Cuminum cyminum is an annual herb that grows to be about a foot tall and is native to China, Mexico, India and the Mediterranean. Its seeds are yellow-brown in color and they are harvested by hand. White or pink flowers blossom on the cumin plant during its three to four month growing period during the hot summers. The small, flat seeds provide a peppery flavor that is used in Mexican dishes, as well as in combination with curry in Indian and Middle Eastern food. Some southern Chinese cooks use cumin to give unique flavors their dishes. Cumin is similar to caraway, coming from the same family of herbs, but has a stronger and coarser flavor and texture.
While quite plain in appearance, its health benefits are anything but plain. Cumin is a great supplement for any diet, as Eastern culutres have known for thousands of years. Cumin is high in iron and manganese, supplying seven and three percent respectively of the recommended daily value. It also supplies our bodies with calcium, many vitamins and fiber. Cumin is said to prevent gas, reduce muscle spasms, clear jaundice and stop diarrhea amongst other things. It may also strengthen bones, lower blood sugar and reduce seizures.
Cumin oil, which is readily produced in the United States, is used for flavoring desserts, condiments and alcoholic beverages. It is also used as a fragrance in creams, perfumes and lotions.
Here are some of the many ways in which cumin can help you:
Great Source of Iron: Cumin is a great source of iron which is key in keeping your immune system healthy and producing energy and maintaining your metabolism. Children, teenagers, women going through their menstural cycle and women who are pregnant or nursing need to consume more iron and cumin is an ideal source for obtaining iron.
Relieves Colds, Fevers and Sore Throats: Cumin is high in vitamin C and its anti-fungal properties make it difficult to suffer long from a cold if you consume it regularly. Make up your own cold remedy by mixing one teaspoon of ground cumin in boiling water and allow to simmer for a few minutes. Let cool before drinking. For a sore throat, add some ground ginger along with the cumin.
Aids Digestion and Relieves Constipation: Cumin is well known for its effects on the digestive system and scientists have said that cumin aids in proper digestion of food and the body's ability to absorb nutrients because the enzymes found in cumin help break down the food. Thanks to the levels of fiber that is found in cumin, piles can be gotten rid of when consumed daily. Cumin's anti-fungal properties will help to clean out the digestive tract.
May Prevent Cancer: As scientists do more research on cumin they are finding that it may also contain anti-carcinogenic properties which is key for preventing cancer. Lab rats who took cumin did not develop tumors like the others thanks to cumins ability to detoxify the liver and prevent free radicals from entering the blood stream. Cumin is a great way to help detoxify your body and keep your insides clean and healthy.
Insomnia: Insomnia can be relieved if you mix a teaspoon of cumin powder with one mashed banana and eat before going to bed.
Breast Feeding: Cumin, taken with milk and honey, can help increase milk supply when consumed regularly.
Maintain Healthy Skin: The vitamins found in cumin, both vitamin C and E, are essential for healthy, young looking skin. Cumin's essential oils also keep fungal and microbial infections away.
Cooking with Cumin: It's always best to use whole cumin seeds that you grind with a mortar and pestle, but cumin powder is more convenient though it loses its flavor faster than whole seeds. Whole seeds will keep for a year, when stored in a cool, dark place, while powder should be used within six months. For enhanced flavor, you may roast cumin seeds before using them.
Boil some cumin seeds in water and steep for eight to ten minutes for a soothing tea. Sauté vegetables and toss with cumin powder for a tasty vegetarian dish. Cumin is great sprinkled on rice and beans to give extra flavor. In Eastern cultures cumin is mixed with black pepper and honey as an aphrodisiac but this combination is also tasty when put on fish, chicken and vegetables.
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