Cumin Sprinkle

Ayurveda describes food according to many categories.  One of these categories is taste, or rasa (pronounced with the “a”s sounding like the “u” in the word “up”).  Click here to read more about the  śad rasa (six tastes).

Śad Rasa

The six tastes follow a common pattern that relates to either heating or cooling to the digestive system. This knowledge is key for balance.  The key to health is to have a “strong” agni (digestive fire), that is not too hot or too cold in quality.

  • Excess cold in the digestive system leads to slow digestion, slow absorption and slow metabolism as well as weight gain, sluggishness, attachment or anxiety and constipation.  This is common for kapha and vata types and during winter,  late fall, and early spring.
  • Excess heat in the digestive system leads to fast or “burning” digestion, malabsorption, skin conditions, diarrhea and anger.  Hot digestion is common for pitta types and in the summer, late spring, and early fall.

Welcome cumin… as well as coriander and fennel.  These medicinal herbs are so beneficial (and so without negative side effects) that they have been relocated from the medicine chest to the kitchen cabinet for daily use.

Roasted & Ground Cumin, Coriander and Fennel

Fondly known in American Ayurvedic circles as “CCF”, Cumin, Coriander and Fennel all support strong digestion without being over-heating.  This is an unusual feat.  Most other herbs and spices that strengthen digestion are also quite heating.  Here are some benefits of cumin, coriander and fennel:

Benefits of Cumin

  • Enkindles the digestive fire, without overheating the system
  • Pungent (spicy) in taste but cooling in effect
  • Promotes healthy absorption of nutrients
  • Balancing for vata, pitta and kapha
  • Detoxifying to the digestive
  • Supports post-meal comfort and good breath

Benefits of Coriander

  • Enkindles the digestive fire, while cooling and soothing the digestive tract
  • Promotes healthy absorption of nutrients
  • Supports healthy urinary tract function
  • Eliminates excess heat from hot flashes (moves the heat down & out of the body)
  • Balancing for vata, pitta and kapha (especially good for pitta types and in the summer)

Benefits of Fennel

  • Enkindles the digestive fire, without overheating or aggravating pitta
  • Promotes healthy absorption of nutrients
  • Supports post-meal comfort and good breath
  • Promotes healthy urinary tract function
  • Supports healthy and comfortable menstrual cycle
  • Promotes healthy flow of milk for lactating mothers
  • Balancing for vata, pitta and kapha (especially good for pitta types and in the summer)
The best way to have kitchen spices is to buy the whole spice (in bulk at a health food store or from Banyan Botanicals).  WHen you buy the powder, it is not fresh, and all the volatile oils that carry the benefits are depleted.  As one of my Ayurveda teachers says, “it’s sawdust“.
To use in cooking, you can grind the spices yourself (in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder reserved for spices), or use the whole seeds by heating oil in a pan or sauce pot and then adding the whole seeds.  Stir for about 2-3 minutes over medium heat until the spices brown slightly and/or emit an aroma.  Then add your other ingredients.
I learned a great trick of roasting & grinding cumin seeds for a fantastic floral taste and lovely digestive effect from my friend, executive chef Mark Gordon of San Francisco.  You can do just cumin, or any combination of cumin, coriander and fennel.
Roasted CCF
  • Take any ratio of cumin, coriander and fennel.  Equal parts works great, or 2 parts cumin to one part coriander and one part fennel.
  • Dry roast the seeds over medium high heat in a saucepan.  Stir constantly to keep from burning and to roast evenly for about 4 minutes.
  • When an aroma emits (stick your nose in their!) or the seeds start to brown lightly, they are done.
  • Pour the seeds out of the pot into a bowl to let them cool.
  • Grind them by hand in a mortar and pestle or in an electric coffee grinder (reserved only for spices, not coffee!)
  • Store in a stainless steel or glass container.
Enjoy this blend over toast with ghee (my friend introduced this to his 7 year old and he loved it!) or quinoa and veggies or curry or whatever!  Roasted, these spices have a floral aroma and a lighter quality.
Roasted CCF over a pot of quinoa, zucchini and carrot.
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