Origin, Distribution and Composition
The caraway plant is a biennial herb usually with a fleshy root and
slender, branched stems. It has feather-like leaves divided into very
narrow segments and small white flowers. The fruit, when ripe, splits into
narrow, elongated carpels, which are curved, pointed at the ends and have
four longitudinal ridges on the surface. The dried fruits or seeds, brown
in color, are hard and sharp to touch. They have a pleasant odor, aromatic
flavor, somewhat sharp taste and leave a somewhat warm feeling in the
Caraway's qualities were recognized by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and
Romans. The herb was widely used in the Middle Ages. It has been used for
centuries in breads and cakes, and with baked fruit, especially roasted
apples. Because caraway was said to prevent lovers from straying, it was
once an essential ingredient in love potions. The seeds of caraway were
prescribed for bringing bloom to the cheeks of pale-faced young maidens.
The caraway seed is native to north and central Europe and West Asia. In
India, it grows wild in the north Himalayan region. The herb is cultivated
as a winter crop on the plains and summer one in Kashmir, Kumaon, Garhwal
and Chamba at altitudes of 2,740 to 3,660 meters.
An analysis of caraway seeds shows it to contain appreciable moisture,
protein, fat, substantial amount of carbohydrates besides ash, calcium,
phosphorus, sodium, potassium, iron, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. It
also contains vitamins C and A. Its calorific value is 465 per 100 gram.
A valuable essential oil, containing substantial amounts of carvone, is
obtained from caraway seeds. This oil is colorless or pale yellow with a
strong odor and flavor of the fruit. The volatile oil contains a mixture
of ketone, carvone, a terpene and traces of carvacrol.
Healing Power and Curative Properties
The caraway seeds, leaves and roots are considered useful in activating
the glands, besides increasing the action of the kidneys. It is
characterized as an excellent `house cleaner' for the body. Caraway oil is
used in medicine to relieve flatulence. It is also used to correct the
nauseating and griping effects of some medicines.
Caraway seeds are useful in strengthening the functions of stomach. They
relieve flatulence and are useful in flatulent colic, countering any
possible adverse effects of medicines. However, the volatile oil of the
seeds is employed more often than the seeds. For flatulence, a cup of tea
made from caraway seeds taken thrice a day, after meals, will give relief.
This tea is prepared by adding a teaspoon of caraway seeds in 1.5 to 2
liters of boiling water and allowing it to simmer on a slow fire for 15
minutes. It is then strained and sipped hot or warm.
Carvone, isolated from caraway oil, is used as anthelmintic, especially in
removing hookworms from the intestines.
A dilute solution, containing small amounts of the oil of the caraway and
alcohol mixed in 75 parts of castor oil is considered beneficial in the
treatment of scabies. The solution should be taken orally.
Caraway seed oil is used orally in overcoming bad breath or insipid taste.
Caraway is widely used for flavoring breads, biscuits, cakes and cheese.
It is also used as an ingredient in sausages and as a seasoning and
pickling spices. Caraway oil is useful chiefly for flavoring purposes and
in medicine as a carminative to relieve flatulence.