Cumin seeds are used as a spice for their distinctive flavour and aroma. It is globally popular and an essential flavouring in many cuisines, particularly South Asian, Northern African and Latin American cuisines. Cumin can be found in some cheeses, such as Leyden cheese, and in some traditional breads from France. It is commonly used in traditional Brazilian cuisine. Cumin can be an ingredient in chili powder (often Tex-Mex or Mexican-style), and is found in achiote blends, adobos, sofrito, garam masala, curry powder, and bahaarat.
Cumin can be used ground or as whole seeds. It helps to add an earthy and warming feeling to food, making it a staple in certain stews and soups, as well as spiced gravies such as chili. It is also used as an ingredient in some pickles and pastries.
In Sanskrit, Cumin is known as Jira - meaning "that which helps digestion". In Ayurvedic system of medicine, dried Cumin seeds are used for medicinal purposes. The dried cumin seeds are powdered and used in different forms like kashaya (decoction), arishta (fermented decoction), vati(tablet/pills), and processed with ghee (a semi-fluid clarified butter). It is used internally and sometimes for external application also. It is known for its actions like enhancing appetite, taste perception, digestion, vision, strength, and lactation. It is used to treat diseases like fever, loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal distension, edema and puerperal disorders.