Caraway seed nutrition facts, medicinal properties and health benefits

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Caraway seed nutrition facts, medicinal properties and health benefits.

Caraway seed nutrition facts, 

medicinal properties and health benefits 

-T. V. Venkateswaran 

Called Gunyan, Shia jeera, Vilayati jeera in Hindi, Perum Jerragam (or Seemai Jeeragam) in Tamil, Caraway appears like cumin but is very distinct species and spice. In like manner, though caraway are usually but incorrectly called “caraway seeds” but are actually fruits of the plant Carum carvi L. Caraway seeds are the main part of the plant used, although the entire plant is edible. The roots can be cooked like carrots or parsnips, and the young leaves can be used in salads or as a seasoning.
Caraway seed nutrition facts, medicinal properties and health benefits
Caraway is cultivated from Central Europe to Asia; it is not clear, however, whether caraway is truly indigenous to Europe. Today, it is chiefly cultivated in the Netherlands, Eastern Europe and Germany, former USSR furthermore North Africa, particularly Egypt. It is cultivated in a limited scale in Kashmir, Kumaon, Garhwal and Chamba area in India; however, at present the cultivation is inadequate to meet the domestic needs and India resorts to imports.

Culinary uses

(Caraway is often recognized the most typical spice of the German-speaking countries. It is an ancient spice of Central Europe: Caraway fruits have indeed been found in Neolithic villages and since Roman times there is plenty of documentation for numerous culinary and medicinal application. Although caraway is a common plant of Alpine meadows at low elevation, is was grown systematically in medieval monasteries, mainly to to its extremely effective antiflatulent powers).

Caraway History

The use of caraway as a medicinal agent has remained unchanged for centuries. Its use as a digestive aid was first mentioned in the Egyptian Eberus Papyrus about 1500 BCE. In Caraway is one of the world’s oldest culinary spices. It was used to flavour bread eaten by Roman soldiers. The ancient Egyptians always placed a container of caraway in tombs to ward off evil spirits.

Caraway was well known in classic days, and it was believed that its use originated with the ancient Arabs, who called the ‘seeds’ Karawya, a name they still bear in the East, and clearly the origin of our word Caraway and the Latin name Carvi, although Pliny would have us believe that the name Carvi was derived from Caria, in Asia Minor, where according to him the plant was originally found. In old Spanish the name occurs as Alcaravea. Caraway is frequently mentioned by the old writers. Dioscorides advised the oil to be taken by pale-faced girls. In the Middle Ages and in Shakespeare’s times it was very popular.
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‘The seed,’ says Parkinson, ‘is much used to be put among baked fruit, or into bread, cakes, etc., to give them a relish. It is also made into comfites and taken for cold or wind in the body, which also are served to the table with fruit.’ Shakespeare’s Henry IV, the character Falstaff is invited to have a serving of baked apples and caraway [‘a last years Pippin (apple), with a dash of caraways’] to aid the digestion and relieve gas. The custom of serving roast apples with a little saucerful of Caraway is still kept up at Trinity College, Cambridge, and at some of the old- fashioned London Livery Dinners, just as in Shakespeare’s days - and in Scotland to this day a saucerful is put down at tea to dip the buttered side of bread into and called ‘salt water jelly.’

The scattering of the seed over cakes has long been practiced, and Caraway-seed cake was formerly a standing institution at the feasts given by farmers to their labourers at the end of the wheat-sowing. The little Caraway comfits consist of the seeds encrusted with white sugar. In Germany, the peasants flavour their cheese, cabbage, soups, and household bread with Caraway, and in Norway and Sweden, polenta-like, black, Caraway bread is largely eaten in country districts. The oil extracted from the fruits is used as an ingredient of alcoholic liquors: both the Russians and the Germans make from Caraway a liqueur, ‘Kummel,’ and Caraway enters into the composition various cordials.

A curious superstition was held in olden times about the Caraway. It was deemed to confer the gift of retention, preventing the theft of any object which contained it, and holding the thief in custody within the invaded house. In like manner it was thought to keep lovers from proving fickle (forming an ingredient of love potions), and also to prevent fowls and pigeons from straying.

Caraway is a spice mostly loved in Northern, Central and Eastern Europe; languages of other regions often lack a specific name for caraway, but use the name of cumin instead, often with a geographic epithet referring to Germany: Turkish frenk kimyonu “Frankish cumin”, Italian cumino tedesco (Finnish saksankumina) “German cumin” or Hindi vilayati jeera “foreign cumin”.

Caraway is the spice that gives Southern German and Austrian foods, be it meat, vegetable or rye bread, their characteristic flavour. It is also popular in Scandinavia and particularly in the Baltic states, but is hardly known in Southern Europe. True caraway aficionados use the whole fruits, but even the powder is strongly aromatic. Caraway’s aroma does not harmonize with most other spices, but its combination with garlic is effective and popular in Austria and Southern Germany for meat (e.g., roast pork Schweinsbraten) and vegetables. German Sauerkraut (sour cabbage made by lactic fermentation) is always flavoured with caraway. Unfermented boiled cabbage with caraway lacks character. Some cheese varieties from Central Europe contain caraway grains. Caraway is of some importance in the cuisines of North Africa, mostly in Tunisia. Several recipes of Tunisian harissa, a fiery paste made of dried chilles, call for caraway, and the same is true on a similar preparation found in Yemen, Zhoug. In India caraway is mostly used in Mughal cuisine.
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Sensoric quality of Caraway is strongly aromatic and warm and thus is a controversial spice; to many, it appears dominant and unpleasant, especially to those who are not used to a cuisine rich in caraway. Like garlic, usage of the ground spice is a working compromise.

