Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Feb 12, 2019.
Scientific Name(s): Cuminum cyminum L.
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.
Cumin powder 3 g/day (1.5 g twice daily with lunch and dinner) significantly improved lipid profiles and body composition parameters in overweight/obese women. At 300 mg/day, 8 weeks of cumin supplementation in overweight Iranian adults significantly improved weight, body mass index (BMI), insulin levels, insulin sensitivity, and pancreatic beta-cell function.
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.
- Apiaceae (carrot family)
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 Synonyms are Cuminum odorum Salisb, Cuminia cyminum J.F. Gmel, Cuminum hispanicum Bunge, and Ligusticum cuminum (L.) Crantz.
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 distillation3 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 oil5 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.3
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
A double-blind, controlled trial randomized 78 overweight Iranian adults (BMI greater than 25) to cumin (300 mg/day essential oil), orlistat (360 mg/day), or placebo for 8 weeks to assess the effect of cumin on weight loss, metabolic profiles, and biomarkers of oxidative stress. Compared to placebo or orlistat, cumin supplementation provided no significant effect on oxidative stress as measured by total plasma glutathione.38
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.
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).12
No human clinical data are available regarding the use of cumin for antiepileptic 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.27
No human clinical data are available regarding the use of cumin for treatment of osteoporosis.
In a single-blind, randomized, controlled trial (N = 100), 3 g/day of cumin powder (1.5 g twice daily) significantly improved lipid and most body composition parameters compared with control in overweight/obese women (BMI greater than 25) 20 to 60 years of age. Patients consumed 150 mL low-fat yogurt (control) or yogurt plus cumin at lunch and dinner for 3 months; all patients received regular nutrition counseling during the 3-month study. Although body weight, BMI, waist circumference, fat mass index, and percentage of fat mass improved significantly in both groups ( P ≤ 0.005 for all), the improvements were even more significant in the cumin group. In contrast, significant improvements in lipid parameters were seen only in the cumin group and not the control: respectively, these mean changes were triglycerides (23.06 and −5.04 mg/dL; P = 0.02), cholesterol (−26.48 and −0.88 mg/dL; P < 0.005), low-density lipoprotein (−9.62 and 0.44 mg/dL; P = 0.001), and HDL (1.84 and −0.82 mg/dL; P = 0.049). Cumin allergy leading to study discontinuation occurred in 3 patients in the intervention group.37 A double-blind, controlled trial randomized 78 overweight Iranian adults (BMI greater than 25) to cumin (300 mg/day essential oil), orlistat (360 mg/day), or placebo for 8 weeks to assess the effect of cumin on weight loss, metabolic profiles and biomarkers of oxidative stress. Cumin supplementation provided an effect equal to that of orlistat for improvements in weight and BMI, which was significantly better than placebo. No significant effect was observed on lipid profiles (ie, total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, or triglycerides).38
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.19
A 1991 study suggested that cumin seeds may be beneficial when treating patients with diabetes.20, 21 However, there is limited information to support this finding. A double-blind, controlled trial randomized 78 overweight Iranian adults (BMI greater than 25) to cumin (300 mg/day essential oil), orlistat (360 mg/day), or placebo for 8 weeks to assess the effect of cumin on weight loss, metabolic profiles, and biomarkers of oxidative stress. Compared to orlistat and placebo, cumin supplementation led to significant improvements in serum insulin levels, as well as assessments in beta-cell function, and insulin sensitivity but not in fasting plasma glucose or insulin resistance measures.38
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.28
No human clinical data are available regarding the use of cumin for treatment of cataracts.
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 experiments31 and against gram-negative and gram-positive plant pathogens.32, 33C. 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
Cumin powder 3 g/day (1.5 g twice daily with lunch and dinner) significantly improved lipid profiles and body composition parameters in overweight/obese women.37 At 300 mg/day, 8 weeks of cumin supplementation in overweight Iranian adults significantly improved weight, BMI, insulin levels, insulin sensitivity, and pancreatic beta-cell function but not fasting plasma glucose, lipid profiles, thyroid hormones, insulin resistance, or glutathione levels.38
Pregnancy / Lactation
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.
- Cuminia cyminum J.F. Gmel
- Cuminum hispanicum Bunge
- Cuminum odorum Salisb
- Ligusticum cuminum (L.) Crantz
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