Cumin seed spice health benefit by Ray Sahelian, M.D.

April 5 2014

Cumin seed has been a part of the diet and a popular spice regularly used as a flavoring agent in a number of ethnic cultures. Cumin is the dried seed of the herb Cuminum cyminum, a member of the parsley family. The Cumin plant grows to about 1 to 2 feet tall and is harvested by hand. Cumin plays a major role in Mexican, Thai, and Indian cuisines. Cumin is a critical ingredient of chili powder, and is found in achiote blends, adobos, garam masala, curry powder, and baharat.

Cumin spice benefits
Cumin may be beneficial to those with diabetes and for overall health benefit to the body.

Cumin seed Composition
From the water-soluble portion of the methanol extract of cumin, which has been used as a spice and medicine since antiquity, monoterpenoid glucosides have been isolated.
     The main components from the volatile oil of cumin are cuminal and safranal (accounting for 32% and 24% respectively in the components identified). The other compounds with contents all over 1% are monterpenes, sesquiterpenes, aromatic aldehydes and aromatic oxides etc. The components with relatively small amounts are chiefly terpenes, terpenols, terpenals, terpenones, terpene esters and aromatic compounds.

Cumin and Cancer
The cancer chemopreventive potential of cumin seed could be attributed to its ability to modulate carcinogen metabolism.

Cumin availability, how is it sold
Cumin spice is sold as cumin seed or as cumin powder.

Cumin Research for diabetes
Cuminaldehyde: Aldose Reductase and alpha-Glucosidase Inhibitor Derived from Cuminum cyminum Seeds.
J Agric Food Chem. 2005.
The inhibitory activity of cuminseed-isolated component was evaluated against lens aldose reductase and alpha-glucosidase isolated from Sprague-Dawley male rats and compared to that of 11 commercially available components derived from C. cyminum seed oil, as well as quercitrin as an aldose reductase inhibitor and acarbose as an alpha-glucosidase inhibitor. The biologically active constituent of Cumin seed oil was characterized as cuminaldehyde by various spectral analyses. The IC(50) value of cuminaldehyde is 0.00085 mg/mL against aldose reductase and 0.5 mg/mL against alpha-glucosidase, respectively. Cuminaldehyde was about 1.8 and 1.6 times less in inhibitory activity than acarbose and quercitin, respectively. Nonetheless, cuminaldehyde may be useful as a lead compound and a new agent for antidiabetic therapeutics.

Lipid lowering, cholesterol
Hypolipidemic effect of Cuminum cyminum on alloxan-induced diabetic rats.
Pharmacol Res. 2002.
Hyperlipidemia is an associated complication of diabetes mellitus. Many spices and herbs are known to be hypoglycaemic. Cuminum cyminum belonging to the family Apiaceae is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of dyspepsia, diarrhoea and jaundice. The present work was done to study the role of C. cyminum supplementation on the plasma and tissue lipids in alloxan diabetic rats. Oral administration of C. cyminum for 6 weeks to diabetic rats resulted in significant reduction in blood glucose and an increase in total haemoglobin and glycosylated haemoglobin. It also prevented a decrease in body weight. Cumin treatment also resulted in a significant reduction in plasma and tissue cholesterol, phospholipids, free fatty acids and triglycerides. Histological observations demonstrated significant fatty changes and inflammatory cell infiltrates in diabetic rat pancreas. But supplementation with C. cyminum to diabetic rats significantly reduced the fatty changes and inflammatory cell infiltrates. Moreover, Cumin supplementation was found to be more effective than glibenclamide in the treatment of diabetes mellitus.

