Cumin is a spice that enhances many Mediterranean, Indian, North African and Middle Eastern dishes. Derived from the seeds of a plant belonging to the parsley family, cumin -- both in its whole and ground form -- has been used medicinally since ancient times. Modern scientific research indicates that therapeutic doses of cumin may have an effect on blood sugar levels, especially in people with diabetes. Talk to your doctor about the benefits and drawbacks of using cumin.
Animal Research Results
A 2005 study published in "Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism" examined the results of combinations of essential oils administered to rats with induced diabetes. Cumin oil was one of the oils used, along with others such as oregano, fenugreek and cinnamon oil. The researchers found that combinations including cumin succeeded in lowering blood glucose levels. They hypothesized that cumin and the other essential oils may do so by increasing the body's sensitivity to insulin.
Human Research Results
A daily 2-gram dose of Nigella sativa, also known as black cumin, was given to patients with type 2 diabetes in an "Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology" study published in 2010. The diabetics took the cumin along with their regular medications. After 12 weeks, the subjects consuming 2 grams of cumin each day experienced a significant drop in their blood sugar levels, leading the scientists to conclude that cumin might be an effective treatment option for diabetes. A later study conducted by researchers at the Montreal Diabetes Research Center found that cumin may increase human insulin sensitivity.
Interaction with Diabetes Medication
If you are taking diabetes medication, avoid taking any form of supplemental cumin unless you have been specifically directed to do so by your doctor. This includes anti-diabetic drugs like insulin, glipizide, glyburide, chlorpropamide, glimepiride and tolbutamide. Taken together, diabetes medications and supplemental cumin may cause your blood sugar level to drop below 70 mg/dL. If this happens, you may experience headaches, blurry vision, trembling and fatigue. In extreme instances, the combination can cause unconsciousness or seizures.
Safety of Cumin in Cooking
It is safe for diabetics to use ground cumin or cumin seeds as a flavoring when cooking. The amount used in food is far less than the large doses contained in dietary supplements or administered in scientific studies. The American Diabetes Association encourages diabetics to use cumin and other herbs and spices instead of salt or salty seasoning mixes as a way to lower sodium intake. Add cumin to curry, chili or stew, or mix it with other spices to form a rub for meat, fish or poultry.