Cumin's history is documented till 5000 years back. It was used by the ancient Egyptian civilization during their mummification rituals as well as a spice in their food; The Bible even references it, describes how to plant it, and care for it;
The ancient Romans and Greeks used it for medicinal purpose and for their food. It was so highly prized the Greeks kept it in it's own container on the table and before the advent of pepper and other spices of the sub-continent Cumin was the spice which imparted flavour to ancient civilization recipes and enlivened their taste buds.
In India it is been used since millennia as a traditional ingredient in innumerable recipes, and forms the basis of many other spice blends. Cumin seeds is now one of the most commonly used spices in the world and are used mainly in Indian, North African, Latin American and Mediterranean cuisines.
The aroma of cumin can be enhanced by dry roasting the seeds before grounding or frying in oil, if the seeds are used whole.
In Sanskrit, cumin is known as jira “that which helps digestion" and is called zira in Persian. In the Ayurvedic system, dried cumin seeds are believed to have medicinal purposes. These seeds are powdered and used in different forms like kashaya (decoction), arishta (fermented decoction), vati (tablet/pills), and processed with ghee (a semifluid clarified butter). It is used internally and sometimes for external applications also.
In southern Indian states, such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu, a popular drink called jira water is made by boiling cumin seeds.
Some of the major medicinal advantages of cumin are:
- It is an excellent source of iron, a mineral that plays many vital roles in the body.
- Cumin may stimulate the secretion of pancreatic enzymes, compounds necessary for proper digestion and nutrient assimilation.
- Cumin seeds may also have anti-carcinogenic properties.
- Cumin seeds contain Thymoquinone, which reduces inflammatory processes and other mediators that cause asthma.
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