The fruit of Cuminum Cyminum, Linné.
Nat. Ord.—Umbelliferae.

Botanical Source.—This is an annual herb, with an erect, round, slender, branched stem, about afoot high. The leaves are multifid, with long, filiform segments. The flowers, small, white, or pink, are overtopped by the bracts, which, after flowering, are reflexed. The umbels, both partial and general, consist of about 5 rays, with the involucres consisting of 2 or 3 filiform, 1-sided bracts. The fruit is about 2 lines in length, much longer than the pedicels, nearly tapering, but little contracted at the sides, fusiform, crowned by the short teeth of the calyx, densely covered with short rough hair upon the channels, and less densely upon the ridges, which are paler, filiform, and a little raised; the seeds or half-fruits, 2 in number, are oblong, plano-convex, with the plane surfaces together (L.).

History and Description.—This plant is cultivated in many parts of Europe though originally from Egypt. It is referred to in Scripture (Isaiah xxviii, 25-27, and Matt. xxiii, 23), and was a lesser titheable product in Palestine (Pharmacographia). The fruit or seeds are ovate or fusiform, of a light-brown or grayish color, with 2 adhering concavo-convex fruits. The fruit resembles caraway, but is larger. Each seed or fruit presents 5 filiform, rough, primary ridges, between which are 4 secondary ones, which are furnished with small prickles. Between each primary ridge is an elongated oil tube (vitta) besides 2 vittae on the face of the mericarp. Insects often destroy the fruit. Their odor and taste is similar to that of caraway, but warmer, and not so agreeable.

Chemical Composition.—Bley (1829) found the fruit to contain resin, fatty matter, gum, lignin, protein bodies, salts, largely composed of malates, extractive, and volatile oil. The volatile oil, which is the chief constituent, may be separated by distillation with water, and is of a yellowish color, thin, having a specific gravity varying from 0.890 and 0.930 at 15° C. (59° F.) (Schimmel & Co.), and possessing the taste and odor of the plant. This oil is a compound, consisting mainly of 2 oils, viz.: Cymol (cymene, or para-methyl-propyl-benzene, C10H14), a hydrocarbon having the odor of lemons; cuminol (cumin-aldehyd) (C6H4[C3H7]CHO) an oxygenated substance possessing the odor of caraway. Lastly, a terpene, having the composition C10H16, was believed to have been obtained, in 1896, by Wolpian (see Schimmel's Report, Oct., 1896). When treated with nitric acid, cumin-aldehyd is oxidized to crystallizable cuminic acid (C10H12O2). Trapp (1858) obtained from the seeds of Cicuta virosa, Linné, essential oils identical with those of cumin oil. The yield of oil of cumin from raw material, according to Schimmel & Co. (Semi-annual Report, Oct., 1893), is as follows: From Syrian fruit, 3 to 4 per cent; Maltese fruit, 3.5 per cent; Moroccan fruit, 3 per cent; East Indian, 3 to 3.5 per cent. Cymol has a density of 0.860 at 15° C. (59° F.), and boiling point near 174° C. (345.2° F.). Cuminol has a density of 0.972 at 16° C. (59° F.), and boiling point near 229° C. (444.2° F.). Schimmel & Co. report in October, 1896, that the demand for cumin oil has been constantly decreasing and is now inconsiderable.

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Highly stimulant and carminative, possessing medical properties similar to the other aromatic fruits of umbelliferous plants, but more stimulating. They are seldom used in the United States. Dose, from 15 to 60 grains.

Ɣ Related Drugs.—NIGELLA. Fennel flower. The seeds of two ranunculaceous plants, the Nigella sativa, Linné, Nutmeg flower, or Small fennel flower; and Nigella damascena, Linné, or Ragged Lady. They are natives of Syria and south Europe, and are cultivated in gardens. The leaves of these plants resemble those of fennel. The seeds of the first species are rough, triangular, ovate, two surfaces being flat and the other convex, about 1/12 to 1/10 inch long, externally dull-black, and internally white and oleaginous. To the taste they are acrid, somewhat spicy, and pungent. In odor they are aromatic or camphoraceous, reminding some persons of nutmegs, others of cajuput. The seeds of ragged lady are occasionally sold under the name magnolia seeds. They have rounded angles, an a deeply-netted and corrugated testa. When rubbed they exhale an odor comparable with that of strawberries. The seeds of nutmeg flower, according to Husemann and Hilger, contain 1.5 per cent of an essential, colorless and fluorescent oil, and consists of a substance C20H24O and a terpene (Flückiger). Its odor differs from that of the seeds, and a fixed oil to the extent of 35 per cent, was obtained by Reinsch in 1841. Flückiger has shown it to be composed of myristin, stearin, and palmitin. A yellow extract-like mass, having a bitter taste, was isolated by Reinsch and named nigellin. It is not, however, regarded as a distinct body.

Melanthin (C20H33O7), a glucosid, was isolated by H. G. Greenish, in 1880. It is amorphous, acrid, foams when shaken with water, is very soluble in alcohol, but scarcely soluble in water, benzin, benzol, ether, and carbon disulphide. Acids split it into glucose and melanthigenin (C14H23O2). Both principles impart a rose-red tint with pure sulphuric acid in about 15 minutes. The color changes to violet-red upon long standing. The seeds of Nigella damascena were observed by Greenish to yield to petroleum benzin a fluorescent principle, but contain no melanthin (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1882, pp. 10 and 304), and A. Schneider (1890) showed that this was due to a crystalline alkaloid which he named damascenine, the compounds of which, however, are non-fluorescent.

King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.