Herb: Cumin

Latin name: Cuminum cyminum

Synonyms: Cuminum odorum

Family: Umbelliferae

Medicinal use of Cumin:

Cumin is an aromatic, astringent herb that benefits the digestive system and acts as a stimulant to the sexual organs. It has been used in the treatment of minor digestive complaints, chest conditions and coughs, as a pain killer and to treat rotten teeth. Cumin is seldom used in Western herbal medicine, having been superseded by caraway which has similar properties but a more pleasant flavour. It is still widely used in India, however where it is said to promote the assimilation of other herbs and to improve liver function. The seed is antispasmodic, carminative, galactogogue, stimulant and stomachic. A general tonic to the whole digestive system, it is used in the treatment of flatulence and bloating, reducing intestinal gas and relaxing the gut as a whole. In India it is also used in the treatment of insomnia, colds and fevers and to improve milk production in nursing mothers. Ground into a powder and mixed into a paste with onion juice, it has been applied to scorpion stings. The herb has been used externally as a poultice to relieve stitch and pains in the side. The essential oil obtained from the seed is antibacterial and larvicidal.

Description of the plant:


30 cm
(11 3/4 inch)

to July


Habitat of the herb:

Not known in a truly wild condition.

Edible parts of Cumin:

Seed - cooked as a flavouring. Cumin seed was once widely used as a food flavouring in Europe, the Romans ground it into a powder and used it like pepper. It is little used at present in Western cooking, though it is much employed in India. A hot and aromatic flavour, it is an important ingredient in curries, and is also often used as a flavouring in biscuits, cakes and bread where it also helps in improving the digestion. The seed is harvested when fully ripe and is then dried and stored in airtight jars. An essential oil from the seed is used as a food flavouring.

Other uses of the herb:

The seed contains about 2.5% essential oil. It is used in perfumery and for flavouring beverages.

Propagation of Cumin:

Seed - sow early spring in individual pots in a greenhouse. Grow the plants on fast, and plant them out after the last expected frosts. Give the plants some temporary protection such as a cloche for their first few weeks in the open ground to make sure that they keep on growing in the cooler weather of early summer.

Cultivation of the herb:

Not known in a truly wild condition.

Known hazards of Cuminum cyminum:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.