As a medicinal treatment, cumin is taken orally, applied locally and even inhaled as a vapour for treating innumerable diseases, including skin, intestinal and respiratory disorders. It is also used in preventive medicine and is believed to have the power to help prevent many diseases, including cancer. A recent study by V. Ani and Kamatham Naidu of Department of the Biochemistry and Nutrition, Central Food Technological Research Institute in Mysore, India, supports this theory.
Commonly called free radicals, Reactive oxygen species (ROS), can be viewed as natural bodily waste products. They become a problem when there is an over-abundance of them in the body. When free radicals grow out of control, they can lead to a number of life-threatening diseases, including cancer, and many debilitating diseases such as atherosclerosis. Anti-oxidants are believed to "sweep up" and remove free radicals, hence helping to prevent these and other diseases.
Phenols are aromatic, acidic organic compounds that are said to be extremely effective antioxidants. Using accepted extraction processes, the researchers were able to isolate the phenols in bitter cumin and test their affect on free radicals. They concluded that there was "a direct correlation between phenolic acid content and antioxidant activity." Moreover, there was "significant scavenging" of a variety of types of free radicals as well as lessened "hydroxyl radical induced damage to prokaryotic genomic DNA." In other words, their study indicated that cumin works.
In his comments, Dr. Naidu mentioned that the amounts of phenols he and Dr. Ani were able to extract and the activities of cumin were dependent on the methods used in their extraction. Hence, they were unable to pinpoint the roles of the specific phenols. Instead, he speculated that "an array of phenolic compounds within bitter cumin seeds" were probably responsible for the antioxidant activity they observed.
Studies like this are extremely valuable, giving scientific credence to age-old beliefs about the medicinal value of herbs. In Australia today, we are fortunate enough to have qualified herbalists from a variety of traditions available for consultation and treatment. We have compiled an extensive list of herbalists in order to make it easy for you to find a herbalist in your area.