Ingredient Type: Botanical
Also Known As: Carum carvi, Carroway, Common caraway, Wild caraway, Wild cumin
Carum carvi, or more commonly known as caraway, is known to have 25 species. This plant is considered to be either an annual or biennial, depending on the species and where it is grown.
The plant has a long history as well as popularity among Europeans. It is commonly utilized in cuisine, pharmaceutical, and beauty applications due to its pleasant flavor and preservative qualities. In North Africa, the plant is used mainly in vegetable dishes as well as in condiments. Caraway fruits contain an essential oil component as well as fatty acids, protein, carbohydrates, phenolic acids, and flavonoids (21,22,23). The oil component is present in all parts of the plant, with the fruit containing the highest quantity. The fruit’s main components include carvone, myrcene, kaempferol, limonene, quercetin, caffeic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, and petroselinic acid (24).
Caraway has had an interesting place in tradition as well as in particular cultural legends. In ancient times, the said therapeutic uses were mainly derived from the greenish-yellow essential oil that is a byproduct of the plant’s fruit. One of the superstitious perceptions revolving around caraway is its use as one of which has the power to prevent theft. According to traditional Persian scholars, the use of caraway has been effectively used to relieve flatulence and abdominal pain through aiding in the removal of accumulated gas in the gastrointestinal tract as well as from the humors of the stomach. In Iranian folk medicine, caraway seeds are believed to possess antiepileptic qualities. In Indonesian cultures, caraway is combined with garlic for the treatment of eczema. The common thread across most cultures concerning caraways use is that it exudes antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory qualities.
WHAT DOES SCIENCE TELL US?
Caraway Possibly has Antibacterial Properties:
A study was conducted to evaluate the microbiological activity of the caraway oil with respect to fruit that originated from different genotypes to determine if there are any differences in inactivity, respectively. The experiments were conducted over one year between 2008 and 2009, isolating the essential oil from the fruit of 20 selected caraway genotypes originating from either the European botanical gardens, cultivar Konczewicki, and the researchers’ own breeding strain grounds. According to the results, the microbiological activity of the testes caraway subjects was significantly different. A noted negative correlation was observed between the Minimum Inhibitory Concentration (MIC) and carvone content, while an observed positive correlation was noted between the MIC and limonene content. Researchers concluded that the essential oils extracted from Caraway exhibit medium antimicrobial activity in which carvone is recognized to be one of the more active components of the plant (17).
Another study was conducted to confirm the antibacterial activity of the essential oils derived from rosemary, caraway, and fennel. The study focuses on uncovering the truth about why the essential oil of those plants are being used more and more medicinally. The authors evaluated the antibacterial properties of the commercial essential oils (rosemary, caraway, and fennel) with regards to their ability to inhibit the growth of Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. In this study, a form of agar dilution method was utilized. The experiments confirmed the antibacterial properties in their ability to reduce the S. aureus or E. coli significantly. Caraway oil showed the most potent antibacterial activity, using 1 mg/g for S. aureus and 10 mg/g for E. coli. At the same time, the rosemary and fennel required 5 mg/g and 20 mg/g, respectively. The authors concluded that these results confirmed the antibacterial strength of caraway oil in the inhibition of S. aureus and E. coli (15).
In a similar study, researchers reviewed the antibacterial activity of the essential oil extracted from caraway about its antimicrobial properties against a strain of S. aureus isolated from a patient confirmed with furunculosis. This initial study was motivated by the fact that furunculosis is a skin infection caused by S. aureus, which subsequently affects the host, causing inflammation of the hair follicles. The authors wanted to confirm further the antibacterial activity of the essential oil derived from caraway. In this study, various strains of S. aureus were collected and characterized based on their virulence factor or resistance to antibiotics. A polymerase chance reaction (PCR) method was used in determining the presence of the particular genes encoding virulence factors. After conducting various analyses, the findings revealed a predominant component, cumin aldehyde (46.7%). Cumin aldehyde was found to inhibit activities of both the control as well as the patient-derived strains. It was thus concluded that the cumin aldehyde acts as an alternative antibacterial agent that can be used as an adjunct in the treatment of furunculosis (16).
Caraway Possibly Supports a Healthy Digestive Tract:
In a relatively recent randomized controlled cross-over study, researchers aimed at exploring the efficacy of caraway oil poultices as an agent that could be used in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Various caraway oil dilutions were made and administered to the patients for a trial period of three weeks. The primary outcomes concerning symptom severity, secondary in terms of quality of life, and psychological distress and safety were evaluated. Results reflected relatively good compliance and response rate (43.9%, 20.0%, and 18.9%) for the caraway oil, as well as the hot and cold olive oil poultices, respectively. The observed results confirmed the role of caraway oil in the management of irritable bowel syndrome. According to the researchers, no adverse effects were noticed; hence, it was concluded that the use of hot caraway poultices in the management of irritable bowel syndrome is an effective and safe method (11).
