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Caraway (Carum carvi L.): Benefits, Uses and Nutritional Value

Caraway, also called Persian cumin, is a spice native to the Middle East, Europe and North Africa. It comes from the plant with the scientific name Carum carvi L., which belongs to the umbelliferous family, the same one that includes fennel, anise and cumin.

Although it is known as a seed in popular culture, its small brown pods are actually nuts. These have a bitter-earthy flavor, similar to licorice, which is used in the preparation of a wide variety of sweet and savory recipes, such as soups, stews, pastries, liqueurs and infusions.

In addition, it has a long history as a natural remedy, since its nutrients and active compounds (especially limonene and carvone) give it digestive, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and appetite suppressant properties. which are your main benefits? How is it used? Find out!

Caraway Nutrients

It is important to consider that caraway is not an abundant source of micro and macronutrients. Since it is usually used in small quantities, its nutritional contribution to the diet is minimal.

Taking the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) food database as a reference, each 6.7 grams provides the following nutritional values:

  • Carbohydrate – 49.9 g
  • Protein – 19.8 g
  • Fiber – 38 g
  • Magnesium – 258 mg
  • Potassium – 1350 mg
  • Zinc – 5.5 mg
  • Niacin – 3.61 mg
  • Potassium, K – 1350 mg
  • Phosphorus, P – 568 mg
  • Copper, Cu – 0.91 mg
  • Selenium, Se – 12.1 µg
  • Carotene, beta – 206 µg

It also contains vitamin C, choline, vitamin A, lycopene, vitamin E and antioxidants such as lemongrass and carvone that attract attention for their medicinal and cosmetic potential.

Potential Caraway Benefits

Many of the benefits attributed to caraway fruit are based only on empirical evidence. The spice has been used in Ayurvedic and other traditional medicine systems. Because of this, there have been some preliminary studies supporting its potential to improve health. Let’s see!

1. Helps with digestion

The main benefits associated with the consumption of caraway have to do with improving digestion. In particular, carminative, anti-inflammatory, antacid and anti-ulcer properties are attributed to it. Although its mechanism has not been determined with certainty, it is associated with the effects of its essential oils.

In preliminary clinical studies, caraway essential oil with peppermint oil or menthol helped control functional dyspepsia by calming symptoms such as gas, cramps, and abdominal bloating.

On the other hand, it has been observed that its antimicrobial properties can contribute to the treatment of intestinal dysbiosis, that is, the imbalance of the microbiota caused by the decrease in beneficial bacteria.

Caraway essential oil was recognized as a candidate for stopping the growth of pathogenic bacteria that cause digestive diseases without compromising beneficial bacteria. Even so, larger and more conclusive studies are needed.

2. Promotes the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

The anti-inflammatory properties of caraway extract and essential oil have been highlighted for their ability to improve symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In a study in rats, shared by Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences, the findings were promising.

To be more precise, it was determined that caraway has anti-colytic activity, since it reduces inflammation of the colon tissue, even with the same effectiveness as conventional medications containing steroids. Larger studies are still needed to determine whether the same effect occurs in humans.

However, anecdotal data suggests that topical application of this plant’s oil to the abdomen also has positive effects against cramps and bloating. In fact, it can be used in small children.

3. Helps control weight

Popular literature describes that caraway may contribute to weight loss, as it regulates appetite and promotes better energy expenditure. However, it must be clarified that its effects are not “magical”. It is necessary to consume them within the framework of a healthy and balanced diet.

Regarding this, a small study carried out on 70 overweight and obese women, and published through the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, reported that those who consumed a formula with 10% caraway oil every day, for 90 days, they experienced weight loss effects.

Specifically, it was determined that caraway extract has the potential to combat obesity, as it was associated with a reduction in body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage, and waist-hip ratio. Larger research is required to corroborate these effects.

According to the available evidence, caraway extracts help weight loss in the context of overweight and obesity. It is unknown if it produces similar effects in healthy people.

4. Helps control halitosis

As a popular remedy, caraway seeds are used to combat bad breath or halitosis. It is said that chewing these small fruits alone or with a little yogurt, after main meals, refreshes the mouth and reduces the presence of bacteria associated with this symptom.

These effects are related to the antimicrobial properties conferred by its volatile oils. A study published by the journal Acta Scientiarum Agronomy determined that the monoterpenes carvone and limonene are behind its average antimicrobial activity.

