Excerpt from Mercola.com:
The popular spice cumin has a long history of medicinal use. It has been used to treat various symptoms including diarrhea, flatulence, gynecological, and respiratory diseases. But a new study looked at a different effect of cumin — its ability to enhance memory and relieve stress.
Daily administration of cumin to rats inhibited stress-induced urinary biochemical changes. Memory and cognition, as determined by acquisition, retention, and recovery in the rats, was also observed to be enhanced by cumin.
According to the study, as reported by Green Med Info:
“This study provides scientific support for the antistress, antioxidant, and memory-enhancing activities of cumin extract and substantiates that its traditional use as a culinary spice in foods is beneficial and scientific in combating stress and related disorders.”
Dr. Mercola’s Comments:
“Every time you flavor your meals with herbs or spices you are upgrading the nutrient content of your food without adding a single calorie. You are taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary by adding color, flavor, vitamins, and often medicinal properties.
Cumin (not to be confused with curcumin, the active ingredient in the spice turmeric), is a common household spice that historically has been used to treat symptoms such as:
- Respiratory diseases
However, more recent research into the health effects of this spice suggests its benefits go far beyond that.
Cumin May Enhance Memory and Help Reduce Stress
According to a recent animal study published in July 2011, cumin appears to have anti-stress properties. Rats were given cumin daily, at doses of 100, 200, and 300 mg/kg body weight, one hour before being stressed. The results showed that the cumin inhibited stress-induced biochemical changes in a dose-dependent manner. Memory and cognition were also found to be dose-dependent.
The authors concluded that:
“This study provides scientific support for the anti-stress, antioxidant, and memory-enhancing activities of cumin extract and substantiates that its traditional use as a culinary spice in foods is beneficial and scientific in combating stress and related disorders.”
The antioxidant activity of cumin was also evaluated in a 2009 study, which found that the spice (along with others, such as caraway, coriander, dill and fennel) was far more potent than vitamin C (ascorbic acid).
The Many Health Benefits of Cumin
Green Med Info has compiled a list of research into the health benefits of black cumin (Nigella Sativa), which includes:
Anti-diabetic effect in type 2 diabetics Protecting against and attenuating aflatoxicosis Alleviating symptoms of allergic rhinitis Reducing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis Reducing asthma symptoms Reducing damage caused by cadmium poisoning Antifungal activity against candidasis May serve as prophylactic against chemical warfare agents
Cumin May Be Helpful for Diabetics
Two health benefits that may be of particular interest to a majority of people are its anti-diabetic and anti-asthmatic effects. In one 2010 study, black cumin seeds were found to improve glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes. Here, the seeds were used in conjunction with regular anti-diabetic medications. Nintety-four patients were randomly divided into three groups receiving different doses of the cumin seeds; either one, two, or three grams per day, for three months.
The group receiving two grams of cumin seeds per day saw the greatest improvement, reducing their blood glucose by an average of 62 mg/dl at eight weeks. The lower- and higher-dose groups also experienced reductions in blood glucose, but none as great as those receiving the two gram/day dose. The authors concluded that:
“The results of this study indicate that a dose of 2 gm/ day of Nigella sativa might be a beneficial adjuvant to oral hypoglycemic agents in type 2 diabetic patients.”
A study published earlier this year concluded that black cumin’s anti-diabetic effects appear to be rooted in its ability to improve insulin sensitivity.
Another common spice of particular interest to diabetics is cinnamon, which also has “insulin-like” effects. For example, just half a teaspoon of cinnamon a day has been shown to significantly reduce blood sugar levels, triglycerides, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes. In another earlier study, cinnamon was found to increase glucose metabolism 20-fold! Many believe it’s a very viable contender in the fight against diabetes.
Cumin has Potent Anti-Asthma Effects
A number of studies have also indicated that cumin may be helpful for asthmatics. Here are three of the most recent studies confirming cumin’s anti-asthmatic effects:
- Black cumin seeds and its oils have historically been used to treat respiratory diseases, including asthma. In one study, thymoquinone (TQ), one of the primary active ingredients in cumin seeds, was found to be instrumental, by reducing two inflammatory mediators of asthma and other inflammatory processes.
- Another study from last year confirmed the anti-asthmatic effect of black cumin seeds, showing it acts as a bronchodilator. Here, the researchers used a boiled extract of the cumin seeds.
- According to research published in 2009, black cumin seeds also act as a relaxant, and display both anticholinergic (reducing spasms in smooth muscle) and antihistaminic (blocking allergic reactions) effects. In this study, the thymoquinone (TQ) in black cumin seeds was found to be superior to the asthma drug fluticasone (a synthetic glucocorticoid)!
General Health Benefits of Herbs and Spices—A Little Can Go a Long Way!
It may be helpful to know that herbs and spices are actually some of the most potent antioxidants in your food supply; in many instances surpassing other more well-known sources of antioxidants. For example, spices such as cloves and cinnamon have phenol levels that are 30 percent and 18 percent of dry weight, respectively. Compare that to blueberries, which are widely touted for their antioxidant capabilities; they contain roughly five percent phenol by dry weight…
Another example is oregano, which has 42 times more antioxidant activity than apples, 30 times more than potatoes, 12 times more than oranges, and four times more than blueberries! One tablespoon of fresh oregano contains the same antioxidant activity as one medium-sized apple. I personally love oregano and grow it in my garden every year, as it is a perennial plant and faithfully comes back. It is easy to harvest in late summer and fall, and dehydrate and store for future use.
While each spice has a unique set of health benefits to offer, one study, published in the Journal of Medicinal Foods, found a direct correlation between the antioxidant phenol content and the spice’s ability to inhibit glycation and the formation of AGE compounds, making them potent preventers of heart disease and premature aging.
According to this study, the top 10 most potent herbs and spices are:
- Cloves (ground)
- Cinnamon (ground)
- Jamaican allspice (ground)
- Apple pie spice (mixture)
- Oregano (ground)
- Pumpkin pie spice (mixture)
- Gourmet Italian spice
But it’s not just about antioxidants. Herbs and spices also contain a number of other nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and various compounds with medicinal properties that make them a very valuable addition to your diet. Herbs and spices also make your diet more thermogenic, meaning they naturally increase your metabolism. Some spices, such as red pepper flakes, can also increase your feeling of satiety, helping you eat less.”