The Health Benefits of Cumin vs Curcumin

In this article, we will closely examine cumin and curcumin, two substances often confused due to their similar names. We will explore their distinct properties, uses, and health benefits, including their roles in weight management, cancer protection, and antioxidation, among others.
Klara Hatinova

Klara Hatinova

Klara is postgraduate researcher in experimental psychology at the
University of Oxford.

Cumin vs Curcumin

Cumin and curcumin are two different substances that are often confused due to their similar names. However, they have different properties, uses, and health benefits. After reading this blog, you will be familiar with the different health benefits and medicinal properties of each.

What is Cumin?

Cumin is a spice derived from the seeds of the Cuminum cyminum plant, a member of the parsley family that grows in China, India, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East. Cumin seeds are commonly used in cooking, as they have a distinctive flavour and aroma. The main active ingredient in cumin is cumin aldehyde, which makes up about 45-50% of the chemical composition[1]. It's a key component in many spice mixes and curry powders.

Health Benefits of Cumin

A few studies have examined cumin's health benefits. These include weight loss support, protection against cancer and allergies, antioxidation, reducing blood clotting, and blood sugar regulation [1].

Let's look at these in a bit more detail:

  • Weight loss: Two studies of obese individuals found that eating cumin helped reduce weight over 3 months [2, 3]
  • Cancer protection: Rats fed cumin had a lower risk of developing colon cancer. This may suggest cumin has a role in cancer protection [4]
  • Antiallergic properties
  • Antioxidation: the two compounds found in cumin that have antioxidant properties are apigenin and luteolin. These help reduce free radicals in your body, increasing resilience to stress in the form of oxidation [4]
  • Bacterial protection: In many parts of the world, spices, including cumin, are used as antiseptics to protect against bacterial and viral growth [5]. This property can also increase the shelf life of specific fruits, such as strawberries [6].
  • Reducing blood glucose / anti-diabetic properties: Studied carried out on rabbits and rats found that cumin reduced blood glucose without increasing the risk of hypoglycemia [6].
  • Reducing cholesterol: In the above-mentioned weight loss study, the participants reduced low-density lipoprotein, a harmful form of cholesterol [2].

What is Curcumin?

Curcumin, in contrast, is a compound found in the turmeric plant, a spice with the species name Curcuma longa. Turmeric has a distinctive bright yellow colour and is commonly found in curry powders, such as those used in Indian cuisine.

Chemically, curcumin is a type of curcuminoid. It's one of the major curcuminoids of turmeric, which imparts its characteristic yellow colour [7]. Curcumin has been linked with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative, anticancer, antidiabetic, antirheumatic, and antiviral effects [8]. However, its optimum potential is limited by its lack of solubility in aqueous solvents and poor oral bioavailability [8].


Curcumin Health Benefits

Curcumin has been shown to have various potential health benefits, some of which date back to ancient societies.

  • Antioxidant properties: Curcumin was found to protect your cells against oxidative damage[9, 10, 11].
  • Anti-inflammatory properties. It aids in the management of the inflammatory response to pathogens or chronic disease. It has been used in clinical trials for various pro-inflammatory diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and autoimmune diseases [12, 10, 11]. This can also benefit physically active people and athletes by reducing post-workout muscle inflammation [9].
  • Cancer protection [13, 12]
  • Cardiovascular protection: Taking curcumin supplements improved heart health in a sub-population [10].
  • Control obesity and diabetes [10, 11, 14]
  • Improve brain health

However, curcumin has low oral bioavailability, meaning the body does not easily absorb it. This could impact the benefits you can expect after taking curcumin in its natural form. To overcome this, various curcumin formulations with enhanced bioavailability are being developed. For example, combining curcumin with black pepper could potentially increase bioavailability [15, 10].

Summary: Cumin vs Curcumin

Cumin and curcumin are two different substances with distinct properties and beneficial effects. Cumin is a spice derived from the seeds of the Cuminum cyminum plant, whereas curcumin is a chemical compound found in the spice turmeric.

Despite this, both have a spectrum of health benefits, including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and the potential to protect against cancer and manage weight. Further research would be required to validate many of these health benefits and whether we should be using cumin and curcumin supplementation to improve our health

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Klara Hatinova

Klara Hatinova

Klara is a postgraduate researcher in experimental psychology at the University of Oxford. She has worked across a spectrum of hot topics in neuroscience, including her current project measuring reinforcement learning strategies in Parkinson’s disease. Previously, she studied the efficacy of psilocybin as a therapy for critical mental health conditions and examined molecular circadian rhythms of migraine disorders. She completed her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience at the University of Glasgow and participated in a year abroad at the University of California, where she worked on a clinical trial for spinal cord injury.