Cumin is native to Egypt and is a member of the parsley family. It grows in hot places and has become a very popular spice in many countries including South America, Morocco and of course India.
In Sanskrit it is known as jeera, which means decay. This refers to it's digestive qualities, helping your body to break down food. Ayurvedically good digestion is the key to health, so of course cumin is highly valued as a medicine.
It is suitable for all dosha's and it's mild flavour goes well with dishes from pasta to dahl to nacho's. It's hard to use too much cumin, I'd go for about a teaspoon for two people.
So, how to use it. The whole seeds add a lovely texture and can be fried lightly in ghee before adding rice/vegies/dahl etc. They are ready when the aroma is released or the moment the first seed pops. Now the prana is released and you can add the next ingredients. If you burn the seeds, which is very easy to do, throw them out and start again.
The powder is better to use if you want to thicken a sauce or make a paste. Use for a stew or tajine or curry, something thick and saucy. The powder also lends well to being suateed in ghee, but burns even more easily than the whole seeds.
For Jeera Chowel fry whole cumin seeds in ghee before stirring in rice and adding water. Cook as usual. Cumin is cleansing and stimulates the appetite and is a good daily spice.