In another study, researchers reviewed different previous researcher articles that were conducted on the role of caraway in the management of various gastrointestinal related complaints. The review conveyed that caraway has galactagogue effects in that it has lactation promoting activity as well as flatulate relieving or carminative effects. Upon thorough review of the caraway oil, it was found to help relieves the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome symptoms when applied topically. Although caraway oil proved to be effective against some gastrointestinal ailments, it was discouraged for use in patients younger than 18 years (14).
In this randomized controlled trial, researchers explored the potential efficacy of caraway oil poultices in its ability to treat Irritable bowel syndrome. In this context, the caraway oil poultices were administered in a hot form in conjunction with hot olive oil poultice or non-heated poultices as a form of intervention. The primary outcome of the study was evaluated based on symptom severity. Forty-eight patients with irritable bowel syndrome were included in the study. The results indicated significant differences for symptom alleviation, which were dependent on which oil was utilized. Based on the results, it was observed that the hot caraway oil had more alleviating activity when compared to others. There, however, was an incident of gastrointestinal infection associated with the treatment of the caraway oil. Apart from this incident, hot caraway oil poultices appeared to be relatively effective and safe (10).
Caraway Might Support a Healthy Weight:
In a randomized controlled clinical trial, researchers studied caraway and its anti-obesity effects on overweight and obese women. The study aimed to investigate if caraway extracts have any form of weight lowering activity on physically active, overweight, and obese women. This study was conducted using a randomized, triple-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial with 71 female participants that were overweight and obese. The female participants that were involved in the study were considered healthy and actively aerobically-trained regularly. Two test-groups were formed, with each having 35 adult females, respectively. The timeline for the study was 90 days, while their changes in body composition were monitored with anthropometric indices and clinical, as well as paraclinical variables. Findings revealed that the treatment group had a significant reduction in body weight compared to the placebo group. The body mass index, body fat percentage, and waist-to-hip ratio were also reduced significantly. However, the lipid profile, urine-specific gravity, and blood pressure revealed no major changes. These findings indicated that dietary caraway extract was an excellent, natural alternative for fighting obesity. According to the study, better results were reflected when subjects combined caraway supplementation with exercise (13).
In a recent, randomized study, researchers reviewed the potentially slimming and appetite-suppressing features of an aqueous caraway extract. In this particular study, 70 females were enrolled in the study. The female subjects were randomly assigned to either the placebo or the experimental group. The duration of the study was for 90 days, without the following variables being assessed: calorie, macronutrient intake as well as any changes in dietary habits. Such appetite changes were assessed using a visual analog scale and an ad libitum pizza test. According to the evaluated data, the anthropometric indices were found to be reduced significantly in the experimental caraway aqueous extract treatment group compared to the placebo group. The results of this test further supported the researcher’s perception that caraway was with anti-obesity activity and therefore considered a natural alternative for supporting the reduction of body weight and appetite suppression (8).
In a similar study, Mahnaz & Cordell conducted a randomized, triple-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study on 70 overweight and obese but healthy individuals. The duration of this study lasted 12 weeks following being treated with an aqueous caraway extract (CAE). According to the data obtained from the study, the dietary CAE was found to exert anti-obesity activity as well as a reduction in BMI or body fat. It was gathered from the results that CAE was considered to be an effective alternative for the support of weight loss with no clinically known side effects (9).
Caraway Might Support Healthy Blood Sugar Levels:
A 2006 study looked at the effects of caraway oil on diabetic rats. Different doses were reviewed, and their effect on the serum creatinine level was explored. Forty white male albino rats with a weight range of 125-215 g’s were used for the study. For this particular study, the rats were diabetically induced to test the effects of the caraway oil on weight. Various groups were formed and respectively administered different doses of the caraway oil at 5, 10, 20, 40, 80 mg/kg body weight. The experiment was conducted for ten weeks, while the blood glucose and serum creatinine levels were assayed. Findings revealed a statistically significant increase in the level of blood glucose and serum creatine in the diabetic control group. The level was reduced significantly when 10 mg/kg wet weight of black caraway oil was administered to the experimental group. It was thus concluded that black caraway oil could significantly lower serum creatinine levels, hence having an antidiabetic feature that is dose-dependent (1).
Sushruta et al. tried to understand the role played by the antioxidant properties of plants on diabetes. Different plant extracts were used to compare that of the caraway extract; they included the Coriander, Cumin, Dill, and Fennel. Each of the extracts was administered at dose levels of 300 mg/kg body weight orally. After the study, it was found that the normal rats which were administered caraway extract exhibited significantly hypoglycaemic activity. The effects produced through the administration of the comparative extracts produced less significant activity relative to the caraway extract. This study indicates that the incorporation of caraway oil extract in an individual’s daily diet has the potential to support antidiabetic activity, thereby aiding in controlling their blood sugar levels (18).
