Caraway (Carum carvi), also known as meridian fennel, or Persian cumin, is a biennial plant in the family Apiaceae, native to western Asia, Europe and Northern Africa.
The plant is similar in appearance to other members of the carrot family, with finely divided, feathery leaves with thread-like divisions, growing on 20–30 cm stems. The main flower stem is 40–60 cm tall, with small white or pink flowers in umbels. Caraway fruits (erroneously called seeds) are crescent-shaped achenes, around 2 mm long, with five pale ridges.
The etymology of caraway is complex and poorly understood. Caraway has been called by many names in different regions, with names deriving from the Latin cuminum (cumin), the Greek karon (again, cumin), which was adapted into Latin as carum (now meaning caraway), and the Sanskrit karavi, sometimes translated as “caraway” but other times understood to mean “fennel”.
English usage of the term caraway dates back to at least 1440, and is considered by Skeat to be of Arabic origin, though Katzer believes the Arabic al-karawya (cf. Spanish alcaravea) to be derived from the Latin carum.
Fossilized caraway seeds have been found in Neolithic dwellings in Switzerland, and in Mesolithic sites, so it was in use up to 8,000 years ago. The Ancient Egyptians used the spice in religious ritual, and in cooking to make foods like bread and onions more digestible. Theophrastus recorded a recipe for oysters, eaten with caraway for the same reason; another culinary expert, Etimus, cooked lentils with caraway and thyme. The Romans ate caraway seeds after meals to sweeten their breath, and in cakes with other seeds to ease digestion. Caraway seeds are frequently offered after an Indian meal to sweeten the breath.
The plant prefers warm, sunny locations and well-drained soil rich in organic matter. In warmer regions it is planted in the winter months as an annual. In temperate climates it is planted as a summer annual or biennial. There is however a polyploid variant (with four haploid sets=4n) of this plant that was found to be perennial.
Finland supplies approximately 28% (2011) of the world’s caraway production. Caraway cultivation is well suited to the Finnish climate and latitudes, which ensure long hours of sunlight in the summer. These results in fruits that contain higher levels of essential oils than those produced in other main growing areas which include Canada, the Netherlands, Egypt and central Europe.
The fruits, usually used whole, have a pungent, anise-like flavor and aroma that comes from essential oils, mostly carvone and limonene. Anethole, generally regarded as a minor product in the essential oil of this species, has also been found to be a major component. Caraway is used as a spice in breads, especially rye bread.
Caraway is also used in desserts, liquors, casseroles, Indian cuisine rice dishes such as pulao and biryani, and other foods. It is also found in European cuisine. For example, it is used in caraway seed cake, and it is frequently added to sauerkraut. The roots may be cooked as a vegetable like parsnips or carrots. Additionally, the leaves are sometimes consumed as herbs, either raw, dried, or cooked, similar to parsley.
In Serbia, caraway is commonly sprinkled over home-made salty scones (pogačice s kimom). It is also used to add flavor to cheeses such as bondost, pultost and havarti. Akvavit and several liqueurs are made with caraway.
In Middle Eastern cuisine, caraway pudding is a popular dessert during Ramadan. Caraway is also added to flavor Harissa, a Maghrebian chili pepper paste. It is typically made and served in the Levant area in winter and on the occasion of having a new baby, In Aleppian, Syrian cuisine it is used to make the sweet scones named Keleacha.
What is Caraway Essential Oil?
The scent, sometimes associated with Rye Bread, is strong and reminiscent of the Caraway fruit. The usefulness of Caraway essential oil is likely more therapeutic than aromatic. The undertone is fatty and harsh. The less pleasant notes have been attributed to the decomposition of proteins or the presence of glycosides or alkaloids. These dirtier harsher notes are not uncommon in the seed oils from the family of Umbelliferae (caraway, carrot, celery, coriander, fennel, etc.). Similarly, Black Pepper oil features an ammoniac aroma when first distilled. In many religious books, the medicinal properties of caraway seeds have been explained and appreciated. It is said to be the cure for nearly all diseases. The question is, where do these medicinal properties of caraway seeds come from? Where else but from its essential oils!
