Close up of caraway fruits (seeds)

Caraway

I love using caraway in my cooking. It’s probably my favorite spice. Its delicious seeds add a lovely pungent, anise-like flavor and aroma to bread, especially rye bread. I also like to use this awesome spice in casseroles, Indian and Persian rice dishes, as well as cabbage dishes.
The roots can be cooked the same way as carrots and parsnips. The leaves can be eaten raw, dried or cooked, and the seeds have therapeutic properties.

FAMILY

Apiaceae

OTHER NAMES

Meridian fennel or Persian cumin

PARTS USED

Therapeutically: Seeds
Culinary: Seeds and young leaves

HABITAT

Native to west Asia, caraway is found throughout northern and central Europe as well as Asia and Northern Africa.

BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION

Caraway, Carum carvi, is a biennial plant in the family Apiaceae.

Plant type: Biennial.
Height: Up to 100 cm (40 inches).
Width: Up to 60 cm (23 inches).
Flowers: Lacy, creamy white umbels.
Leaves: Feathery and short stemmed
Blooms: May to July.

CULTIVATION

Caraway is mostly cultivated in the Netherlands and Germany. It’s an easy biennial to grow.

Hardiness: Zones 3 to 10.
Propagation: Seed.
Spacing: 45 to 50 cm (18-20 inches).
Soil: Prefers well drained soil but can grow in clay.
pH: Acidic to slightly alkaline (4.8 to 7.8)
Exposure: Full sun.
Water needs: Moderate.
Maintenance: Easy.
Garden Design: The lacy white flowers add a nice touch to the herb bed
Season of interest: Late spring and summer

HARVEST AND DRYING

Caraway seeds are ready to harvest from July to September depending on climate and weather conditions. Cut the umbels when the seeds are turning brown. Hang them in a well ventilated and shaded area. Pick the seeds from the umbels when they are fully dried.

STORAGE

Caraway, like anise and fennel must be stored in an air-tight container away from light. Because of the essential oil content, it should only be roasted or ground immediately before use.

CONSTITUENTS

Essential oils (40-60% carvone, limonene); 10-18% fatty oils; 20% proteins; 20% carbohydrates; flavonoids; polysaccharides;

ACTIONS

Carminative, antispasmodic, expectorant, emmenagogue, galactagogue, astringent, antimicrobial

TASTE

Pungent, slightly bitter. Very strong!

SCENT

Spicy

ENERGETICS

Warm, dry

MEDICINAL USE OF CARAWAY

Caraway is rich in essential oils which are responsible for the distinctive spicy scent of the seeds. It’s likely the best remedy for flatulence and bloating. Like anise, fennel and coriander, it helps to relieve painful gas in the stomach and intestines (carminative). The seeds warm the walls of the stomach and duodenum, facilitating digestion.

It also helps to relieve spasms in the bronchial muscles making it helpful for people who suffer from asthma.

Caraway also stimulates the production of milk in nursing mothers. When a lactating mother drinks caraway tea, the properties of caraway also enter the baby’s body. This is an easy way to soothe babies plagued by gas and colic.

When chewed, the seeds help to combat bad breath!

Caraway seeds are also used in Traditional Ayurvedic Medicine to relieve gas and in Traditional Tibetan Buddhist Medicine for loss of appetite.

Take internally for:

  • Flatulence (excess gas)
  • Intestinal colic, especially in children
  • Stimulating the appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Bronchitis
  • Bronchial asthma
  • Menstrual pain
  • Increasing milk flow in nursing mothers
  • Bad breath

Topic application for:

  • Laryngitis (as a gargle)

Recommended daily dosage:

Per Commission E: 1.5-6 g seeds per day.
Tincture: 1: 5 in 40%: 1-4 ml 3 times per day.
Tea: 1 teaspoon of freshly crushed seeds per cup of boiling water. Infuse for 10-15 minutes and then pass through a tea strainer. The tea should be drunk 3 times per day.

HOMEMADE PREPARATIONS
  • Tea
  • Infusion
  • Gargles and rinses
  • Cordial
  • Herbal oil
CULINARY USE

Popular in German, Austrian, British and Swedish cuisines, caraway is used to season cheese, dumplings, goose, sausages and is often added to sauerkraut and other dishes containing cabbage. It is also used in Indian rice dishes and Serbian cuisine to flavor cheeses and salty scones. Keleacha, a Syrian sweet scone contains caraway. The characteristic flavor and aroma come from essential oils, mostly carvone and limonene.

SIDE EFFECTS

Per German Commission E, none known.

CONTRA-INDICATIONS

Per German Commission E, none known.

AROMATHERAPY

Effects on the body

Caraway essential oil is used to stimulate the liver and gallbladder, increase appetite, expel gas and urine and as an antihistamine.

Used for:

  • Bronchitis
  • Flatulence
  • Liver and gallbladder weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach and intestinal colic

Constituents: Monoterpene (38-45%), sesquiterpene, monoterpenol, aldehyde, monoterpene ketone and coumarin

Due to the high content of monoterpene ketone (carvon), caraway essential oil should only be used externally in a 1% dilution.

References
Bühring, U. 2015. Alles über Heilpflanzen. 3rd ed. Stuttgart: Ulmer.
Hoffmann, D. 2003. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester: Healing Arts Press
Wichtl M. 2004. Herbal drugs and phytopharmaceuticals – A handbook for practice on a scientific basis. 3rd ed. Stuttgart: medpharm Scientific Publishers.
Keville, K. 1994. Herbs: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. New York: Friedman/Fairfax Publishers
Phillips, R. Foy, N. 1990. Herbs. London: Pan Books
Werner, M. Von Braunschweig, R. 2016. Praxis Aromatherapie. 5th ed. Stuttgart: Haug
Zimmermann, E. 2011. Aromatherapie für Pflege- und Heilberufe. 5th ed. Stuttgart: Haug

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