This section is from the book "A Text Book Of Materia Medica, Being An Account Of The More Important Crude Drugs Of Vegetable And Animal Origin", by Henry G. Greenish. Also available from Amazon: A Text Book of Materia Medica : Being an Account of the More Important Crude Drugs of Vegetable and Animal Origin.
The cummin, Cuminum Cymlnum, Linne (N.O. Um-belliferce), is a small annual plant indigenous to the upper Nile territory, and cultivated in Morocco, Sicily, Malta, Syria, and India. The fruits were well known to the ancients, and were much used in Europe in the Middle Ages as a culinary spice.
The plants are cut down when the fruits are ripe, and thrashed.
Cummin fruits are brown, elongated oval, tapering towards both base and apex, and somewhat laterally compressed. In the commercial drug the mericarps are sometimes united and attached to a short stalk; sometimes they are free. Each mericarp is nearly straight, about 6 mm. in length, and furnished with five yellow, smooth or scabrous primary ridges. In the depressions between the primary ridges are secondary ridges bearing short bristly hairs.
The transverse section of a mericarp exhibits an oily endosperm, which is not deeply grooved, and six vittae - four on the dorsal surface below the bristly secondary ridges and two on the commissural.
Cummin fruits differ from caraways in being nearly straight instead of curved (as caraways usually are), and in being bristly instead of smooth. The odour and taste, though similar to those of caraways, are by no means so agreeable.
The student should observe
(a) The straight mericarp,
(b) The bristles on the secondary ridges,
(c) The characteristic odour.
Cummin fruits yield from 3 to 4 per cent, of volatile oil (sp. gr. 0.972; O.R. + 25.5°; chief constituent cuminic aldehyde).
The fruits have been used as a stimulant and carminative; they are now chiefly employed in veterinary medicine.
Persian cummin is probably derived from a species of Carum; fruits smaller than cummin or caraway fruits; odour similar to cummin; oil contains no carvone.