Cumin Herb Profile

Cumin Uses and benefits

Cumin is an herb that many associate with Mexican and Spanish foods, but it is also widely used in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking. It has a very distinct flavor, and in the US is most often used in packaged taco seasonings (don’t eat those- make your own!)

Cumin’s flavor makes it a favorite for many, but it’s health supporting properties are impressive too!

History of Use

According to Mountain Rose Herbs:

Cumin is the seed of a small plant in the parsley family. Its use goes back 5000 years to the Egyptians, who used it not only as a spice but as an ingredient in the mummification process. The Greeks and Romans also used cumin and highly regarded it as one of the essential spices. In the Middle Ages cumin seed was thought to promote love and fidelity, so it was carried by attendees of weddings, and solders were always sent off to battle with a fresh loaf of cumin seed bread. Pungent, sharp, and slightly sweet, the greenish brown powder of this herb is an essential ingredient in Mexican and Indian cuisine.

Traditionally, it has also been used in natural remedies and herbal medicine. Traditional texts describe its use as a diuretic and to settle the stomach and stop flatulence. Some cultures have used it for female health and to stimulate menstruation. Like many herbs, it can be made into a poultice, especially for swelling or sore throat. I even found a reference to a remedy of mixing cumin and ghee to relieve hiccups. Cumin’s long history even shows in its mentions in the Bible and other historic texts.

What’s in Cumin?

It is considered a good source of Iron, Manganese, and other vitamins and minerals. Some research shows that it may stimulate the production of pancreatic enzymes and help digestion. One study found that cumin was protective against memory loss and the damaging effects of stress on the body.

Another study evaluated its antioxidant content of and found it more effective than other common antioxidants including Vitamin C. Due to it’s high antioxidant content, some lab research has even found that it might have a role in fighting cancer.

Yet another study found Cumin effective in increasing insulin sensitivity, thus beneficial for diabetics. Still more research found anti-asthmatic properties in Cumin since it works as a brochiodiator and can help asthmatic patients.

Mark’s Daily Apple posted a great article detailing its benefits. From this article:

  • In diabetic rats, cumin extract was more effective at reducing blood glucose and AGE production than glibenclamide, an anti-diabetic drug.
  • Cumin’s anti-glycation properties proved useful in another study, in which diabetic rats were able to stave off cataracts after oral dosing with the powder.
  • Another study found that cumin extract reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides, and pancreatic inflammatory markers in diabetic rats. It also prevented excessive weight loss. Again, it beat out glibenclamide.
  • Oral doses (25, 50, 100, 200 mg/kg) on consecutive days improved the immune response of mice with compromised immune systems due to restraint-induced stress. These effects were marked by a reduction in elevated cortisol and adrenal gland size, an increase in the weight of the thymus and spleen, and replenishment of depleted T cells. There was a dose dependent response, but all doses had beneficial effects.
  • An extract of cumin had anti-osteoporotic effects on rats, similar to estradiol, but without the associated weight gain. Cumin-dosed (orally, 1 mg/kg) osteoporotic rats had increased bone density and improved bone microarchitecture.
  • Cumin protected the livers of rats from ethanol- and rancid sunflower oil-induced toxicity.
  • One study even seems to suggest a role for cumin in weaning addicts off of opiates – here – by reducing tolerance (yeah, it could increase the subjective high, but it would mean less product was required) and dependence.

Pretty impressive benefits for an herb found in spice packets at the grocery store! If you don’t already use Cumin in your cooking, there are many ways to use it!

Uses for Cumin

I use this spice regularly in cooking and in making homemade spice blends:

Taco Seasoning Recipe:

To make: Put all in jar and shake well or mix in a food processor until mixed. Store in an airtight jar for up to six months. Makes approximately 1 cup. To use: sprinkle on ground beef or chicken as you would any store bought taco seasoning. 3 tablespoons is the same as 1 packet of store bought taco seasoning. Great for lettuce tacos.

Homemade Curry Powder Recipe:

  • 1/2 cup Paprika
  • 1/4 cup cumin
  • 1 tablespoon Fennel Powder
  • 2 Tablespoons Fenugreek powder (optional)- gives sweetness
  • 2 tablespoons Ground Mustard Powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground Red Pepper Flakes (optional)- adds spiciness
  • 3 tablespoons ground coriander (optional)
  • 1/4 cup ground Turmeric root
  • 1 tablespoon ground cardamon (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves powder (optional) – Adds complex flavor

To make: Mix all ingredients in a bowl, jar or food processor and store in an air-tight container until ready to use. Can be used on meats, vegetables or in soups. Especially good in with chicken, shrimp or vegetables.

