Caraway

Scientific Name/Common Name: Carum carvi / Caraway

Part(s) Used: Seed

Constituents/Active Ingredients: Essential oil with carvone as the main aromatic component; limonene and other terpenes including x- and b-pinene, sabinene, car-3-ene, isomers of dihydrocarvone, dihydrocarveol, and carveol; fixed oil; and flavonoids. The seeds also contain small amounts of fiber and various minerals.

Overview: Caraway is native to Europe but is now also cultivated in the Near East, Siberia, the Himalayas, Mongolia, Morocco, and North America. The plant grows to a height of up to one meter and sprouts small white to pale pink flowers. The seeds are often used in cooking as a spice, while the oil is primarily used for medicinal purposes. The seeds are also popular in traditional cough syrups and cold remedies. The essential oil content of the seeds is most abundant just before the fruit ripens. Caraway oil is used to treat stomach disorders, as it is both a stimulant and carminative. It is especially helpful in relieving colic in infants. In folk medicine, caraway was believed to improve lactation in nursing mothers, induce menstruation, relieve toothache, sweeten bad breath, and improve digestion, although it has not been proven as a treatment for these conditions. Essential oils act primarily as spasmolytics, carminatives, and local anesthetics. Carvone, the main constituent of caraway essential oil, is also classified as an antiseptic and has been used with other herbal preparations (with peppermint oil, curcuma extract, ginger extract, etc.) to treat dyspepsia/indigestion.

Traditional Use/Benefits/Body Systems: Traditionally used in Herbal Medicine to aid digestion and to help stimulate appetite (stomachic); used in Herbal Medicine to help relieve digestive spasms (anti-spasmodic) and flatulent dyspepsia (carminative).

Clinical Studies/Scientific Research/References:

Wichtl M, editor. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals: A Handbook for Practice on a Scientific Basis, 3rd edition. Stuttgart (D): Medpharm GmbH Scientific Publishers; 2004.

Bradley PR, editor. British Herbal Compendium: A Handbook of Scientific Information on Widely Used Plant Drugs, Volume 2. Bournemouth (UK): British Herbal Medicine Association; 2006.

Disclaimer: This information in our Herbal Encyclopedia is intended only as a general reference for educational purposes. It is not a replacement for medical advice. This content does not provide dosage information, cautions/contraindications, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Please consult any relevant product labels for detailed information on use and with a medical practitioner for individual health advice.