The caraway plant is a biennial herb with feather-like leaves divided into very narrow segments and small white flowers. It has fleshy root and slender, branched stems. 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 mouth.
Caraway seeds 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.
Caraway seeds yield a valuable essential oil, containing substantial amount of carvone. 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.
Botanical Name - Carum carvi
Indian Name - Siya jeera
Below are some of the medicinal properties of caraway seeds:
- The caraway seeds, leaves and roots are beneficial in activating the glands, besides increasing the action of the kidneys. It is characterized as an excellent house cleaner for the body.
- The seeds are also 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 minutes. It is then strained and sipped hot or warm.
- 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.
- Carvone, isolated from caraway oil, is used as anthelmintic especially in removing hookworms from the intestines.
It 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. Its oil is useful chiefly for flavoring purposes and in medicine as a carminative to relieve flatulence.