Home Herbal Monograph Caraway

A kind of Caraway called 'Sushava' and 'Krishna-jiraka' or Black Cumin appears to have been used in Ayurveda before the introduction of European caraway seeds. This plant is first mentioned in Arabian literature under the name Carawiya. The same variety of caraway was known in Persia as Zireh-I-siyah' and it was principally cultivated for its aromatic seeds. It was exported and thus spread to other countries.


It is native to Europe and West Asia. It grows wild in Himachal Pradesh and is cultivated in the hills (as summer crop) and in plains of North India (as annual winter crop) and in the hills of South India.

Morphology Description (Habit)

It is an annual or biennial glabrous herb, valued for its aromatic seeds. Roots are fusiform and thick. Stem is slender and the branches are grooved and hollow. The leaves are pinnately- dissected. Leaflets are ovate, cleft into linear, entire or dentate lobes. The flowers are in dense white umbels. In Fruits, the schizocarp are oblong-oval and yellowish brown in colour. The mericarps are aromatic, 4-6 mm long, hard and sharp, mostly curved, light to dark brown and with five prominent ribs. The separated mericarps (commonly called seeds) constitute the commercial caraway. It has a characteristic agreeable odor and an aromatic, somewhat warm and sharp taste.

Principal Constituents

The dried and crushed seeds, on steam distillation, gave a pale yellow to light brown essential oil (known as Caraway Oil) with a strong aromatic odour. Carvone and limonene are the chief constituents of the oil and its odour and flavor are mainly attributed to them.

Carvone is carminative1.

Clinical Studies

It exhibits neurotropic anti-spasmodic activity.

No toxic effects reported in usage of this plant.


Caraway oil is primarily used like caraway seeds in food products and in medicine as carminative. Both the seeds and the essential oil (caraway oil) are classed as carminative in the I.P. and prescribed in flatulent colic and stomach derangement.

  1. Harbone, J.B., 1999, Phytochemical Dictionary, Taylor and Francis Ltd., London.