as beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol, and the flavonoids luteolin and apigenin. Cumin may serve as a potential treatment option in estrogen-related conditions such as postmenopausal osteoporosis. A study was conducted using 40 virgin Sprague-Dawley rats in which 30 underwent bilateral ovariectomies (OVM) and 10 underwent a sham operation. The sham group (n = 10) and OVM control group (n = 10) received a vehicle while the other OVM rats received estradiol 0.15 mg/kg and 1 g/kg of methanolic extract of C. cyminum (MCC) in 2 divided doses for a period of 10 weeks. The administration of MCC was associated with reduced urinary calcium excretion and increased calcium content compared with OVM control group. Additionally, MCC was associated with greater bone density compared with the OVM group (13.21 ± 1.70 g/cc vs 8.72 ± 0.95 g/cc, mean ± SEM), although this was not statistically significant. 27Clinical data
No human clinical data are available regarding the use of cumin for treatment of osteoporosis.Ophthalmic effects
Cumin may delay the development of cataracts as demonstrated in diabetic rats. An aqueous extract of cumin delayed progression and maturation of streptozotocin-induced cataracts in rats by preventing glycation of total soluble protein and alpha-crystallin in the lenses. 28Clinical data
No human clinical data are available regarding the use of cumin for treatment of cataracts.Other uses
Stimulation of bile acid secretion and pancreatic enzymes has been demonstrated in rats given a continuous intake of dietary cumin. Variable results were obtained with a single dose of cumin. 9 , 10 , 29 Cumin extract inhibited arachidonate-induced platelet aggregation in human platelets in a dose-dependent manner. 11 Cumin oil and cuminaldehyde exhibited strong larvicidal and antibacterial activity. At in vitro concentrations of 300 or 600 ppm, cumin oil inhibited the growth of Lactobacillus plantarum . 30 Cumin essential oil demonstrated activity comparable with standard antibiotics against common human pathogens in in vitro experiments 31 and against gram-negative and gram-positive plant pathogens. 32 , 33 C. cyminum essential oil may also be beneficial for the inhibition of supragingival dental plaque via antimicrobial effects and biofilm-formation prevention. Its bactericidal properties are believed to be caused by the monoterpene constituents pinene and cineole. 34 An aqueous extract of cumin inhibited rat jejunal ATPase in an in vitro experiment. 35
There are no clinical studies of cumin that provide a basis for dosage recommendations.
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.
In rat plasma, an aqueous extract from cumin seeds enhanced rifampin levels. Specifically, the maximum plasma concentration of rifampin was increased by 35% and the area under the curve by 53%, probably caused by the flavonoid glycoside, 3′,5-dihydroxyflavone 7-O-beta-D-galacturonide 4′-O-beta-D-glucopyranoside. This pharmacokinetic interaction could be beneficial for patients receiving rifampin for the treatment of tuberculosis. 36
Cumin oil components are absorbed rapidly through shaved intact abdominal mouse skin. Undiluted cumin oil has phototoxic effects that are not related to cuminaldehyde, but to another photosensitizing component. 5 Because cumin has demonstrated blood glucose-lowering properties in rats, it could theoretically cause hypoglycemia. Patients with diabetes who are receiving an oral hypoglycemic agent and insulin should use caution when coadministering cumin. 16 , 17 , 18 , 20 , 21
No data are available.
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