Caraway (Carum Carvi) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Caraway (Carum Carvi) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Caraway (Carum Carvi) Overview

Caraway (Carum Carvi) other names: Alcaravea, Anis Canadien, Anis des Prés, Anis des Vosges, Apium carvi, Carraway, Carum carvi, Carum velenovskyi, Carvi, Carvi Commun, Carvi Fructus, Cumin des Montagnes, Cumin des Prés, Faux Anis, Haravi, Jeera, Jira, Kala Jira, Karwiya, Krishan Jeeraka, Krishnajiraka, Kummel, Kummich, Roman Cumin, Semen Cumini Pratensis, Semences de Carvi, Shahijra, Shiajira, Wiesen-Feldkummel, Wild Cumin.

Caraway (botanical name, Carum carvi) is also known as meridian fennel. Caraway is a biennially growing herb having an upright, grooved and branching stem that grows up to a height of 1.5 feet to 2 feet. The leaves of caraway are feathery and emerge from the stem in threes or opposite pairs. The stems of caraway terminate in clusters of minute white flowers that bloom during June and July. In effect, the flower heads of caraway have resemblance to those of carrots in bloom. The herb yields elongated, ridged seeds which are brownish in color.

Caraway (Carum Carvi) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Caraway (Carum Carvi) plant

Caraway is one of the most well accepted herbs in the contemporary times and has been valued for the brilliance of the plant's fragrant dried seeds for long. In effect, the aromatic seeds of caraway are the fruits of the herb which have always been valued for their flavour as well as their role in facilitating digestion. Caraway is added to rye bread as well as a variety of cheese for their typical essence and forms the base for a renowned digestive liqueur, called Kummel (the German term for caraway).

In effect, bakers often scatter caraway seeds on top of cakes and cooks include caraway seeds while cooking cabbage and sauerkraut not only for enhancing their flavour, but also for their quality to provide relief from stomach and intestinal gas. Oil extracted from the seeds of caraway was employed in minimal quantities to alleviate indigestion or colic owing to stomach gas. Caraway oil is extremely helpful in this manner, but some sources are of the view that large doses of the oil may result in damaging the liver.

Similar to several other popular herbs, caraway also gained its individual folklore. People in England popularly believe that caraway has the ability to avoid the theft of any article in which it is contained. Interestingly, this particular belief or property of caraway provided it with the power of being a love potion - it means that if you make your lover consume caraway, he or she will not be stolen from you. Keeping this virtue of the herb in view, rural folks fed caraway to their chickens, pigeons and geese to prevent them from wandering away. In effect, even to this day there are pigeon keepers who still put caraway dough in their lofts with a view to keep their flock together.

The biennially growing herb caraway is found growing naturally in Europe, Asia and North Africa. In addition, caraway is also cultivated in Europe, the United States, Russia and North Africa and the seeds of the herb are collected in late summer when they are ripe.

While caraway has the ability to self-seed, the plants growing out of such seeds may somewhat be like weeds. The plants are vulnerable to crown rot as well as swarming of carrot weevils and aphids.

Caraway (Carum Carvi) Health Benefits

Caraway is a plant that has an interesting place in legend. Superstitions held that caraway had the power to prevent the theft of any object that contained the seed and to keep lovers from losing interest in one another. These days, some people think caraway has healing power, and they use the oil, fruit, and seeds as medicine.

Caraway is used for digestive problems including heartburn, bloating, gas, loss of appetite, and mild spasms of the stomach and intestines. Caraway oil is also used to help people cough up phlegm, improve control of urination, kill bacteria in the body, and relieve constipation.

The action of caraway is somewhat akin to that of fennel and anise. Since caraway is antispasmodic and possesses carminative (any medication that helps to expel gas from the stomach or bowels) attributes, caraway seeds alleviate the digestive tract. In fact, caraway seeds act expressly on the muscles of the intestines to provide relief from cramps, colic and every kind of flatulence and bloating. In addition, ingestion of caraway seeds helps to improve the breathing, enhance appetite, combat cramps in the heart owing to too much stomach gas and, at the same time, alleviate menstrual cramps. Caraway seeds also possess diuretic, tonic and expectorant properties and are often used as active ingredients in medications for treating bronchitis and cough, particularly those meant for use by children. Additionally, caraway is also reputed for augmenting production of breast milk, while the watered down essential oil extracted from the caraway seeds is effective for treating scabies.

Caraway (Carum Carvi) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Caraway (Carum Carvi) flower

As aforementioned, consumption of caraway helps in promoting appetite, while its astringent attribute facilitates in treating diarrhea. Caraway is also used in the form of a gargle to heal laryngitis.

Both caraway seeds as well as the essential oil possess attributes that are related to curing flatulence, gastric disorders, as well as indigestion.

Women use caraway oil to start menstruation and relieve menstrual cramps; nursing mothers use it to increase the flow of breast milk.

Caraway is considered to be a safe and effectual herb for alleviating colic, especially among young children.

As mentioned earlier, apart from its therapeutic use, caraway is also used in culinary. For instance, you may add tender leaves of caraway to stews, soups and salads. You may also cook older caraway leaves like spinach, but be ready for a more potent and spicy flavor, akin to that of the caraway seeds. If you are using caraway seeds in cooking, you should add them during the concluding 15 minutes of cooking to avoid any excessive astringent flavor.

You may also cook the roots of caraway herb and serve them like you would do with cooked parsnip and carrots.

Caraway seeds, which are actually fruits of the herb, are extensively used to add essence as well as season rye breads, biscuits, cakes - in this care they are excellent substitute for poppy seeds in old reserves like seed cake, cheese, pasta, omelettes, applesauce, salad dressings, rice as well as seafood. Caraway seeds often make vegetable dishes where carrots, beets, potatoes, cauliflower, green beans, onions, cucumber, zucchini and turnips are used more spicy and tasty. In fact, if you are cooking sauerkraut, coleslaw and any cabbage dishes, they would remain incomplete if you do not add caraway seeds to them. In case you detest the smell of cooking cabbage, you may add 5 ml or one teaspoon of caraway seed in a muslin bag and boil the cabbage along with it.

The essential oil extracted from caraway seeds is employed commercially to add essence to marinades, pickles, confectionery, preserved meats, condiments, ice cream, candy as well as alcoholic drinks, for instance Kümmel and Aquavit.

In manufacturing, caraway oil is used to flavor certain medications. Caraway oil is also commonly used as a fragrance in toothpaste, soap, and cosmetics.

Caraway (Carum Carvi) Side effects

Caraway is likely safe when taken by mouth in food amounts. Caraway is possibly safe for most people when taken by mouth in medicinal amounts for up to 8 weeks.

Caraway oil can cause belching, heartburn, and nausea when used with peppermint oil. Caraway oil can cause skin rashes and itching in sensitive people when applied to the skin.

Caraway (Carum Carvi) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Caraway (Carum Carvi) image

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: It is possibly unsafe to take caraway in medicinal amounts. Caraway oil has been used to start menstruation, and this might cause a miscarriage. Don’t use it. Not enough is known about the safety of using caraway during breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Diabetes: There is a concern that caraway might lower blood sugar. If you have diabetes and use caraway, watch your blood sugar carefully. The dose of the medications you use for diabetes might need to be adjusted.

Too much iron in the body (hemochromatosis): Caraway extract might increase the absorption of iron. Overuse of caraway extract with iron supplements or iron-containing food might increase iron levels in the body. This may be a problem for people who already have too much iron in the body.

Surgery: Caraway might lower blood sugar levels. There is a concern that caraway might interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. Stop using caraway at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.