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Parts Used & 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 medicinally.1
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3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (Peppermint Oil)
90 mg of peppermint oil plus 50 mg of caraway oil in enteric-coated capsules taken three times per day
Taking peppermint oil combined with caraway oil may reduce gas production, ease intestinal cramping, and soothe the intestinal tract.
The combination of 90 mg of peppermint oil plus 50 mg of caraway oil in enteric-coated capsules taken three times per day led to significant reduction in IBS symptoms in a double-blind trial.5 In a similar trial, capsules that were not enteric-coated were as effective as enteric-coated capsules.6 The same combination has compared favorably to the drug cisapride (Propulsid) in reducing symptoms of IBS.7 The purpose of enteric coating is to protect peppermint oil while it is passing through the acid environment of the stomach.
Whole peppermint leaf is often used either alone or in combination with other herbs to treat abdominal discomfort and mild cramping that accompany IBS. The combination of peppermint, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, and wormwood was reported to be an effective treatment for upper abdominal complaints in a double-blind trial.8
Gingivitis (Chamomile, Clove Oil, Echinacea, Menthol, Molmol, Peppermint, Sage)
0.5 ml in half a glass of water three times per day swished slowly in the mouth before spitting out
A mouthwash containing sage oil, peppermint oil, menthol, chamomile tincture, expressed juice from echinacea, myrrh tincture, clove oil, and caraway oil has been used successfully to treat gingivitis.
A mouthwash combination that includes sage oil, peppermint oil, menthol, chamomile tincture, expressed juice from echinacea, myrrh tincture, clove oil, and caraway oil has been used successfully to treat gingivitis.9 In cases of acute gum inflammation, 0.5 ml of the herbal mixture in half a glass of water three times daily is recommended by some herbalists. This herbal preparation should be swished slowly in the mouth before spitting out. To prevent recurrences, slightly less of the mixture can be used less frequently.
A toothpaste containing sage oil, peppermint oil, chamomile tincture, expressed juice from Echinacea purpurea, myrrh tincture, and rhatany tincture has been used to accompany this mouthwash in managing gingivitis.10
Of the many herbs listed above, chamomile, echinacea, and myrrh should be priorities. These three herbs can provide anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial actions critical to successfully treating gingivitis.
Indigestion, Heartburn, and Low Stomach Acidity
50 mg of oil plus 90 mg of peppermint oil in enteric-coated capsules taken three times per day for indigestion only
One trial found that a combination with peppermint, caraway, and fennel was useful in reducing gas and cramping in people with indigestion.
Carminatives (also called aromatic digestive tonics or aromatic bitters) may be used to relieve symptoms of indigestion, particularly when there is excessive gas. It is believed that carminative agents work, at least in part, by relieving spasms in the intestinal tract.11
Among the most notable and well-studied carminatives are peppermint, fennel, and caraway. Double-blind trials have shown that combinations of peppermint and caraway oil and a combination of peppermint, fennel, caraway, and wormwood have been found to reduce gas and cramping in people with indigestion.12 , 13 , 14 Generally, 3–5 drops of natural essential oils or 3–5 ml of tincture of any of these herbs, taken in water two to three times per day before meals, can be helpful. Alternately, a tea can be made by grinding 2–3 teaspoons of the seeds of fennel or caraway or the leaves of peppermint, and then simmering them in a cup of water (covered) for ten minutes. Drink three or more cups per day just after meals.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (Fennel Seed, Peppermint, Wormwood)
Refer to label instructions
A combination of peppermint, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, and wormwood was reported to be an effective treatment for upper abdominal complaints in one trial.
Whole peppermint leaf is often used either alone or in combination with other herbs to treat abdominal discomfort and mild cramping that accompany IBS. The combination of peppermint, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, and wormwood was reported to be an effective treatment for upper abdominal complaints in a double-blind trial.15
Refer to label instructions
Caraway relieves intestinal cramping and, in this way, may ease symptoms of colic.
Caraway relieves intestinal cramping and, in this way, may ease symptoms of colic. One tablespoon (15 grams) of caraway seed is mixed with 8 oz (240 ml) of just-boiled water and steeped in a closed container for at least 10 minutes. Three ounces of vegetable glycerin is added, and the resulting mixture is stored in a bottle in the refrigerator. Up to 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) of the liquid may be given every 30 minutes to a colicky infant or given 15 minutes before feeding.16
Refer to label instructions
Volatile oils made from caraway have antibacterial properties and may be effective in mouthwash or toothpaste form.
The potent effects of some commercial mouthwashes may be due to the inclusion of thymol (from thyme) and eukalyptol (from eucalyptus)—volatile oils that have proven activity against bacteria. One report showed bacterial counts plummet in as little as 30 seconds following a mouthrinse with the commercial mouthwash Listerine™, which contains thymol and eukalyptol.17 Thymol alone has been shown in research to inhibit the growth of bacteria found in the mouth.18 , 19 Because of their antibacterial properties, other volatile oils made from tea tree,20 clove, caraway, peppermint, and sage,21 as well as the herbs myrrh22 and bloodroot,23 might be considered in a mouthwash or toothpaste. Due to potential allergic reactions and potential side effects if some of these oils are swallowed, it is best to consult with a qualified healthcare professional before pursuing self-treatment with volatile oils that are not in approved over-the-counter products for halitosis.