A 2015 study also researched the antidiabetic properties of Carum carvi oil. This particular study aimed at evaluating the effects of varying doses of Carum carvi oil on antioxidant enzymes of streptozotocin-induced diabetic subjects. There was a total of 56 Wistar male rats that were tested in this study, which had a total study duration of 30 days. Upon conclusion of the study, data was further analyzed, revealing that rats receiving Carum carvi oil gained significantly more weight than the control group. Additionally, the experimental group experienced a lower level of blood glucose. From this data, it was concluded that the oil of Carum carvi extract aids in the reduction of oxidative stress in those with diabetes mellitus (5).
Caraway Might Have Antioxidant Properties:
In this particular study, researchers aimed at assessing whether cold-pressed black caraway, carrot, cranberry, and hemp seed oils had any active antioxidant activity. Various attributes of the oil extracts were considered when evaluating their particular properties. Additionally, the scavenging capacity of the extract was reviewed. Likewise, the methanol form of the extract of the cold-pressed black caraway and cranberry seed oils were evaluated. This was performed to check their inhibitory capacities on human LDL cholesterol oxidation. The oils extracted were noted to suppress lipid peroxidation; hence they are considered to be an excellent dietary source of natural antioxidants, aiding in overall health and wellness (12).
A 2009 study also studied both the chemistry as well as the antioxidant activity of the essential oil and oleoresins of the black caraway herb. In this particular study, GC-MS analysis was used as the chemical analysis assessment tool. The antioxidant activity of the essential oils was evaluated using a different form of antioxidant assay. The two extracts (volatile caraway oil and its oleoresins) were found to convey a significant antioxidant activity when compared to a substance containing butylated-hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). It was gathered from the observed data that the black caraway herb has the potential to support overall health through its antioxidant activity (6).
Lastly, in a multidimensional study, researchers evaluated both the antioxidant as well as the anti-fungal properties of Caraway. GC/MS analysis was utilized in the analysis of the antioxidant and anti-fungal activities. The duration of the study spanned 60 days in which both the antioxidant and anti-fungal activity were measured. After analysis of the obtained data, it was shown that the caraway exhibited both antioxidant and anti-fungal properties. This activity can be useful not only when potentially addressing oxidation or fungal infections within human subjects, but it may also be useful as a natural alternative to preserve food (2).
Caraway, similar to many herbs, has limited research concerning a safety and toxicity profile. From the current research, however, caraway has been noted to be likely safe when taken orally in medicinal or recommended supplemental amounts for up to 2 months. Caraway has also been recognized to be applied to the skin. It is recommended for such an application to be used for no more than three weeks at a time. Overuse of caraway, especially in the oil form, may cause gastrointestinal disturbances such as belching, heartburn, and nausea. If applied to the skin in excessive amounts, it may cause skin rash and itching, especially to those with sensitivities to caraway.
According to various studies, caraway extract has the potential to act as a diuretic. This may be a concern for those taking medications as it may alter the way the body can metabolize and excrete medications. This could potentially pose a threat as an accumulation of certain drugs can be toxic. Excess accumulation of certain medications in the system may also exacerbate the activity or effect of the medication to levels that may be dangerous to the body. Additionally, while caraway may hinder some medications from being properly cleared, it can also decrease levels of certain minerals that may also cause concern. Please consult your healthcare professional before consuming caraway, especially if you consume any of these medications: lithium, chlorothiazide (Diuril), chlorthalidone (Thalitone), furosemide (Lasix), hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ, HydroDiuril, Microzide), isoniazid, (INH, Nydrazid), pyrazinamide, rifampin (Rifadin), amongst others.
For those currently taking any sedative medications, it is recommended to consult your healthcare professional before consuming caraway as it may cause excessive sleepiness and drowsiness, which could be dangerous when attempting to operate a vehicle or other daily tasks. Some of the sedative medications include clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), phenobarbital (Donnatal), zolpidem (Ambien), amongst others.
Individuals with diabetes are advised to consult their healthcare provider before consuming caraway as the herb has the potential to lower blood sugar levels. Consumption of caraway may require more vigilance with respect to your blood sugar levels as well as if you are taking any time of blood sugar lowering medication such as insulin. Medication dosages may need to be adjusted to avoid hypoglycemia. Some of the medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta), Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), etc.
Those who may or are pregnant should consult their healthcare professional before taking any form of caraway as the caraway oil has been used to initiate menstruation, which may have the potential to cause a miscarriage. As far as mothers who are breastfeeding, there is not enough known research to understand whether caraway may be harmful to the baby or not. It is advised to consult with your healthcare professional if you have any questions concerning what herbs you can consume either during your pregnancy or while you are breastfeeding.
Due to the potential blood sugar-lowering activity of caraway, it is advised to cease supplementation or consumption two weeks before any surgery as it may interfere with blood sugar control.
For those individuals who tend to have higher levels of iron in their body, it is recommended to consult your healthcare provider before consuming any form of caraway as it tends to increase the absorption of iron. Overuse of such supplements or iron-containing foods may increase iron levels in the body, potentially causing harm.
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