Aromatic annual growing to 2 ft (60 cm). Has ridged stem, feathery leaves, and umbels of white flowers in midsummer. Exploding capsules each contain 2 small narrow seeds.
Habitat & Cultivation
Caraway grows wild in Europe, North Africa, and Asia. It prefers sunny sites up to 6,600 ft (2,000 m) above sea level. It is cultivated in Europe, Russia, North Africa, and the US, and the seeds are harvested ripe in late summer.
Seeds, essential oil.
Caraway contains a volatile oil high in carvone (about 50%) and limonene. It also contains a fixed oil, flavonoids, polysaccharides, proteins, and furanocoumarins.
History & Folklore
Caraway seed is “conducive to all the cold griefs of the head and stomach… and has a moderate quality whereby it breaketh wind, and provoketh urine” (Nicholas Culpeper, The English Physitian, 1652). The seeds are commonly used in cooking.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Caraway is similar in action to anise (Pimpinella anisum) and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare). Being antispasmodic, the seeds soothe the digestive tract, acting directly on the intestinal muscles to relieve colic and cramps as well as bloating and flatulence. They sweeten the breath, improve appetite, counter heart irregularity caused by excess digestive gas, and ease cramping period pain. In addition, the seeds are expectorant and tonic and are frequently used in bronchitis and cough remedies, especially those for children. Caraway has a reputation for increasing breast-milk production. The diluted essential oil is useful for scabies.
In a German clinical trial (1999), patients with dyspepsia were given a combination of peppermint and caraway essential oils. Overall, patients experienced a significant reduction in symptoms.
Do not use the essential oil internally except under professional supervision.