The Indian Kitchen as an Ayurvedic Pharmacy – Cumin

Cumin, or Jeera as it is known in India, has been used in traditional medicine and in kitchens from Egypt to India for thousands of years, for its curative properties, mainly for stomach, liver and digestive tract ailments. In fact, the root of the word Jeera is from ‘Jirna’, the Sanskrit word for digestion.

In fact, Cumin Water is consumed in almost every home in India and is one the most common health drinks. Cumin Water is prepared by either soaking a tbs. of cumin seeds in a glass of water overnight, or making it into a tea, by boiling the seeds in water and allowing the water to reduce by 1/3rd or ½. It is today often touted as a miracle for weight loss and skin conditions.

Its more popular cousin in India, Jal Jeera, is a spiced-up digestive version, that embodies the concept of the Indian Kitchen as an Ayurvedic Pharmacy; it includes adding tamarind, fennel seeds, black pepper, asafoetida, black cardamom, mango powder, black salt, jaggery and mint leaves to the cumin seeds and drinking the infusion. All these ingredients help increase its efficacy.

Cumin aids digestion as it helps in the production of enzymes that break down fat, protein, starch and sugars.

Cuminaldehyde and Tynol are the major components of cumin oil. The compounds Cuminaldehyde and Tymol are known for their properties in helping flush toxins from the body. Cuminaldehyde has proven medicinal properties as shown in the table below:

Source: Mohamed E E. Cuminaldehyde: A Potential Drug Candidate. J of Pharmacol & Clin Res. 2017; 2(2): 555585.DOI: 10.19080/ JPCR.2017.02.555585

Tymol helps in the digestion process by stimulating the glands that secrete the acids, enzymes and bile that help completely break down and digest our food in the stomach and intestines.

In his study published in International Journal of Food Science and Technology 2007, titled “The Nutritional value, functional properties and nutraceutical applications of black cumin (Nigella sativa L.): an overview” Mohamed Fawzy Ramadan of Zagazig University, Egypt concluded that “black cumin has significant effects on multiple biological systems. Both ethanolic and aqueous extracts as well as the volatile oil have been proved to possess beneficial effects. Most of the pharmacological activities are attributed to the presence of thymoquinone as an active component.”

In Ayurveda, cumin is used to balance vatta and kapha. Vatta, kapha and pitta, are what are known as doshas in Ayurveda. Doshas are energies that are believed to circulate in the body and govern the physiological responses of the body depending on the combination of the doshas in each individual, and form a basis for diagnosis in Ayurveda. Vata embodies wind; Pita fire; and Kapha water.

Cumin is added to a number of preparations and used for the treatment of a variety of conditions. These include:

  • Regulating digestion.
  • Reducing stomach pains.
  • Reducing bloating due to gas.
  • As an analgesic.
  • As a supplement to lactating mothers to increase lactation.
  • For detoxification.
  • For skin care.
  • Treating nausea.

It is also recognized in Ayurveda for its aphrodisiac properties.

Cumin contains iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and calcium. Its essential oil, cumin oil, also has medicinal properties.

In Indian cooking, cumin is roasted or heated in oil, to release its oils and enhance its medicinal values. The roasted cumin is then ground and used in a spice mix or as a garnish to be sprinkled on top of a dish.

For maintaining good health, a teaspoon each day is sufficient.

– Vasant

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