What is caraway
It is cultivated for its seeds, which are commonly used as a spice in culinary applications. Caraway seeds have a distinct flavour that is slightly bitter, aromatic and a little earthy. They are widely used in traditional European cuisines, particularly in German, Austrian, and Eastern European dishes.
Caraway seeds are often used to season bread, pastries, sauerkraut, cabbage dishes, and various cheeses. In addition to their culinary uses, caraway seeds have been used for their medicinal properties in traditional herbal remedies, known for their digestive and carminative properties.
Health benefits of caraway
Benefits of caraway in digestive health
Caraway seeds have been used for centuries to alleviate various gastrointestinal symptoms, including bloating, flatulence, indigestion, and stomach cramps.3
The carminative properties of caraway help to reduce gas and ease discomfort.
It enhances healthy digestion by stimulating the production of digestive enzymes, bile, and stomach acid, which aids in the breakdown of food and facilitates nutrient absorption.
Caraway seeds may provide relief from heartburn and when combined with peppermint oil treat functional dyspepsia.4
They have been found to inhibit the relaxation of the lower oesophagal sphincter, preventing the backflow of stomach acid into the oesophagus.
Anti-inflammatory properties of caraway
Caraway contains anti-inflammatory compounds that can help reduce inflammation in the digestive tract. This can be beneficial for individuals with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Topical application5 of caraway on the abdomen relieves IBS symptoms like churning of the stomach, bloating, etc Caraway hydro-alcoholic extract has an inflammatory effect and helps in the treatment of oral mucositis when applied topically.
Antioxidant properties of caraway
Free radicals are known to cause health ailments. Caraway contains antioxidants that help protect cells from oxidative damage. By reducing oxidative stress, caraway may contribute to the overall health of the digestive system.
Oxidative compounds like phenolic acids and flavonoids. help neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress, which can indirectly help in managing inflammation.
Possible benefits for respiratory health
Caraway has been suggested to have a relaxant effect on smooth muscles, including those in the respiratory system. It can help promote the expulsion of mucus from the respiratory tract and may be beneficial for individuals dealing with cough, bronchitis, or pneumonia.
Caraway possesses anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce inflammation in the respiratory system and provide relief for conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, or allergies.
Effects on blood sugar control and diabetes prevention
Caraway helps in regulating blood sugar levels. The effects of caraway oil extract have been found to stimulate insulin secretion from the pancreas, which helps in glucose uptake by cells and lowers blood sugar levels. In addition to that, the antioxidant properties present in caraway oil have an anti-diabetic effect. By reducing oxidative stress, caraway may contribute to better blood sugar control and protection against diabetes-related damage.
Effects on cholesterol health and heart health
Caraway has a positive impact on lipid metabolism, which is often disrupted in individuals with diabetes. Studies have shown a decrease in plasma triglyceride levels in streptozotocin-induced rats.
Besides, these possible benefits, caraway seeds have an anti-convulsant effect and reduce body fat and weight. Caraway oil is used to treat headaches or migraines.
1tsp (2.1g) of Caraway seed contains:7
- Water- 0.207g
- Energy- 29.2 KJ
- Protein- 0.416 g
- Total lipid (fat) - 0.307 g
- Fibre, total dietary- 0.798 g
- Calcium- 14.5 mg
- Iron- 0.34 mg
- Phosphorus- 11.9 mg
- Sodium- 0.357 mg
- Zinc- 0.115 mg
- Vitamin C- 0.441 mg
- Cholesterol- 0 mg
- Vitamin D (D2+D3)- 0 IU
Culinary uses of caraway
The seeds of Caraway are dried and then used as a whole or ground to add flavour to dishes. They have a strong aroma and are often compared to a combination of anise and fennel seeds, although they have their taste.
Caraway is a versatile spice that adds a distinct and aromatic flavour to various recipes, making it a popular ingredient in many cuisines around the world.
Caraway Tea- It is a herbal infusion made from the seeds of Caraway and is a popular beverage. Caraway seeds are crushed and boiled with green tea.
