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Definition: cumin from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Seedlike fruit of the herb cumin, which belongs to the carrot family. It has a bitter flavour and is used as a spice in cooking. (Cuminum cyminum, family Umbelliferae.)





Summary Article: CUMIN
from Leung's Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients: Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics

Source: Cuminum cyminum L. (syn. C. odorum Salisb.) (Family Umbelliferae or Apiaceae).

Common/vernaoular names: Cummin and cumin seed.


Small annual with a slender stem, much branched above; up to about 0.6 m high; native to the Mediterranean region, now extensively cultivated there (Morocco, Turkey, Greece, Egypt, etc.) and in Iran, India, and other countries. Part used is the dried ripe fruit, commonly called "seed." An essential oil (cumin oil) is obtained by steam distillation of the crushed fruit. Major cumin seed producers include Egypt, Iran, India, Morocco, Turkey, and the former U.S.S.R.; major oil producers include India and the United States.


Contains 2-5% volatile oil;1,2 up to about 22% fats with a small amount of Δ5,6-octadecenoic acid;3 14 free amino acids, including five essential ones; about 18% protein;4 flavonoid glycosides, including apigenin-7-glucoside (apigetrin), apigenin-7-glucuronosyl glucoside, luteolin-7-glucoside, and luteolin-7-glucuronosyl glucoside;5 tannin; resin; gum; and others (LIST AND HÖRHAMMER; MARSH).

The volatile oil contains aldehydes (up to 0%) as its major components, which consist mainly of cuminaldehyde, 1, 3-pmenthadien-7-al, 1, 4-pmenthadien-7-al, and 3-pmenthen -7-al; commercial volatile oil and the volatile oil from previously ground commercial cumin contain more cuminaldehyde than the other aldehydes, with the absence of 1, 4-pmenthadien-7-al, while the essential oil from freshly ground cumin contains primarily 1, 4-p-menthadien-7-al, with cuminaldehyde in a much smaller amount and the other two aldehydes only in traces. other major components of the oil are monoterpene hydrocarbons (up to 52%) composed mainly of β-pinene, γ-terpinene, andp-cymene, with α- and β-phellandrene, myrcene, α-terpinene, and limonene also present. Minor constituents include sesquiterpene hydrocarbons β-farnesene, β-caryophyllene, (β-bisabolene, etc.); cuminyl alcohol (believed to be an artifact, as it is present only in trace quantities in the volatile oil from freshly ground cumin); perillaldehyde; phellandral; cis- and trans-sabinene hydrate; cryptone; and others (LIST AND HÖRHAMMER; MASADA).1,6,7

Fine milling of cumin is reportedly responsible for up to 50% loss of its essential oil content, with the greatest loss occurring during the first hour of storage after milling.8

Cuminaldehyde, 1, 4-pmenthadien-7-al, and 1, 3-pmenthadien-7-al have indistinguishable odors; they appear to be mostly responsible for the characteristic aroma of unheated whole cumin seeds. The chief odor characteristics of heated cumin are due to 3-pmenthen-7-al in combination with the other three aldehydes.2

The petroleum ether-soluble fraction of cumin reportedly has antioxidative activity when mixed in lard.9


Cumin oil (especially cuminaldehyde) has been reported to exhibit strong larvicidal activities (see cinnamon, clove, and coriander);10 it also has antibacterial properties.11 It is rapidly absorbed through the shaved intact abdominal skin of mice.12


Undiluted cumin oil has been demonstrated to have distinct phototoxic effects that were not due to cuminaldehyde, its principal component.13


Medicinal, Pharmaceutical, and Cosmetic. Oil is used as a fragrance component in creams, lotions, and perfumes, with a maximum use level of 0.4% reported in perfumes.13

Food. Cumin is a major flavor component of curry and chili powders. It is also used in other food products, including baked goods, meat and meat products, condiments and relishes, processed vegetables, soups, gravies, snack foods, with the highest maximum use level of about 0.4% (4308 ppm) reported in soups.

The oil is used as a flavor component in alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, frozen dairy desserts, candy, baked goods, gelatins and desserts, meat and meat products, condiments and relishes, gravies, snack foods, and others. Highest average maximum use level is reported to be about 0.025% (247 ppm) in condiments and relishes.

Dietary Supplements/Health Foods. Commonly used in specialty curry products, also as carminative and tea ingredient.

Traditional Medicine. Used as a stimulant, antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, aphrodisiac, and emmenagogue, among others.


Crude and oil. Oil is official in F.C.C.

Regulatory Status. GRAS (§182.10 and §182.20).



  • 1. Karow, H., Riechst., Aromen, Korperpflegem., 19(2), 60 (1969).
  • 2. Tassan, C. G. and Russell, G. F., J. Food Sci., 40, 1185 (1975).
  • 3. Kartha, A. R. S. and Selvaraj, Y., Chem. Ind. (London), 25, 831 (1970).
  • 4. Toghrol, F. and Daneshpejouh, H., J. Trop. Pediatr. Environ. Child Health, 20, 109 (1974).
  • 5. Harborne, J. B. and Williams, C. A., Phytochemistry, 11, 1741 (1972).
  • 6. Varo, P. T. and Heinz, D. E., J. Agric. Food Chem., 18, 234 (1970).
  • 7. Varo, P. T. and Heinz, D. E., J. Agric. Food Chem., 18, 239 (1970).
  • 8. Georgiev, E. and Van Hong Tam, Nauch. Tr., Vissh Inst. Khranit. Vkusova Prom. Plovdiv, 20, 99 (1973).
  • 9. Saito, Y. et al., Eiyo To Shokuryo, 29, 505 (1976).
  • 10. Oishi, K. et al., Nippon Suisan Gakkaishi, 40, 1241 (1974).
  • 11. Ramadan, F. M. et al., Chem. Mikrobiol. Technol. Lebensm., 2, 51 (1972).
  • 12. Meyer, F. and Meyer, E., Arzneim.-Forsch., 9, 516 (1959).
  • 13. Opdyke, D. L. J., Food Cosmet. Toxicol., 12(Suppl.) 869 (1974).
Copyright © 2010 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved.

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