There has been some exciting research into the potential of cumin, and in particular black cumin, to help reduce blood sugar levels without the use of popular diabetes medications so commonly prescribed as the levels of diabetes increase throughout North America.
While cumin traditionally was grown and used throughout the Middle East (native to Egypt), its popularity slowly spread through Asia and Europe. It’s now even considered a typical ingredient to many Mexican dishes and chilies. Historically, cumin was always associated with love and fidelity, carried around during weddings for good luck, and baked into breads by wives before their husbands left for war. There are many herbal preparations containing cumin which are thought to be aphrodisiac in nature.
Nowadays, cumin is making a comeback as a herbal medicine, as it is being studied for a series of potential health benefits. Some of cumin’s benefits include immune system health, boosting iron, and as a digestive aid. One of the most promising areas of research is into cumin and its ability to lower blood sugar.
How to Incorporate Cumin
Before we get into the scientific evidence of cumin and its anti-diabetic capabilities, you might be curious about how to properly find, store and use cumin in your everyday life. Cumin is widely available in bulk, both in its ground and whole seed formats. Ground spice loses its potency much more quickly than whole seed formats, so it is recommended to only buy seeds and grind as needed in a spice grinder. If unsure of how old or stale the spice is, try rubbing a little on the underside of your wrist. If it smells weak and doesn’t tickle your nose, then your spice is likely stale. Organic black cumin is the best option to avoid any harsh chemicals that may have been used in the growing process.
Cumin pairs well with grains and meats, and there are many interesting Middle Eastern dishes which take full advantage of this pairing. This includes breads and baked goodies flavored with cumin, as well as beef and lamb dishes which rely on its potent peppery flavor. If the cumin is fresh, a little goes a long way and the seeds can also be toasted to bring out a stronger, nuttier flavor.
Cumin essential oil and other cumin extracts are obviously more potent and are used as more of a medicinal therapy. They should be used with more caution, but in most cases can be safely used both externally and internally to achieve different health benefits.
How to Lower Your Blood Sugar with Cumin
Cumin has a few different areas of use as an anti-diabetic therapy. While the research is still in its infancy, there are even some preliminary clinical trials which point to its potential. Some of the evidence suggests that while cumin may help treat diabetes, it could also treat many of associated side effects of the disease as well.
In one in vivo study, a group of diabetic rats as given a solution containing cumin extract while another group was given a traditional diabetic medication called glibenclamide. After 28 days of treatment, scientists found that there were many similarities in effectiveness between the two treatment options. This included improvements to blood glucose levels, as well as improvement to levels of blood urea nitrogen and creatinine (both substances which tend to build up in diabetic patients). On top of this, the study also found improvements to overall insulin retention and glycogen. The differences between glibenclamide and cumin were found to be in cumin’s ability as an antioxidant. In the rats treated with cumin, there was increased antioxidant activity within the pancreas and kidney, and improvements to their digestion.
Other areas of research have shown that cumin is able to increase insulin production and the secretion of insulin by both the kidney and the pancreas. Cumin also manages the insulin sensitivity of certain areas such as within skeletal muscles and liver. The main ingredient responsible for these changes in insulin management is thought to be something called thymoquinone, which is also thought to stimulate increased absorption of glucose by our muscle tissues.
Cumin seems beneficial for many of the serious long-term side effects experienced by people with diabetes. In studies performed on diabetic rats, cumin was found to be beneficial not only for reductions in blood sugar levels, but also over time for a reduction in waist line. This means that cumin could help manage and maintain a healthy weight in people with diabetes, considering this is often one of the primary indicators (and causes) of the disease. Also, through its ability to also regulate high blood pressure, cumin can help reduce the other physical burdens experienced by those with diabetes. Finally, diabetes often triggers an increased risk for cataracts, but cumin has been strongly linked to a reduction of risk for cataracts in diabetic patients.
A Word of Caution
If you are currently using other diabetes medications it is not recommended to begin using large amounts of cumin in your diet or to begin using stronger applications such as essential oil or cumin extracts. This is because cumin could counteract the careful blood sugar levels that your current medication is providing and this obviously could lead to potentially disastrous results. Using standard amounts in culinary applications is thought to be completely safe however. Prior to beginning use of more potent forms of cumin, it’s recommended to discuss the option with a medical professional and naturopath to ensure proper and safe dosage.