The essential oil of Caraway has a wonderful aroma like the fresh seeds: slightly sweet spicy odor with a hint of pepper. Caraway essential oil is a warming essential oil, which helps to relieve mental strain and emotional fatigue, while aiding the digestive and urinary system and clearing the respiratory system. It is also used to help clear skin and scalp conditions. Herbal lore has it that a regular intake of caraway oil is said to protect from all ailments and diseases and keep one healthy and young (the CO2 distillation particularly is likely to have potent antioxidant action).
Chemical Constituents of Caraway Essential Oil
Owing major similarities to the other members of the Apiaceae, Caraway essential oil have carvone and limonene as its major components and the other constituents are carvacrol, α-pinene, γ-terpinene, linalool, furfurol, thujone, carvenone, and p-cymene. In fact, there has been so much research done on the many medicinal properties and health benefits of Caraway Oil that a book could practically be written on the subject!
Benefits of Caraway Essential Oil
The health benefits of Caraway Essential Oil can be attributed to its properties as anti-aging, anti-histaminic, antioxidant, antiseptic, anti-spasmodic, aperitif, cardiac, carminative, detoxifier, digestive, disinfectant, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, galactogogue, spiritual, stimulant, stomachic, tonic, insecticide and vermifuge substance.
Carvone and limonene components present in Caraway oil have enormous anti-oxidant properties that strengthen the connective tissues and confer potent effects on aging symptoms and clears out wrinkles, lessens the sagging of skin and aids in tissue regeneration. This oil is also used in the manufacturing of skin care lotions, creams and ointments for reducing wrinkles and acne. Rich in vitamins and minerals such as potassium, calcium, iron, manganese, selenium and zinc, Caraway essential oil helps in regulating the growth and development of cells and aids in improved natural complexion of the skin.
Histamine is the major reason behind disruptive and exhausting coughs. People who suffer from seasonal allergies can continue coughing endlessly! Sometimes, the conditions become so severe that the patient runs out of breath and in some cases, the patient might collapse. Although there are many anti-histamine medicines available on the market, they all have their own side effects and do not provide a permanent cure. However, Caraway oil can be miraculously helpful by neutralizing the effects of histamine and cures these potentially dangerous coughs and other ailments associated with histamines and allergies.
Caraway essential oil serves as an effective antioxidant with its rich content of monoterpene alcohols, linalool, flavonoids and other polyphenolic compounds. This helps in destroying and inhibiting the growth of free radicals, which are responsible for cellular oxidation. Certain scientific studies conclude that the dietary supplementation of Caraway to rats induced with colon cancer suppressed the crypt foci development and decreased the level of fecal bile acids and alkaline phosphatase which affects the epithelial cells of the colon and the rectum if not kept under control. The presence of carvone and limonene helps in reducing the lipid peroxidation products of the intestines and the colon. Moreover the chemical compounds such as anethofuran, carvone and limonene are potential cancer chemo-preventive agents that build a protective shield against various mutagens such as dimethylnitrosamine, nitrosodimethlyamine, methylazoxymethanol acetate and inhibit the development of stomach cancers in mice induced by diethylsitosamine. The antioxidant property of Caraway essential oil also makes it an efficient anti-carcinogenic, apoptotic, anti-proliferative and anti-mutagenic agent. As an apoptotic, Caraway essential oil proves fruitful against human leukemia cells and it also anti-proliferates the tumor cells.
It is also antiseptic and protects wounds against developing tetanus. Caraway essential oil is a powerful antiseptic that helps in treating acne, boils, scabies and itches. It is used in cleansing the wounds as it destroys the presence of micro-organisms and prevents it from spreading and becoming septic, thus protecting one from the onset of tetanus with its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
Caraway oil gives immediate relief from all sorts of spasms and the ailments associated with spasms. In case of muscular spasms, it gives immediate relief for cramps and muscle pulls by inhibiting the effects of certain enzymes and compounds produced in the body which are responsible for the contraction of the muscles. Similarly, it relieves spasms of the respiratory system and can cure hiccups, non-stop coughs, and breathlessness. It is also helpful in curing spasmodic cholera.
