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The Health Benefits of Cooking with Black Cumin (Nigella sativa)

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Black cumin has many names and many benefits. It’s been used since ancient times, and now you too can learn the health benefits of cooking with black cumin (plus two quick and easy recipes)!


If you are a lover of Middle Eastern foods, then you are probably acquainted with the distinct taste and aroma associated with cumin seeds. 

Although it may be difficult to describe the distinct aroma of this spice, the taste is a unique combination of onion, black pepper, and oregano with a little dash of ‘nut’ thrown in for good measure. And it is these different characteristics of cumin that make it such a great addition to most savory and even some sweet dishes. 

Cumin: The Origins

Cumin, more particularly black cumin, is the seed of the Nigella sativa plant. A member of the Ranunculaceae family, Nigella sativa is a native to a large area that includes the eastern Mediterranean, north Africa, Western Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. 

Historically, these seeds have been used not only as a food flavoring, but in traditional medicine as well. Indeed, the Bible refers to black cumin as a curative while the Prophet Muhammed’s references to this seed describes it as a natural universal healer of just about anything except death. 

Besides being known as cumin, the seeds of the Nigella sativa are also referred to as black seeds, kalonji, black sesame seeds, black onion seeds, and charnushka. There are probably many more. 

The Health Benefits of Cumin

Black seed oil, traditionally, is used to treat fevers, coughs, headaches, migraines, respiratory conditions, infections, inflammation, gastrointestinal problems, high blood pressure, and rheumatism, to name but a few, while the topical use includes a wide range of skin conditions.

Studies into cumin seeds, or more particularly, the black seed oil derived from the seeds, show it to have many of these traditionally claimed health benefits. It seems that neither the Bible, Prophet Muhammed, nor the practitioners of traditional medicine were wrong.

Studies show that Nigella sativa has strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and antihistamine properties. It also provides support to your immune system. These different properties are probably due to one of the many compounds found in black seed oil, namely thymoquinone.

Indeed, black seed oil may, according to various research literature, be of benefit when addressing numerous gut, respiratory, and nervous system disorders, as well as addressing thyroid conditions and even certain cancers. Used topically, black seed oil may help with acne and psoriasis and may also promote wound healing. 

In other words, the tiny cumin seed packs a lot of clout.

To learn even more, take a look here at a Healthy Ronin analysis of 21 black cumin seed health benefits.

Cooking With Black Seeds

Cumin seeds are used in cooking the world over. From the Middle East to Latin America, and from Northern Europe to the southern most tip of Africa. Each culture has lovingly adopted cumin seeds in their savory and sweet food dishes alike. 

Cumin seeds are found in stews, cookies, and breads, adding its unique flavor to all. The oil, however, is also making headway into the world of cooking, although it is most often used as a food supplement. 

Note: As a seed oil high in natural PUFA’s, black cumin seed oil should not be cooked with over heat. This oxidises the beneficial fats and creates harmful free radicals.

In short, experiencing the health benefits of cooking with black cumin is easy, but should be done right!

Black Seed Oil Drink

Many people find it difficult to drink a spoonful of black seed oil as a health supplement. In a drink, however, it may be so much easier to palate.

Ingredients:

  • 1 glass of milk
  • ½ teaspoon unpasteurised honey
  • 1 tablespoon black seed oil
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla essence

Method:

  1. Warm the milk in a pot on the stove or in the microwave till your desired temperature. Stir in the honey black seed oil, and vanilla essence. Drink and enjoy.
  2. Besides the goodness of the black seed oil, the milk and honey have their own benefits. Milk has high quantities of calcium, which is good for your bones, while honey is a natural antibiotic.

Cumin Seed Salad Dressing

We decided on a cumin seed salad dressing because most people enjoy tossing together a mixed salad, especially during the summer months. And what is a better accompaniment to any tossed salad than a creamy dressing?

To add insult to injury, you could double the quantities in this recipe and keep it in the refrigerator for a few days. It keeps well for up to a week. Just make sure to give it a good stir or shake before using.

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, slightly toasted and slightly crushed afterward (for some extra punch)
  • ½ to one cup Greek yogurt (full fat is best)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (preferably extra virgin)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice 
  • 1 finely chopped garlic clove (more if you love garlic)
  • Pinch of salt to taste

Method:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk them together well.
  2. Pour over your salad ingredients and enjoy!

And that’s it! The health benefits of cooking with black cumin are numerous – very numerous, and it can be an excellent way to boost your culinary expertise and health.

Thanks for reading.

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