Botanical name: Carum carvi
© Martin Wall
Parts used and where grown
Caraway is a biennial that is widely cultivated throughout the world, and is native to
Europe, Asia, and North Africa. The dried ripe fruit or seeds are used
Caraway has been used in
connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual
health concern for complete information):
Historical or traditional use (may
or may not be supported by scientific studies)
The use of caraway as a medicinal agent has remained unchanged for centuries. Its use as a
digestive aid was first mentioned in the Egyptian Eberus Papyrus about 1500
B.C.2 In Shakespeare’s Henry IV, the character Falstaff is invited
to have a serving of baked apples and caraway to aid the digestion and relieve
gas.3 Nineteenth-century American Eclectic physicians (doctors who recommended
herbs), such as Harvey Felter, pointed out the seeds not only promote digestion but also ease
the symptoms of children suffering from digestive
Caraway contains 3–7% volatile oil, with the main components divided into carvone
(50–60%) and limonene (40%).5 The fruit also contains approximately 10% fixed
oil along with 20% carbohydrate and 20% protein. Caraway belongs to a class of herbs called
carminatives, which are plants helpful in easing gastrointestinal discomfort, including gas.
The volatile oils derived from this group of plants may help alleviate bowel
There are no human clinical trials on caraway as a single entity. However, it has been used
with success in combination with enteric-coated
peppermint oil in the treatment of irritable
bowel syndrome (IBS).7 8 People using this combination reported
experiencing less pain and noted an overall improvement in their bowel symptoms compared to
those who took a comparable placebo. A combination of caraway with the other carminative herbs
anise and fennel has shown to be helpful in
dealing with conditions of flatulence and mild abdominal cramping, especially in
How much is usually taken?
Use approximately 1/4–1/2 teaspoon (0.5–2 grams) of powdered caraway fruit to
make tea; drink it three times a day. Tinctures of the extracted herb (0.5–4 ml) are
sometimes used three times per day. The enteric-coated volatile oil (0.05–0.2 ml) can be
taken three times daily (usually in combination with enteric-coated peppermint oil) for irritable bowel syndrome.10
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Caraway is generally safe for internal use. However, the purified volatile oil should not
be used by children under two years of age, as oil from caraway and other herbs in the
Umbelliferae family can be irritating to the skin and mucous membranes.11
Large amounts of the oil (several times higher than the dosages listed above) may be
potentially abortifacient and neurotoxic and should be avoided, especially by pregnant women.
At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions
1. Wren RC. Potter’s New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and
Preparation. Essex, England: CW Daniel Co., 1985, 59–60.
2. Castleman M. The Healing Herbs. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press,
3. Grieve M. A Modern Herbal, vol I. New York: Dover
Publications, 1982, 157.
4. Castleman M. The Healing Herbs. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press,
5. Wichtl M. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Boca Raton,
FL: CRC Press, 1994, 128–9.
6. Schulz V, Hänsel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy, 3rd
ed. Berlin, Germany: Springer Verlag, 1998, 180.
7. Freise J, Köhler S. Peppermint oil/caraway oil—fixed
combination in non-ulcer dyspepsia: equivalent efficacy of the drug combination in an enteric
coated or enteric soluble formula. Pharmazie 1999;54:210–5.
8. May B, Kuntz HD, Kieser M, Kohler S. Efficacy of a fixed peppermint
oil/caraway oil combination in non-ulcer dyspepsia. Arzneimittel-Forsch
9. Schilcher H. Phytotherapy in Paediatrics, 2nd ed. Stuttgart,
Germany: Medpharm Scientific Publishers, 1997, 49.
10. British Herbal Medicine Association. British Herbal
Pharmacopoeia, Part II. West Yorks, England: BHMA Publishers, 1979, 23–5.
11. Tisserand R, Balacs T. Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health
Care Professionals. Edinburgh: Churchill-Livingston, 1995, 115.