Caraway Oil has mild aperitif properties as well, so it can increase appetite and improve digestion by stimulating the secretion of digestive juices. Furthermore, it helps clear the bowels and ease constipation.
Caraway essential oil is very good for all around cardiac health. It helps maintain proper heart rate, strengthens the cardiac muscles, prevents hardening of the arteries and veins, lower blood pressure, and also lowers the cholesterol level in the blood, thus helping the heart from all angles. Regular use of caraway essential oil can keep the heart healthy for a long time and reduce the risk of heart diseases.
Troubled by excessive gas? You should consume a small amount of Caraway oil with warm water and watch (or hear) the results. This remedy is not only good for occasional gas troubles but also for chronic gas problems.
Caraway essential oil serves as an excellent detoxifier, which assists in promoting active metabolism and excretion of harmful toxins or ama in the body. A 2007 research on the diuretic effect of Caraway essential oil on normal rats states that it increased the frequency and quantity of urine in a 24 hour period. It increased the level of sodium and potassium in the urine while that of the plasma remained unchanged. Ayurvedic texts adore Caraway seed oil as a liver-friendly oil that support in protecting the liver from the encountering of highly toxic substances. In addition to this, its antimicrobial attribute clears out urinary tract infections. Caraway essential oil is a great source of dietary fiber.
A spoon of Caraway oil taken with warm water and a pinch of plain or black salt cures all sorts of indigestion and speeds up digestion by stimulating the secretion of gastric juices, acids, and bile into the stomach. With flavonoids and monoterpene alcohols acting as natural stimulants, Caraway essential oil regulates the secretion of the digestive enzymes and its rich mineral content aid in complete absorption of the dietary nutrients. It raises the temperature of the body and speed up the process of metabolism thus preventing constipation and it helps in regulating the bowel movements.
Caraway Oil is a very good disinfectant substance. It effectively cures infections of the colon, as well as in the digestive, respiratory, urinary and excretory systems, along with treating also external infections. It inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungi and prevents the infection of wounds and ulcers. Carvone which owes the credit of the anti-inflammatory attribute of Caraway essential oil actively reduces the production of prostaglandin and increases the production of leukotriene thus helping in alleviating colic for which reason Caraway seeds boiled in hot water was used in treating infants with colic. As an effective antimicrobial agent, Caraway oil destroys the harmful microbes in the stomach and inhibits the growth of intestinal pathogens.
Caraway essential oil is an ideal diuretic! It is literally a blessing for those who are suffering from obstructed urination, renal calculi, high blood pressure or those who want to lose weight. An increase in the frequency and quantity of urination can help you in all of the above situations. Caraway oil stimulates urination, thereby lowering blood pressure, reducing fat, removing uric acid and cleaning deposits from the kidney. A lot of urination also frees the urinary tract from infections.
Caraway Oil is a very good treatment for women suffering from delayed or obstructed menstruation. It opens up menstruation and provides relief. It also gives relief for woman experiencing Post Menopause Syndrome. Caraway essential oil has reproductive and estrogenic parameters due to the presence of flavonoids and apigenin. It increases and regulates the secretion of estrogen. Moreover it’s rich iron, calcium and vitamin content stimulates the secretion of hemoglobin and regulates blood flow to the uterus.
It is a remarkable expectorant. Even smelling this powerful oil gives relief from congestion that has resulted from coughs and colds. When taken with honey or warm water, it loosens mucus deposited in the respiratory system. It gives immediate and long lasting relief in inflammation of the nasal tract, larynx, pharynx, bronchi and throat due to colds and other illnesses. Being a natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent, Caraway essential oil destroys all the harmful microbes that cling onto the respiratory tract resulting in infections and huge deposits of mucus and phlegm. Carvone, limonene and linalool play a major role in destroying the infectious microbes and hold antihistamine properties that calm down the muscles causing coughing spasms.
Caraway Oil is a known remedy for increasing milk production for lactating mothers. It is advised to consume Caraway essential oil it with honey. It enhances both the quantity and the quality of milk. The baby feeding on this milk is also kept safe from flatulence and indigestion due to the properties of this essential oil.