Bread and Pastries: Caraway seeds are often used to flavour bread, rolls, and buns. They can be sprinkled on top of the dough before baking or incorporated directly into the dough for a delightful flavour and texture. Caraway seeds are also used in pastries like rye bread, bagels, and pretzels.
Sauerkraut and Pickles: Caraway seeds have a distinct flavour that compliments the tanginess of Sauerkraut which is a fermented cabbage dish popular in German and Eastern European cuisines. Caraway seeds can also be used in pickling brines for vegetables like cucumbers or beets.
Cabbage Dishes: Caraway seeds are commonly used in dishes that feature cabbage, such as coleslaw, cabbage rolls, or braised cabbage. The seeds enhance the flavour of the cabbage and add a warm, aromatic note to the dish.
Liqueurs: Caraway seeds are a key ingredient in several traditional liqueurs, including aquavit (Scandinavian spirit) and Kummel (a sweet, colourless liqueur). It is used in alcoholic beverages for its distinct aroma. It is added before the distillation process.
Spice Blends: Caraway seeds are sometimes included in spice blends to add depth and complexity to the flavours. They can be found in spice mixtures like curry powder or garam masala. Caraway seeds should be used in moderation as they have a strong flavour. Cumin seeds can be a good substitute for caraway seeds but both are not the same.
Side effects and other concerns
While Caraway may offer potential health benefits, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before using Caraway if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking medications.
Allergic reactions: Caraway seeds can cause an allergic reaction in some people. If you have a known allergy history to other plants in the Apiaceae family (such as celery, parsley, or dill), you may be at a higher risk of developing an allergic reaction to caraway.
You may notice itching, skin rash, swelling, difficulty breathing, or digestive discomfort. If you experience any adverse symptoms after consuming Caraway, seek medical advice.
Gastrointestinal discomfort: Although it is beneficial for digestive health, it may cause GIT discomfort like heartburn, indigestion, or stomach discomfort in some individuals. These effects are generally mild but if you experience persistent digestive issues after consuming caraway, it is advisable to avoid its consumption.
Drug interactions: Caraway may interact with certain medications. Studies have shown that prolonged caraway intake can influence the pharmacokinetic characteristics of oral and intra-peritoneally applied paracetamol.6
Additionally, caraway may have a potential interaction with medications metabolized by the liver. It is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional if you are taking medications that could be affected by caraway.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: It is generally recommended to avoid consuming caraway in large medicinal amounts during these periods, as it may have uterine-stimulating effects, though it lacks sufficient data.
Caraway is a herb with many health benefits that make it an excellent addition to your diet. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties as well as cholesterol-lowering and digestive benefits. It is a good source of fibre and Vitamins. As with any dietary or herbal supplement, it's always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional before using Caraway, especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are taking medications.
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- Josh. Caraway seeds: health benefits and remedies [Internet]. Healthy Hildegard. 2016 [cited 2023 Jun 23]. Available from: https://www.healthyhildegard.com/caraway-seeds/
- Lacy BE, Chey WD, Epstein MS, Shah SM, Corsino P, Zeitzoff LR, et al. A novel duodenal-release formulation of caraway oil and L-menthol is a safe, effective and well tolerated therapy for functional dyspepsia. BMC Gastroenterology [Internet]. 2022 Mar 7 [cited 2023 Jun 23];22(1):105. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12876-022-02181-5
- Mahboubi M. Caraway as important medicinal plants in management of diseases. Nat Prod Bioprospect. 2019 Jan;9(1):1–11.
- Samojlik I, Ðaković-Švajcer K, Božin B, Mikov M. Herb-drug interactions: the influence of essential oil of caraway (Carum carvi L.) on the pharmacokinetics of paracetamol. BMC Pharmacol Toxicol [Internet]. 2012 Sep 17 [cited 2023 Jun 23];13(Suppl 1):A27. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3506285/
- Fooddata central [Internet]. [cited 2023 Jun 23]. Available from: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170918/nutrients