Antioxidant
Antioxidant properties of Mediterranean spices compared with common food additives.
J Food Prot. 2001.
In this study, the antioxidant properties of Mediterranean food spices (annatto, cumin, oregano, sweet and hot paprika, rosemary, and saffron) at 5% concentration and of common food additives (butylated hydroxyanisole [BHA], butylated hydroxytoluene [BHT], and propyl gallate) at 100 microg/g are compared. The ability of these compounds to inhibit lipid peroxidation was, in decreasing order, rosemary > oregano > propyl gallate > annatto > BHA > sweet paprika > cumin > hot paprika > saffron > BHT. Deoxyribose damage is partially inhibited in the presence of cumin extract that exhibits the strongest protective action. The rest of the spices also protect deoxyribose better than the BHA and BHT used in the assay. Finally, the results obtained in the assay point to the prooxidant effect of propyl gallate. Hydrogen peroxide scavenging activity is measured by using peroxidase-based assay systems. In aqueous medium, the spice extracts show lower antioxidant activity than propyl gallate, the decreasing order being cumin > oregano > annatto > rosemary > hot paprika > sweet paprika. BHA and BHT did not scavenge H2O2 Spices are able to scavenge HOCl and protect alpha1-antiproteinase. The results indicate that rosemary and oregano are more effective HOCl scavengers than the other substances analyzed, which, in decreasing order, were propyl gallate, annatto, sweet and hot paprika, saffron, and cumin. The effect of Mediterranean food spices on the oxidative stability of refined olive oil tested by the Rancimat method was compared with common food additives during storage (72 h, 2, 4, and 6 months) at room temperature. The results showed that the spice extracts analyzed have significant stabilizing effects (P < 0.05).

Blood thinning
Extracts from two frequently consumed spices -- cumin (Cuminum cyminum) and turmeric - inhibit platelet aggregation and alter eicosanoid biosynthesis in human blood platelets.
Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 1989.
In the traditional Indian system of medicine, Ayurveda, several spices and herbs are claimed to possess medicinal properties, such as being antithrombotic, antiatherosclerotic, hypolipidemic, anti-inflammatory etc. Earlier we have reported that extracts from several spices behave as antiaggregatory agents and inhibit eicosanoid synthesis. Similar studies with extracts prepared from cumin (Cuminum cyminum) and turmeric (Curcuma longa) were undertaken. Ethereal extract of both cumin and turmeric inhibited arachidonate-induced platelet aggregation. Extracts from these spices inhibited thromboxane B2 production from exogenous (14C) arachidonic acid (AA) in washed platelets; a simultaneous increase in the formation of lipoxygenase-derived products was observed.Extracts from the two spices reduced the formation of (14C)TxB2 from AA-labelled platelets when they were challenged with A23187.

Common Indian spices: nutrient composition, consumption and contribution to dietary value.
Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 1993.
Nutrient composition of eight commonly consumed spices of South India was analysed. Spices analysed were red chillies (Capsicum annum), black pepper (Piper nigrum), coriander seeds (Coriandrum sativum), cumin seeds (Cuminum cyminum), garlic (Allium sativum), asafoetida (Ferula foetida), dry ginger and ajowan (Carum copticum). The nutrients analysed were proximate principles, minerals, starch, sugars, dietary fibre components, tannins, phytic acid, enzyme inhibitors and amino acids. Dry ginger, ajowan and asafoetida had high calcium (1.0-1.5%) and iron (54-62 mg/100 g) levels. The tannin content of spices was also high (0.9-1.3% DM). Dietary fibre ranged from 14-53%. Spices had appreciable amounts of essential amino acids like lysine and threonine. A survey revealed the average per capita consumption of spices to be 9.5 g and at that level, the nutrient contribution from spices ranged from 1 to 7.9% of an average adult Indian male's requirement for different nutrients.

Cancer
Q. I have heard great things about your research and actually have a friend's father who has been using cumin to fight his melanoma and is doing remarkably well. I've just been told that my Belgian horse has squamous cell carcinoma of his eyelid which has metastasized to his lymph nodes. I would like to give him cumin to help slow down this process but have you had any experience with cumin and animals? I am willing to try anything for him. Not sure how much to give him though. He weighs about 1800 pounds - he's a big guy. Hopefully you can help me. Also where do I buy this?
    A. I am not familiar with the use of herbs in horses. Cumin is available as a powder in any grocery or health food store but I do not know if horses find it palatable. There are many herbs that are used for cancer prevention or treatment and those could be options as well.