We return with a new file of medicinal plants, giving the prominence it deserves to the caraway (Carum carvi). A plant known by many and with great properties. Everyone will know the curious shape of its seeds and the intense aroma it gives off.
Although it has many common names, the best known is caraway. Some may also call it carvia (from its scientific name), meadow cumin, alcaravia, etc.
Caraway is a herbaceous plant of small size, since it does not exceed one meter in height (normally between 15 and 40 cm). It is quite branched and its leaves are quite different from what we know, since they are needle-shaped.
It is not a “historical” plant, since both Romans and Greeks were unaware of the uses and properties it has. Rather this plant is related to the Arabs, where there are data of interest from 1,400.
When to collect caraway as a medicinal plant
Flowering, like many other plants, usually occurs in spring, pulling to summer. Around May, the aroma of caraway inflorescences stand out from many other plants. It has a whitish flowering, although with quite small flowers.
Once the creation and ripening of the fruit occurs, back in the months of July and August, the seeds are extracted and dried in the Sun. From here, we can Keep in hermetically closed containers and in protected places, to be able to make the infusions or decoctions that we need.
Applications of caraway
We return to the topic of essential oils. In this case, this plant has between 3 and 6% of its weight as essential oils, highlighting among them the carvonethe carveno and the limonene. Therefore, caraway can be used as:
- Antiflatulent, for heavy meals.
- Carminative action.
- Antispasmodic action.
When we have slow digestions, as we could also use the properties of cantueso or borriquero thyme, caraway can go very well, since it accelerates the digestive process.
However, even more than this, in the European cuisine it is used as a condiment, either to give presence to ingredients with little flavor (cooked potatoes, for example) or to contrast mild flavors such as those of cheese.
Also taking advantage of the deep flavor and aroma of caraway, it is also often used in the industry of soaps, aromatic products, lotions or syrups.
The seeds of caraway are rich in fiber and have their own nutritional value, also providing minerals, vitamins and antioxidants (lutein, carotenes, xanthines, etc.) vital for our functioning. 100 grams of seeds provide 38 grams of fiber, this being 100% of the recommended daily intake of fiber. Its intake helps to control digestive processes and combat constipation.
The minerals that we also obtain from caraway (iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc and magnesium) intervene in the synthesis and production of red blood cells in our body, preventing anemia problems and strengthening our immune system.
The copper it is necessary in the production of red blood cells. The iron it is required for the formation of red blood cells. The zinc it is a cofactor in many enzymes that regulate growth and development, sperm generation, digestion and nucleic acid synthesis. The potassium it is an important component of cellular fluids and helps control heart rate and blood pressure. The manganese It is used by the body as a co-factor for the production of a large anti-oxidant enzyme, the superoxide dismutase (SOD).
One tablespoon provides the following interesting nutrients:
- Energy: 22 kcal
- Proteins: 1.3 g
- Carbohydrates: 3.3 g
- Fats: 0.9 g
- Fibre: 2.6 g
- Calcium: 3.6% of QOL
- Copper: 6.7% of QOL
- Iron: 6.1% of QOL
- Magnesium: 5.4% of QOL
- Manganese: 4.8% of QOL
- Zinc: 4.6% of QOL
In addition, caraway has a very interesting profile of antioxidants, such as carvone and limonene.
Medicinal properties of caraway
May reduce inflammation processes
Caraway contains various compounds that possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity. Before we have commented on the presence of limonene and carvone, but there are many more. [See study]
Studies conducted on mice, saw an improvement in inflammation processes in organs such as the colon, at levels as good as the use of modern drugs. [See study]
Despite these promising results, research in humans is needed.
Improves digestion processes
Historically, caraway has always been linked to digestive processes, the reduction of stomach problems and the presence of ulcers.
There are small scientific studies applied in humans where the benefits of caraway oil are seen reducing gas and digestive cramps. [See essay]
These benefits are thought to be associated with the control of various pathogenic bacteria (such as H. pylori) that makes the caraway, leaving intact those considered beneficial.
In any case, more research is needed to confirm the mechanisms that activate caraway consumption in digestion.
May stimulate weight loss
Several clinical trials have linked caraway consumption to the loss of body fat. In one of them, more than 50 women were selected who took a dilution of 10% caraway oil for 3 months. The results obtained showed a notable reduction in weight, body mass index (BMI) and body fat percentage. [See study]
It is not firmly known what the origin of this weight loss is, but it is believed that it is related to the improvement of intestinal microbiology, favored by the presence of caraway.
How to use caraway?
Let’s imagine that we have a heavy digestion, and we want to test the results that this medicinal plant can give us. See:
Select the fruits of the caraway (a couple of grams), and add it together with water. Boil and let cool. We filter and can take the infusion before or after meals. Before, due to lack of appetite, and after, to relieve heavy digestions.
Select about 50 grams of the fruits, add it to 1 liter of water and boil for half an hour. We filter and can take the infusion from it extracted. Very useful when we have problems with the digestion of meals, especially dinners, or when we have gas.
Caraway is used in different Arab countries as an ingredient in the preparation of rye bread. It is also usually used in the preparation of sweets and pastries, as in the preparation of muffins, cookies, croutons and rolls.
Caraway provides a totally different flavor, slightly spicy, and can also be used for the preparation of cakes, jams and jellies.
Outside of pastries, it is used as an ingredient for curry, various exotic sauces and the preparation of stews.
Possible Side Effects of Caraway
Most of the seeds we can take are safe, although we must also consider the existence of oil extracts (2% dilutions) for application on the skin.
Although there is not much research, it is considered that using a maximum of 1 tablespoon of caraway a day is safe, although this amount is rarely reached.
Most people tolerate caraway consumption well, although isolated cases of side effects have been diagnosed. As a precaution, it is recommended to avoid its consumption by pregnant or breastfeeding women.