Specific studies are needed on the effects of caraway against bad breath. For now, there is only empirical evidence.

5. Promotes the treatment of topical infections

The antiseptic and antifungal properties of caraway oil, derived from its carvone and sylvano content, are used as a supplement to prevent topical infections. In popular culture, this remedy is used to clean superficial wounds (including burns) and to promote healing.

It should be noted that, combined with other plants or carrier oils (coconut, olive, almond, among others), it is also used in cases of acne, insect bites and skin with excess oil production.

How to use caraway as a natural remedy?

Before trying remedies with caraway, it is essential to clarify that none of these preparations can replace medical treatments. Like other plants and spices, their consumption should only be complementary.

  • Caraway tea for indigestion: combines equal parts caraway with licorice, fennel and green anise. In total, make sure you get one tablespoon (10 grams). Then, boil it for three minutes in a glass of water (200 milliliters). Let the drink rest, pass it through a strainer and consume it divided into two or three shots.
  • Colic relief remedy: in case of abdominal cramps, mix a teaspoon of caraway fruit with equal parts of chamomile (in total 10 grams of the mixture). Then, add it to a cup of water (250 milliliters) and let it sit. Divide for two or three doses a day. Remember that you can also apply the essential oil externally (five drops), diluted in a tablespoon of carrier oil (15 milliliters).
  • Natural relaxant: the mixture of caraway essential oil with carrier oil can also be used as a relaxing remedy. It is recommended to reduce anxiety and stress. In addition, it can be applied through massage to relax the respiratory tract in case of congestion.
  • Caraway against bad breath: although chewing caraway seeds reduces bad mouth odor, it is also advisable to prepare a rinse with the essential oil. Dilute 10 drops in half a cup of water (125 milliliters) and gargle for two minutes.
  • Skin remedy: in case of minor burns or cuts, rinse the area with a mixture of caraway essential oil and water (six drops per 200 milliliters of water).

Caraway supplements

Caraway is also available as supplements in the form of capsules, essential oils, tinctures, or extracts. The dose varies depending on the presentation chosen; So be sure to check the label and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

In general, consumption of one to 6.7 grams of whole caraway divided into three daily doses is considered safe. The tincture or extracts are used in doses of 3 millimeters, up to 3 times a day.

Culinary uses of caraway

Due to its particular aroma and flavor, caraway is used as a condiment in a wide variety of culinary preparations. It is common to incorporate them into rye bread, as well as other baked goods such as muffins, cookies, muffins, toast, and cakes.

Due to its spicy touch, it improves the flavor of curries, stews, soups, sauces and the spice mix for goulash. There are even those who add it to fermented recipes such as sauerkraut or pickled onions; also in jams and custards.

Contraindications and possible side effects

As a spice, caraway is usually well tolerated by most people. Few cases of allergies or other side effects have been reported. In sensitive people, the salicylates it contains may worsen the following conditions and reactions:

  • Asthma
  • Itch
  • Urticaria
  • Swelling

On the other hand, its essential oils, in their pure form, can cause contact dermatitis, which manifests itself with irritation, itching and red spots. Given the lack of studies on its safety, caraway supplementation should be avoided in the following cases:

  • Small children
  • Pregnancy and lactation
  • Patients with liver or gallbladder diseases

In general, it is best to consult your doctor before trying this spice as a complementary remedy. The professional can determine if it is safe or not, according to the state of health and the treatments that you may be using.

Are caraway and cumin the same thing?

No. While caraway is also known as “Persian cumin,” it differs from common cumin (Cominum cyninum). The latter has a spicy flavor, its color is lighter and the seed size is larger. Meanwhile, the flavor of caraway is a little earthy, similar to pepper, but with a hint of anise.

While cumin is often used to season meats, stews and soups, caraway is also incorporated into baked goods and desserts.

Take advantage of the benefits of caraway

From the same family as fennel, caraway is a spice with interesting culinary and medicinal uses. Although it is not a first-line treatment when it comes to improving health, it can be used as a complement in case of digestive problems, bad breath or superficial wounds.

It is even believed that it can help control weight and maintain the good state of the intestinal microbiota. In any case, remedies and supplements derived from this plant should be used with caution and medical supervision, especially if there are prediagnosed diseases.

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