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Subheshaja (सुभेषज) – Cumin

“Aunty, what’s that pale yellow liquid in your water bottle?” asked Preethi.

“Oh, that’s cumin water. I’ve been having a little indigestion and gas after the heavy meal at the wedding reception I attended last night, so I boiled cumin seeds in water and made my own remedy to deal with the stomach upset,” said Dr. Radha.

“Cumin is the English word for what we call jeera, right, Aunty?”

“Yes, indeed, it is. And I’m sure your mother must be using it regularly in her cooking.”
“Oh yes! She adds it to the rasam powder, into pongal, into upma and lemonrice, and its bearable. But I don’t like when she adds it into my favorite potato vegetable dishes.”

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“Why, Preethi, it’s actually the most required with the potato! When potato is digested, it results in formation of lot of intestinal gas, and in Ayurveda, cumin is strongly recommended for flatulence (gas). So, your mother is actually very smart to add cumin to potato dishes!”

“Does science support this combination, Aunty?”

“Oh yes! Studies on cumin have shown that it increases the activity of enzymes such as amylase, lipase, protease and phytase in the digestive tract, and these are all enzymes that help in the digestive process. So, cumin definitely helps to speed up digestion.” (1)

“Oh! That’s amazing!”

“Have you heard of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Preethi?”

“Ummm…I think so…isn’t it the condition when someone has stomach pain and diarrhea and gas on a regular basis?”

“Yes! It’s a chronic condition, and some people may have constipation instead of diarrhea, too. Now modern medicine has no cure for this condition, but a study showed that after taking cumin concentrate for 2 weeks, patients with IBS reported relief from their symptoms.” (2) 

“I remember my grandmother saying that young women must make sure they get enough cumin in their food. Is there some specific reason for this, Aunty?”

“Your grandmother may not have known the science behind it Preethi, but yes, she’s spot on with her recommendation. Cumin is one of the richest sources of iron, and you surely know that iron plays an important role in so many of our body’s functions. Young women are more likely to develop iron deficiency because of blood loss during menstruation, so yes, taking enough cumin can help to avoid this deficiency. Also, in Ayurveda, cumin is said to have antispasmodic effects, so it can help to relieve the pain of menstrual cramps, too.” 

“I see. What other benefits does cumin have, Aunty?”

“Cumin contains several alkaloids, phenols and flavonoids, and many of these act as antioxidants. You remember we talked about antioxidants before, Preethi?”

“Yes, Aunty, I remember you telling me that these are compounds that prevent oxidative damage and inflammation in the tissues.”

“Exactly! Inflammation is now known to be the root cause of several chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and cancer. So, taking cumin regularly can definitely give a protective effect against these health problems. Many researchers are reporting that cumin may be useful for weight loss and fat reduction. A study of overweight persons who received cumin concentrate over 8 weeks found that they lost about 1 kg more weight than persons who did not receive the cumin.” (3) 

“Wow! I’ve been trying to shed a few kilos but seem to be getting nowhere. Maybe I should start eating cumin everyday and see if it helps!”

“Of course you can, but remember Preethi, that there can never be one single magic ingredient that will work wonders. You need to supplement the use of herbs with a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and regular exercise!”


1. Muthamma KS, Hemang M, Dholakia H, Kaul P, Vishveshwaraiah TK. Enhancement of digestive enzymatic activity by cumin (Cuminum cyminum L.) and role of spent cumin as a bionutrient. Food Chemistry. Oct 2008; 110(3), 678-683. Available online at: 

2. Agah S, Taleb AM, Moeini R, Gorji N, Nikbakht H. Cumin extract for symptom control in patients with irritable bowel syndrome: A case series. Middle East J Dig Dis. 2013 Oct;5(4):217-22. PMID: 24829694; PMCID: PMC3990147. Available online at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24829694/    
3. Taghizadeh M, Memarzadeh MR, Asemi Z, Esmaillzadeh A. Effect of the cumin cyminum L. Intake on Weight Loss, Metabolic Profiles and Biomarkers of Oxidative Stress in Overweight Subjects: A Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Ann Nutr Metab. 2015; 66(2-3):117-24. Available online at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25766448/

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