Fajita Seasoning:

To Make: Mix well in bowl or jar and store in airtight container until use. Use about 1 teaspoon per chicken breast or steak when making fajitas. I use for making Fajitas and Fajita Salads.

Chili Seasoning Mix:

To Make: mix all ingredients and store in an airtight container. 1/4 cup of mix=1 package of store bought chili seasoning. Great for all types of chili (this one is my favorite).

Cumin is even great as a stand-alone spice for making tacos, chili or fajitas if it is all you have. I keep a glass jar of it in my spice cabinet.

Do you use Cumin? What is your favorite dish or recipe that uses Cumin? Share below!

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Reader Comments

  1. Cumin is my go-to seasoning. It goes in everything from caseroles to curry. I also make my own taco seasoning, though it is just cumin, cayenne, and garlic. I buy most spices in small quantities, they go flat (not sure what it’s actually called) in a few months if not all used, but cumin, garlic, and ginger get picked up in large quantities. I should really look in to getting some seeds to grind though, the other two I normally pick up fresh and press or grate in the kitchen, cumin still comes to me in a pre-ground state.

  2. Just finished seasoning my ground lamb to make lamb burgers for dinner.  They have lots of cumin already,  but I may go and add a bit more!!  

  3. Season/Sprinkle lots of cumin on cooked flava beans with crushed garlic, lemon juice, sea salt and grapeseed olive oil…. yum yum yum ! Great Appetizer 🙂

  4. I make a raw vegan taco meet with

    Almonds, walnuts, Sea salt, Cumin powder, Coriander powder, olive oil & Bragg

    Simple, simple

    • meat**

  5. You mentioned that cumin prevents weight loss,please tell me more.

    • Does cumin promote weight gain?

      • Dr. Oz did a segment on this and a study was done and one teaspoon a day for 3 months actually reduces fat! Just sayin…..

    • I’m using weight watchers to loose weight. If I take cumin will it prevent me from loosing weight?

  6. Cumin adds a wonderful deepness to any roux based sauce. I also use it as the main seasoning in most of the Indian dishes that we eat. Also, a pinch turns any potato dish into a superhero.
    Nice site. I have a new bookmark!

  7. good info.

  8. I was just wondering if pre-ground cumin seeds have the same health benefits as seeds you grind yourself (I’m thinking about the iron content here).
    Thanks! (and this was a very helpful article)

  9. Hello,
    I always try to buy whole seed and grind how much I need. Is fresh and clean. Who knows how long pre-ground seeds are sitting in the store.

    • That is Correct. Grind the seed in the late night and mix the cumin powder with half a glass of water for 3 to 4 hours.In the early morning add half a glass of luke warm water to it (stir it ) and drink it with empty stomach.You may feel hungry after you drink but do not eat anything until your normal breakfast time.

  10. I used cumin in my fruit,veg smoothie.

  11. Love cumin in tacos!! I also put paprika but at the very end. Paprika is high in Vitamin C and if cooked, it gets destroyed. So I never cook the paprika.

  12. Thanks for the info here. When I was in Little Jamaica in NY, I found that the best Curry powder was the simplist…. equal parts of Coriander and Cumin, a little dried Mustard…and that’s it. I have tried the others, but they make the flavor too intertwined without the pure and simplicity of the Curry flavor that I was introduced to by my friend from India. Try it…delicious!
    I cannot hardly wait to try the taco spice recipe…again, Thanks!

  13. Hello… I just stumbled upon a chicken/turkey rub that uses ground smoked cumin. Has anyone here ever heard of “smoked” cumin? Thanx a bunch.

  14. I learned about cumin just recently, and love the strong scent and flavor. Now used for nearly every food group, plus with the health benefits, it’s a permanent spice for our kitchen.

  15. Cumin is very healthy. I use it for all my recipe.

    Try to add 1 teaspoon ground powder of cumin to yogurt with little salt and 1 teaspoon ground pepper. U will love it.

    • Add fresh crushed garlic and fresh dahnia with some grated cucumber to the yogurt mix of yours its just divine!!!

  16. In Morocco we use cumin in almost everything. Try it with your eggs, lentils and beans, not only it will add flavor to your dish but it will also help you with digestion. One teaspoon of cumin powder after a heavy meal helps relieve your stomach.

  17. I have been using a teaspoon of cumin seed in a cup of boiling water as a drink with my breakfast cereals each morning. I had flatulence problems( embarrassing) has helped quite a bit. Not totally free of excess gas but a marked improvement. Well worth going without my early morning cuppa tea and i can always make up my tea intake later on in the day.