Traditional Use (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 colic.4
How It Works
How It Works
Caraway contains 3–7% volatile oil, with the main components divided into carvone (50–60%) and limonene (40%).24 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 spasm.25
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).26 , 27 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 children.28
How to Use It
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.29
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
Interactions with Medicines
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.30 Large amounts of the oil (several times higher than the recommended dosages) may be potentially abortifacient and neurotoxic and should be avoided, especially by pregnant women.
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, 1991, 95-6.
3. Grieve M. A Modern Herbal, vol I. New York: Dover Publications, 1982, 157.
4. Castleman M. The Healing Herbs. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1991, 95-6.
5. May B, Kuntz HD, Kieser M, Kohler S. Efficacy of a fixed peppermint/caraway oil combination in non-ulcer dyspepsia. Arzneimittelforschung 1996;46:1149-53.
6. Friese J, Köhler S. Peppermint/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.
7. Madisch A, Heydenreich CJ, Wieland V, et al. Treatment of functional dyspepsia with a fixed peppermint oil and caraway oil combination preparation as compared to cisapride. Arneimittlforschung 1999;49:925-32.
8. Westphal J, Hörning M, Leonhardt K. Phytotherapy in functional upper abdominal complaints. Results of a clinical study with a preparation of several plants. Phytomedicine 1996;2:285-91.
9. Serfaty R, Itic J. Comparative trial with natural herbal mouthwash versus chlorhexidine in gingivitis. J Clin Dent 1988;1:A34-7.
10. Yamnkell S, Emling RC. Two-month evaluation of Parodontax dentifrice. J Clin Dentistry 1988;1:A41.
11. Forster HB, Niklas H, Lutz S. Antispasmodic effects of some medicinal plants. Planta Med 1980;40:303-19.
12. May B, Kuntz HD, Kieser M, Kohler S. Efficacy of a fixed peppermint/caraway oil combination in non-ulcer dyspepsia. Arzneimittelforschung 1996;46:1149-53.
13. Westphal J, Hörning M, Leonhardt K. Phytotherapy in functional upper abdominal complaints. Results of a clinical study with a preparation of several plants. Phytomedicine 1996;2:285-91.
14. Madisch A, Heydenreich CJ, Wieland V, et al. Treatment of functional dyspepsia with a fixed peppermint oil and caraway oil combination preparation as compared to cisapride. Arneimittlforschung 1999;49:925-32.
15. Westphal J, Hörning M, Leonhardt K. Phytotherapy in functional upper abdominal complaints. Results of a clinical study with a preparation of several plants. Phytomedicine 1996;2:285-91.
16. Bove M. An Encyclopedia of Natural Healing for Children and Infants. New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing, 1996:106.
17. Kato T, Iijima H, Ishihara K, et al. Antibacterial effects of Listerine on oral bacteria. Bull Tokyo Dent Coll 1990;31:301-7.
18. Cosentino S, Tuberoso CI, Pisano B, et al. In-vitro antimicrobial activity and chemical composition of Sardinian Thymus essential oils. Lett Appl Microbiol 1999;29:130-5.
19. Petersson LG, Edwardsson S, Arends J. Antimicrobial effect of a dental varnish, in vitro. Swed Dent J 1992;16:183-9.
20. Cox SD, Mann CM, Markham JL, et al. The mode of antimicrobial action of the essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree oil). J Appl Microbiol 2000;88:170-5.
21. Serfaty R, Itic J. Comparative trial with natural herbal mouthwash versus chlorhexidine in gingivitis. J Clin Dent 1988;1:A34-7.
22. Dolara P, Corte B, Ghelardini C, et al. Local anaesthetic, antibacterial and antifungal properties of sesquiterpenes from myrrh. Planta Med 2000;66:356-8.
23. Hannah JJ, Johnson JD, Kuftinec MM. Long-term clinical evaluation of toothpaste and oral rinse containing sanguinaria extract in controlling plaque, gingival inflammation, and sulcular bleeding during orthodontic treatment. Am J Orthod Dentofacial Orthop 1989;96:199-207.
24. Wichtl M. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1994, 128-9.
25. Schulz V, Hänsel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy, 3rd ed. Berlin, Germany: Springer Verlag, 1998, 180.
26. Friese J, Köhler S. Peppermint/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.
27. May B, Kuntz HD, Kieser M, Kohler S. Efficacy of a fixed peppermint oil/caraway oil combination in non-ulcer dyspepsia. Arzneimittel-Forsch 1996;46:1149-53.
28. Schilcher H. Phytotherapy in Paediatrics, 2nd ed. Stuttgart, Germany: Medpharm Scientific Publishers, 1997, 49.
29. British Herbal Medicine Association. British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, Part II. West Yorks, England: BHMA Publishers, 1979, 23-5.
30. Tisserand R, Balacs T. Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals. Edinburgh: Churchill-Livingston, 1995, 115.
Last Review: 05-23-2015
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