Benefits of Caraway Seeds
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Eva Staruch
Posted on: June 15, 2002

Caraway seed: what are some of the benefits of?

Caraway belongs to a very important medicinally-active family of herbs, the Umbelliferae, also known as the Apiaceae. The family includes such stalwarts of the kitchen as parsley, dill, cumin, fennel, coriander, anise, and at least a dozen other lesser known herbs and spices from cultures around the world. While Westerners think of these as "culinary", they do have very potent medicinal effects, and these medicinal effects are sometimes given prominence in other cultures. Indeed, the fact that the family also includes purely medicinal members such as osha (Ligusticum porteri), lomatium (Lomatium dissectum), dong quai (Angelica polymorpha sinensis), and laceflower (Ammi majus), attests to the undercurrent of medicinal potency that runs in this family, the parsley family.

I would argue that some of the "culinary" rationale for some of the common kitchen herbs and spices comes from their medicinal effects. For example, it is not a stretch to argue that the original reason for adding caraway to fermenting cabbages that turn into sauerkraut, is to improve the digestibility of a vegetable, cabbage, that is generally considered to be hard to digest. Caraway is carminative – helps to prevent or ease gastrointestinal bloating and flatulence – which fits the theory that its purpose is to make eating sauerkraut more digestible (and hence more appetitizing).

Besides a history of use for appetite and digestion, caraway also "promotes the onset of menstruation, relieves uterine cramps, promotes the secretion of milk, and is mildy expectorant" according to John Lust, author of "The Herb Book" (available from Richters). He recommends using caraway seeds for flatulent colic, especially in infants, and for settling the stomach after taking nauseous medications.

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