Caraway essential oil serves as a boon to mankind with its pleasing aroma and its therapeutic compounds that have a soothing effect on the mind and instills feelings of trust and harmony. It acts as a tonic for the nerves and encourages positive thoughts in a person and eases the mental strain while making one to feel full of life and energy.
Caraway Oil is warming and stimulating. It is particularly helpful in curing depression and fatigue. It stimulates all the systems and cycles functioning within the body, including the circulatory, digestive, endocrine, nervous, and excretory systems. It also activates the brain and helps keep you alert and awake.
Caraway oil is also stomachic, that is, it keeps the stomach healthy by protecting it from infections, curing ulcers, and facilitating digestion. A 2011 study on the various healing attributes of Caraway essential oil proves theantibacterial activity of this oil against gram negative bacteria such as helicobacter pyloriwhich is identified as the primary etiological factor associated with the onset of various gastrointestinal ailments such as gastric carcinoma, gastritis and peptic ulcer. It blends well with Peppermint oil in treating non-ulcer dyspepsia, irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion and other gastrointestinal disorders.
It tones the heart, liver, organic systems, skin and muscles, reduces wrinkles, boosts strength and energy and makes you feel young and recharged.
Insecticide & Vermifuge
It kills insects residing both on and inside the body. It can end the problem of lice and intestinal worms in a very safe way. Most medicines that are used to kill intestinal worms can have very adverse effects on children, unlike Caraway oil, which is completely safe.
Uses of Caraway Essential Oil
A number of Caraway essential oil uses are suggested here to guide you in any practical remedy applications.
- Massaging your body with 10 drops of Caraway oil blended with 5 ml of Coconut oil can help in controlling the growth of free radicals and enhance the immune power of the system to shield against the harmful effects of the cancerous cells.
- Adding 2 to 3 drops of Caraway oil in warm bathing water or in a massage blend with 10 drops of this oil mixed with 5 ml of olive oil helps in excreting the toxins, fats, uric acid, salt and excess fluid deposits with ease. By this way, Caraway oil aids in alleviating hypertension, promoting weight loss and treating inflammation caused due to water retention.
- Inhaling the refreshing aroma of Caraway oil by adding 2 drops of this oil in diffuser or burner along with massaging your abdomen with 5 drops of Caraway oil blended with 2.5 ml of sesame oil can effectively treat diarrhea, flatulence, vomiting, morning sickness, dyspepsia, heartburn due to indigestion, gastrointestinal disorders, stomachic ulcers, intestinal worms and parasites and colic.
- Massaging your lower abdomen, genital area and thighs with 5 drops of Caraway oil blended with 2.5 ml of Almond oil aids in opening up blocked menstruation and alleviates menstrual irregularities, dysmennorhea, menstrual cramps and associated mood swings. It relaxes the uterus and helps in its contraction facilitating the process of child birth before delivery.
- 2 to 3 drops of Caraway oil added to steam inhalation along with the gentle massaging of your chest, throat and back with 2 drops of this oil mixed in your regular decongesting ointment or rub can help in loosening the deposits of mucus and phlegm, aid in its excretion and reduce the symptoms of bronchitis, laryngitis and sore throat.
- Mix 2 drops of Caraway oil with 1 ml of Coconut oil or your mild skin care cream or lotion and gently massage on your skin in circular movements for visible results.
- The best way to use Caraway essential oil for emotional benefits is to add 2 drops of this oil in burner, vaporizer, diffuser, aromatic candles or your pillow cover for boosting up your system and revitalizing you from within.
- For children’s nervous colics, mix together well 50 ml (2 fl oz) soya oil, 2 drops wheatgerm oil and 12 drops caraway. Put the bottle under a hot tap to warm the oil, then massage some gently into the child’s stomach clockwise for a few minutes. Apply a warm poultice of linseed or oatmeal to the stomach, cover with a towel, and leave for 15 minutes. The pain should disappear.
Precautions for Caraway Essential Oil
There are no inherent dangers to Caraway essential oil, except in some rare cases of irritation when a highly concentrated form was applied to the skin.
Blending for Caraway Essential Oil
Caraway oil blends well with Basil, Coconut, Coriander, Frankincense, Chamomile, Ginger, Sesame, Orange and Lavender Oils.