Caraway, cumin, use of cumin, benefits of cumin, Carum carvi, Carum carvi, herbs for digestion, herbs for health

Carum carvi Apiaceae.

With its feathery leaves and umbrella-like clusters if tiny white flowers, caraway is a pretty and popular garden herb. It grows to about 1 m in height and bears deep brown seeds with a distinctive smell. Caraway is used to flavour digestive liqueurs and spirits such as the German Kiimmel.

Parts used

  • Seeds
  • Caraway seeds are gathered in July and August just before they ripen. The seeds are often confused with cumin seeds.
  • Caraway is used in herbal medicine throughout Europe in infusions and as essential oil.


Between 50 and 85 per cent of caraway's volatile essential oil is carvone, which is antiseptic and gives the seed its distinctive flavour. Limonene makes up another 20 per cent and there are also flavonoids.

Medicinal uses

People have used caraway as a digestive herb for thousands of years. It stimulates the secretion of gastric juices and encourages the expulsion of wind. In Europe, caraway has long been combined with fennel and anise in an infusion to treat intestinal cramps, bloating and other uncomfortable ailments such as flatulence.
Research published in 1985 found evidence for caraway's helpful effect on painful gut cramp: it proved that caraway oil relaxed intestinal muscle. It also has this effect on uterine muscles, and so relieves period pains.


For internal use

TO TREAT digestive problems INFUSION Put 1 teaspoon of a mixture of equal parts caraway, fennel and anise in 250ml of boiling water. Leave to infuse for 2-3 minutes. Divide into two or three servings and drink over the course of the day before meals.
Alternatively, take 1-5g of ground caraway seeds and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes in a cup of boiling water. Drink this amount over the course of the day in two or three smaller amounts before meals.

TINCTURE (1:4 in 45% alcohol) Take 10-15 drops in cold water three times a day after meals.


Carvone's antibacterial properties help to fight off gut infections. In traditional Arabic medicine, caraway is a treatment for incontinence in children. As an expectorant, caraway can ease a chesty cough. And its oil has been applied to clear up scabies.


Sow seeds or plant seedlings in a well-drained soil in the sun.


The essential oil should be used as directed by a medical herbalist.

No toxic effect has been recorded to date, so caraway seeds can be used without medical supervision.

Like other plants in this family (coriander, cumin, dill), caraway may cause an allergic reaction such as a runny nose, watering eyes or diarrhoea. If you notice any side effects, stop using it.


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