Curcumin vs Cumin

By | December 20, 2019

Curcumin and cumin are two things that sound very similar, and they both offer great health benefits. But if you have ever met the two in a kitchen, you should know that they are utterly different from each other. Curcumin is an active component of the spice turmeric, which is a member of the ginger family. Meanwhile, cumin is by itself a spice, and it belongs to the parsley family. Below, we will see the more detailed comparisons between curcumin vs cumin.

What is curcumin?

Curcumin is a bright yellow chemical that is produced by some plants, most notably turmeric. In fact, curcumin is the principal curcuminoid of turmeric (curcuminoids are phenols that produce a yellow color). Along with desmethoxycurcumin and bis-desmethoxycurcumin, the three form a trio of natural phenols which give turmeric the typical yellow color. Meanwhile, turmeric itself is a plant with typical oblong leaves and yellow funnel-shaped flowers; its roots are commonly used in South-East Asian and Indian cuisines.

What is cumin?

On the other hand, cumin is a flowering plant found across India and the east of Mediterranean. Cumin seeds are an important flavoring agent that is utilized in many cuisines in the world. You can find it in Indian, North African, and Latin American cuisines. You can also find it inleyden (the Dutch cheese) and some traditional French breads. Cumin seeds are used in either the whole form or the ground form. Ground cumin seeds have a brown color.

Cumin seeds have rich nutrition. From 100 grams of ground cumin, you can get high amounts of fat (most particularly monounsaturated fat), protein, dietary fiber, vitamins Bs and E, as well as some dietary minerals especially iron.

Color and Appearance

You don’t need to put any real effort to differentiate curcumin vs cumin. You can distinguish them just by looking at them. Curcumin is usually sold in the powder form, which is yellow or bright orange in color. If you need the spice form, you get turmeric. The curcumin powder may leave a yellow/orange mark, and note that the stain may be difficult to remove from clothes!

On the other hand, cumin may be used in either the whole form or the ground form. You can tell that it is cumin seeds by the brown elongated shape. Meanwhile, in the ground form, the color is brown. Unlike curcumin, it does not stain, so don’t worry so much about cleaning the clothes.

Curcumin Uses in Cooking and Medicine

Both curcumin vs cumin are used in various cuisines around the world, but they do have different uses. The source of curcumin, turmeric, is very common in South-East Asian and Indian cuisines. It is usually added to color the food, and it also adds a slightly pungent taste to the food. Malay cuisine also makes use of turmeric leaves.

Furthermore, curcumin is also a popular ingredient in medicine. This is because curcumin is believed to have various health benefits. Raw turmeric is consumed by many people due to the medicinal properties, and turmeric powder can be mixed with milk to heal a sick person. Curcumin has been used in some drugs and supplements.

However, recent researches have found that curcumin may not be as potent as what people believe. Despite the positive results in many drug discovery assays, curcumin has a limited bioactivity due to the chemical instability, absence of a selective target activity, water insolubility, extensive metabolism, and limited tissue distribution. There is also a potential for toxicity, but this is only a problem at a very high dose.

In the end, curcumin is best used only in cooking. It is used for the coloring effect and the additional taste. It may have some health benefits, but it is not really a potent ingredient for medicinal purposes.

Cumin Uses in Cooking and Medicine

On the other hand, cumin is arguably a more popular ingredient in cooking because it is used in many more cuisines of different parts of the world. Cumin is used a lot not only in Indian cuisines but also in Mexican and North African cuisines. This is because cumin has a distinctive flavor that can enhance the overall flavor of the food and is loved by many. Different recipes may use whole cumin seeds, ground cumin, or both.

Cumin has a strong aroma profile. The aroma is warm due the essential oil content. It helps to create an earthy and warm feeling in food. Because of this unique effect, it becomes a staple in certain soups and stews and spiced gravies. It is also used in some pastries and pickles.

You can also find cumin in the Dutch cheese, leyden, and some traditional French breads. Some chili powders also use ground cumin. In South Asian cooking, cumin seeds are combined with coriander seeds to create a powdered mixture called dhanajeera.

Cumin is also used in many drugs and supplements. Various researches have shown the medicinal properties of cumin, such as the antibacterial activity, the antioxidants, and the ability to fight cancer. A research in 2002 showed that cumin is effective against eight pathogenic bacteria, and the effect is at least equal to conventional antibiotics.

People also take cumin to relieve digestion problems, such as diarrhea, bowel spasms, gas, and colic. It also has a diuretic effect which increases urine flow. It can help women to start menstruation, and it may be used as an aphrodisiac to increase sexual drive.

Cumin is generally safe with few side effects. It is recommended to avoid cumin when pregnant, breast-feeding, and bleeding due to its ability to slow blood clotting. Cumin should also be avoided during and after surgery and if you have diabetes due to the ability to lower blood sugar levels.

- Chemical produced by some plants, most notably turmeric- A flowering plant whose seeds are commonly used in cooking and medicine
- Bright orange color that may stain- Ground cumin seeds are brown with a strong warm aroma
- Slightly pungent taste- Warm, earthy flavor
- Used in cooking for coloring and flavoring- Used in various cuisines for flavoring
- Little to no medicinal properties despite the popular belief- Various medicinal properties


Curcuminvs cumin are two very different things. Curcumin is an active component of turmeric. It has a bright orange color which may stain, and is used as a coloring and flavoring agent in foods. Despite the popularity, the medicinal benefits aren’t that great. On the other hand, cumin is a seed often used in cooking and medicine. Cumin has a brown color and distinctive strong aroma. Cumin may be used in either the whole form or the ground form.

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