CUMIN (Cuminum cyminum): Origin: native to the Mediterranean region and eastward into India. Cumin is a member of the parsley family. Cumin was used by the ancient Egyptians who called it tpnn. Ancient Egyptian king Ramesses III offered gifts of cumin to the god Ra at Heliopolis. Several grains of ancient cumin are available for inspection at the Agricultural Museum in Dokki, Cairo. The ancient Egyptians used cumin to treat gastro-intestinal disease, to expel intestinal parasites, and cumin was included in different medicinal recipes for mouth rinses, suppositories, and ear instillations. Cumin seed is listed in Biblical texts in both the Old and New Testaments. It was said in ancient Greece that if one planted coriander, during the sowing process it must be cursed – if the crop was to be abundant. Medieval healers recommended cumin seeds mixed with barley then boiled in wine as a general cure-all. The Roman epicurean Apicius reported that the Egyptians of his time used cumin when they cooked marrows and grilled fish. The Roman writer Pliny highly recommended cumin and wrote: Yet of all the seasonings which gratify a fastidious taste, cumin is the most agreeable. Pliny also mentioned that cumin mixed with water commonly was used to treat stomach ache. In modern Egypt crushed cumin added to water and medicinal teas are used to treat colic and indigestion, and may be offered to pregnant and recently delivered women. Ancient Indian Ayurvedic medical texts report that cumin seeds are crushed and prepared as decoctions, sometimes fermented, and may be prepared as pills and mixed with ghee (clarified butter). Such preparations are used to enhance appetite, digestion, lactation, and taste perception. The medicinal use of these cumin-based pills is extended to treat conditions such as appetite loss, diarrhea, and fever. Several recent Indian medical journal reports claim that cumin contains anti-diabetic properties and that consumption improves secretion of saliva.

The Gerarde herbal reports: cumin seeds scattereth and breaketh all the windiness of the stomache, belly, guts, and matrix [uterus]; prepared as a broth cumin seeds are good for the chest and cold lungs; when mixed with vinegar and smelled, will stop nosebleeds.

(Summarized from: Gerarde, 1597, pp. 907-908; Colin, 1962, pp. 34-35; Darby, Ghalioungui, Grivetti, 1979, Vol. 2, pp. 799-800).

See also: