This biennial, herbaceous plant blooms creamy flowers in umbels once in every two years. It grows to about 2 feet in height and bears small feathery leaves. Caraway seeds are crescent in shape, dark brown, with up to five stripes (ribs) running lengthwise.
Caraway generally harvested during early hours of the day to avoid spilling of its seeds on the ground. They are then staked in bundles and allowed to dry under sunlight, and their seeds then threshed, either mannually or using machines.
In addition to their use in traditional medicines, caraway seeds have their own food value, and indeed, have several health benefiting nutrients, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants.
Caraway seeds are rich source of dietary fiber. 100 g seeds provide 38 g of fiber, 100% of daily recommended intake of fiber. Soluble as well as insoluble dietary fiber increase bulk of the food and help prevent constipation by speeding up its movement through the gut. In fact, gastro-intestinal transit time of food is greatly decreased.
Fiber also binds to toxins in the food and helps protect the colon mucus membrane from cancers. In addition, dietary fibers bind to bile salts (produced from cholesterol) and decrease their re-absorption in colon, thus help lower serum LDL cholesterol levels
Caraway contains several health benefiting essential oils. Principle volatile compounds are carvone, limonene, carveol, pinen, cumuninic aldehyde, furfurol, and thujone. These active principles in the caraway seeds are known to have antioxidant, digestive, carminative, and anti-flatulent properties
Caraway has several health benefiting flavonoid antioxidnats such as lutein, carotene, crypto-xanthin and zea-xanthin. These compounds are indeed functions as powerful anti-oxidants by removing harmful free radicals from the body thus protect from cancers, infection, aging and degenerative neurological diseases
Caraway spice is an excellent source of minerals like iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells. Iron is required for red blood cell formation. Zinc is a co-factor in many enzymes that regulate growth and development, sperm generation, digestion and nucleic acid synthesis. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the powerful anti-oxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
The seeds indeed are the storehouse for many vital vitamins. Vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C as well as many B-complex vitamins like thiamin, pyridoxine, riboflavin, and niacin particularly are concentrated in the caraway seeds.
Caraway water is sometimes used in treating flatulence and indigestion in traditional medicines, especially used to relive infantile colic.
It is also used in pharmaceuticals as flavoring agent in mouthwash and gargle preparations.
Caraway extraction is used as a rubefacient (to soothe muscle sores), clear the cold, as a remedy in bronchitis and irritable bowel syndrome in many traditional medicines.