  18. This information about uses of “cumin” spice of perfection. amazingly informative and appreciated. I FEEL blessed to be so widely informed. Question? ???is “cumin” a thinning…weight reduction spice “??? Dianna

  19. I have been drinking cumin in hot water as be very in the mornings . The beverage does get rid toxins.
    Betsy B.

    • I make a cold to go drink using water, cumin ground, lemon juice, cinnamon, parsley flakes and garlic powder

  20. I sprinkle cumin and onion powder on my Skinny Pop popcorn, it’s yummy!

  21. I like cumin with frozen corm. I don’t follow package directions.

    Melt some butter in a pan, add corn and cumin to taste (I use 2-3 teaspoons for a couple cups of corn). Cover and heat on medium high until it begins to steam. Reduce heat to a low simmer, stir when needed and cook to taste. (I think it’s best when the corn is heated through, but still close to raw.)

  22. good comments.interesting ill have to try it,i like the smell already,very pungent.

  23. Hi Katie,
    I am afraid that in one of your references your are mixing up cumin (Cuminum cyminum) with black cumin (Nigella sativa). The link that you’ve provided about the cancer fighting properties of cumin is actually about black cumin (Nigella sativa) and not about

    All the best

  24. Interesting comments and suggestions. Can I add cumin to home made Tabasco Sauce.

  25. does cumin have any affect against rheumatoid arthritis

  26. I have been reading about Cummin seeds for a while and just bought my first package. Can it aid in gaining weight and if so how can it be used?

  27. My favorite cumin recipe is chicken nuggets in a cous cous coating! This coating inclues cumin, paprika, chicken stock, mustard powder ect!

    I find if i buy cumin from a local chinese supermarker rather than the big supermarket it tastes so much better!

  28. I love cumin and lime cauliflower rice. I also love cumin when I make salsa and in a mexican style chicken soup.

    • I am going to start addind 1 tea spoon cumin powder in mixer of 8 oz water and 1 oz pineapple juice

  29. I love guacamole but most people put cilantro in it and I am one of those people that find cilantro tastes a bit like soap. I recently discovered that cumin and red onion can make guacamole amazing so I can skip the cilantro. Love cumin even more now!

  30. Can cummen help with weigh loss? Saw on Dr oz a recept of cummen fennel and
    Colijander. Mix with warm water and drink three times a week. So I want to know if it will help with weigh loss need to loose some

  31. Most important for us.

  32. Can you please list the references for the research you described? Thanks!

  33. I use cumin powder,onion,garlic, ginger,fresh lemon juice, fresh coconut milk, blend and strain then add Olive oil put in my dry hair. leave in for 2 hours cover with plastic cap.then Rinse a few times with Olive oil shampoo and conditioner. air or blow dry low heat. No bad smell leave . my hair is growing like weeds.. soft ,straight and strong..use any amount in your mixed. I drink this also early morning and late night, 2 tesp full each time I am now loosing fat, my weight loss is incredible…. this is all my experience . I was useing for 2 mts now…

  34. In a Sri Lankan village, they use it to control and or relieve piles or hemorrhoids -We recently moved to a small town or village closer to a town called Aluthgama. This town is just on the boarder line of Southern and the Western provinces of Sri Lanka. My wife was posted to a state school here.

    We were looking for a house in a hurry. We moved to a house in a very law income lane but closer to the school of my wife and children are studying now.

    When I got some piles related problem, the village lady from my lane has told my wife to take 2 spoonso of small or darker cumin seeds in hot or boiled water for a minute and take it. Her husband has the problem and this is their home remedy.

    Thank God! We could control this health condition (piles) almost 100 percent. We used many expensive things before and non of them was good as these.

    People can try this. Please ask us questions by email if you have any doubt. Please tell us or share your experience after using it. We all people can be benefitted.

    After trying please all give your feed backs. In locally here, we also have heard that people use some other local roots, yam and leaves in situation like this and control this condition. May be if cumin does not answer you another one can. All of them are nearly very cheap or zero cost. But need to find them in the yard , garden or forest area.

    I suffered from this condition and now found some cure cheap, good, reliable and no side effects.

    We think we movedid to this poor neighbourhood is a blessing in disguise.

  35. I’am Mexican and my mother cook with cumin for a lot of dishes, my fav is fajitas, salsas and love ground meat with potatoes , the key is to smash fresh whole cumin and garlic in the molcajete add water and salt pour in your dish (any dish, could be eggs, fajitas , ground meat and potatoes etc) and let it cook slowly.. the smell is amazing !!