IN YOUR KITCHEN : BLACK CUMIN

Black cumin, also known as “kalonji” or “kala jeera”, is a widely popular spice in India, especially in Bengali food (not to be confused with the conventional cumin or “jeera”). Over the past few decades, there have been several published studies that have referenced black cumin. Let’s take a look at why this seed has gained so much popularity! To understand that, here’s a list of its components and their health benefits:1

 

1] Amino Acids: the building blocks of proteins

2] Minerals: calcium, iron, potassium, zinc and sodium, all of which help your body function properly

3] Linoleic acid: an omega-6 fatty acid that offers a range of health benefits (when eaten in moderation)

4] Oleic acids: fatty acids that are also found in olive oil, and may be responsible for its blood pressure reducing effects2

5] Carotenoids: compounds that your body changes into vitamin A, which is needed to maintain night vision, healthy skin and more

6] Phytosterols: compounds that have been shown to lower blood cholesterol

7] Thymoquinone: the substance that is believed to be responsible for most of the health benefits of black cumin!

 

Together or separately, these compounds in black cumin have two basic effects on our body:1

i. They are antioxidants i.e. neutralise free-radicals

ii. They enhance the liver´s ability to detoxify the body

These actions, amongst others, make black cumin help our body in a number of ways.

 

Black Cumin for Daily Health

By virtue of thymoquinone and carotenoids, black cumin possesses antibacterial and antifungal activities,3 all of which make this spice great for our appearance and general health! Here’s why:

1] They reduce allergies, asthma and migraines.

2] They treat skin swellings and eruptions; black cumin’s application has even been extended to ease eruptions of eczema and psoriasis, and treat vitiligo, a skin condition that causes white spots due to loss of pigment.4

3] Thymoquinone helps digestion by improving bowel movements, reducing stomach acid and simultaneously protecting the stomach lining. It’s also useful in protecting against the ulceration caused by alcohol.5

 

Black Cumin for Diseases

In addition to its anti-seizure activity and anti-cancer properties, thymoquinone has been suggested for the treatment of conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, kidney problems, liver disorders (like Hepatitis C), immunity-related disorders (like rheumatoid arthritis), multiple sclerosis and much more! For instance, thymoquinone has even been under the spotlight for treatment against the malaria-causing parasite, Plasmodium. (In one study on rats, black cumin’s extracted oils were even more effective in clearing the parasite than chloroquine, which is currently used to treat malaria!)

 

Black Cumin for Obesity-Related Problems

There’s a lot more to obesity (and its related issues like diabetes and other metabolic disorders) than the mere presence of fat on the abdomen and hips. These issues are the result of many underlying causes – blood sugar being one of the main ones. Black cumin, specifically its thymoquinone component, is believed to reduce blood sugar by:1, 6, 7

–  Helping the body convert blood sugar into a form called glycogen, which is stored in the body for later use, and

– Enabling cells to take up glucose from the blood and use it as energy

Lowering blood sugar is incredibly important for preventing weight gain and type-II diabetes (see insulin resistance) over time!

Looking at this long list of health benefits, it’s clear that black cumin needs to be part of our kitchen, if it isn’t already!

Add the smokey, pungent flavour of kalonji to dishes like dals, salads and even chapattis to get the most out of this incredible spice!

 

References:

1. Vanamala J, et al. Plant Foods Hum Nutr 2012, 67(2): 111-119.
2. Terés S, et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2008, 105(37): 13811-13816.
3. Forouzanfar F, et al. Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences 2014, 17(12): 929-938.
4. Ghorbanibirgani A, et al. Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal 2014, 16(6): e4515.
5. Darakhshan S, et al. Pharmacol Res 2015, 95-96: 138-158.
6. Kanter M, et al. Tohoku J Exp Med 2003, 201(4): 213-219.
7. Le PM, et al. J Ethnopharmacol 2004, 94(2-3): 251-259.

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