Botany

Caraway is another member of the group of aromatic, umbelliferous plants characterized by carminative properties, like Anise, Cumin, Dill and Fennel. It is grown, however, less for the medicinal properties of the fruits, or so-called ‘seeds,’ than for their use as a flavoring in cookery, confectionery and liqueurs. The plant is a perennial or biennial herb, grows to about 0.6 m and has feathery, compound leaves. The roots are tuberose and thick and the flowers are small and white borne on umbels. It blooms every two years to produce large creamy flowers. The fruits, which are popularly and incorrectly called seeds - and which correspond in general character to those of the other plants of this large family, are laterally compressed, somewhat horny and translucent, slightly curved, and marked with five distinct, pale ridges. They evolve a pleasant, aromatic odor when bruised, and have an agreeable taste. The seeds are mericarps as each seed is a half of the fruit. Each single seed or carpel is about 0.5 cm long, tan to brown, and curved with five lighter colored ridges along the length of the seed. Buyers look for a dark brown color in the valley between each ridge. The leaves possess similar properties and afford oil identical with that of the fruit. The tender leaves in spring have been boiled in soup, to give it an aromatic flavor. The roots are thick and tapering, like a parsnip, though much smaller and are edible. Parkinson declared them, when young, to be superior in flavor to Parsnips. Mixed with milk and made into bread, they are said to have formed the ‘Chara’ of Julius Ceasar, eaten by the soldiers of Valerius.

Caraway plants with small roots (less than 13 mm in diameter) at the start of the second growing season usually do not produce seed. They remain vegetative through the growing season and produce seed the following year. Caraway plants with larger roots (greater than 13 mm) at the start of the growing season will usually flower and produce seed.

Caraway Chemical composition

The basic flavor of Caraway comes from a chemical named carvone; it is balanced in an almost equal measure by another chemical limonene which most people identify as lemony. It is this combination of the spicy sweetness which undertaste of lemon that makes caraway such a pleasant addition to fruit desserts. Caraway fruits may contain 3% to 7% essential oil. The aroma of the oil is mostly dominated by carvone (50 to 85%) and limonene (20 to 30%); the other components carveol, dihydrocarveol, a - and a -pinene, sabinene d-dihydropinol and d-perillyl alcohol are of much minor importance. The oils of caraway grown in different locations differ from each other in quantity, quality, and composition. An inferior oil, caraway chaff oil, is obtained from husks and stalks and used for scenting soaps.

Caraway Medicinal and other uses

Both fruit and oil possess aromatic, stimulant and carminative properties. Caraway was widely employed at one time as a carminative cordial, and was recommended in dyspepsia and symptoms attending hysteria and other disorders. Aromatic volatile oils of Caraway stimulate the digestive system to work properly and with ease, soothing the gut wall, reducing any inflammation that might be present, easing griping pains and helping the removal of gas from the digestive tract, thus is said to be carminative. It possesses some tonic property and forms a pleasant stomachic. Its former extensive employment in medicine has much decreased in recent years, and the oil and fruit are now principally employed as adjuncts to other medicines as corrective or flavoring agents, combined with purgatives.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a very common gastrointestinal disorder that sometimes causes significant discomfort even though it is not a serious health threat. The cause of IBS remains unknown. Caraway is said to be a suitable home remedy to sooth the IBS.

Traditional use of Caraway for Dental Disease, Gum Disease, Periodontal Disease and Gingivitis is reported. Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums (gingivae), caused by bacteria. Periodontitis is a deeper and more serious inflammation of both the gingivae and tissue that surrounds and supports the teeth. These common conditions are often progressive and can eventually result in loss of the underlying bone that supports the teeth. After age 30, periodontal disease is responsible for more tooth loss than are dental cavities. Severe periodontitis sometimes requires surgery to repair damaged gum tissue.

For flatulent indigestion, caraway is found efficacious. Distilled Caraway water is considered a useful remedy in the flatulent colic of infants, and is an excellent vehicle for children’s medicine. Colic is a common problem in infants, where the baby is healthy but has periods of inconsolable crying, apparently caused by abdominal pain. Colic usually develops within a few weeks of birth and disappears by the baby’s fourth month. When sweetened, caraway flavor is agreeable and thus it is presently used as a flavoring agent. The powder of the seeds, made into a poultice, will also take away bruises. Most activity of caraway comes from the volatile oil, which is a mucuous-membrane irritant. Oil of caraway is reported to have antibacterial properties. The ketone carvone and terpene limonene, ingredients of the essential oil, can cause contact dermatitis.

The oil is also used as a fragrance component in cosmetic preparations including soaps, creams, lotions and perfumes. Its flavor and aroma are used in mouthwash and gargle preparations as well as.

Carvone is a natural product which can be isolated both from caraway seeds (S-(+)-carvone) or from mint (R-(-)-carvone). These compounds have been applied as a starting material for the synthesis of several more complex natural products of agricultural or medical relevance, as well as fragrance compounds. A few examples are the biologically active compounds a-cyperone and trimethyldecalol, the insect antifeedant drimanes and dihydroclerodin and the fragrance compounds geosmin and ambrox. Preliminary research has demonstrated that it should also be possible to use carvone as starting material for the synthesis of steroids.
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