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Cuminum cyminum

A member of the carrot family, Cumin is mostly associated with the exotic cuisines of Asia and Asia Minor. In ancient Greece it was a common culinary herb mentioned by all the old herbalists. In India it is not only one of the most important ingredients of curry powder, but also finds use in Ayurvedic and Unani medicine. Placed in a little bag among the linen it keeps moths and insects out of cupboards. In ancient Greece, Cumin symbolized stinginess and those who kept their fists too tight were said 'to have eaten Cumin'. This was probably an allusion to not paying one's dues, since at that time Cumin was used as common form of payment for taxes. Well-known for his stinginess, Marcus Aurelius even bore the nickname 'Cumin'. Pliny relates another, rather unusual use of Cumin - apparently, if applied to the skin Cumin paste bleaches it, a property students knew to exploit in a whimsical effort to convince their teachers that they had been spending long hours indoors, studying. Cumin has an earthy, slightly sweaty aroma - what some would describe as a 'male' scent. It is indeed often added to cosmetics for men, such as aftershaves. Some women find just a hint of Cumin 'sexy' and it is said to stimulate desire. Perhaps this is why Cumin is so immensely popular in Latin American countries.

Cumin is rarely used medicinally these days, though it is useful to be aware of its properties as a stimulating, carminative digestive aid. It can dispel flatulence and a bloating sensation. It can also be useful to ally digestion 'headaches6' and to stimulate sluggish digestion. As a gargle it can soothe blisters of the mouth. Mixed with salt it can be rubbed into the gums to reduce soreness and swelling. Unani medicine also uses Cumin to treat chronic fever, diarrhoea, haemorrhoids, boils, chronic fever, scorpion stings and insomnia. In Ayurveda it is used to reduce nausea during pregnancy and increase the flow of milk in lactating mothers. It also reduces swollen breasts or testicles.

Cumin can be used to attract a lover (especially by men). It stimulates the base chakra and rouses desire. It protects against evil spirits and venomous beasts. Cumin can be used to contemplate the laws of manifestation (especially with regards to money) and to meditate on the balance of give and take.