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Health Corner - Kitchen Herbs: Black Caraway (Syah Jeera)

Pratibha Shah

Kitchen Herbs: Black Caraway (Syah Jeera)

Continuing from my last article, I’ll talk about ‘Krishna jeerak’ or ‘syah/shahi jeera’, which is second in the series of ‘Jeerak trai’, after cumin seeds. Its Latin name is ‘Carum carvi’ but is commonly known as Black caraway seeds. Caraway seeds look very much like cumin seeds but are thinner and somewhat sweeter.

Caraway is a biennial that is widely cultivated throughout the world, and is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. Historically, Caraway was found in Mesolithic food remnants and is believed to have been used for more than 5000 years.

Caraway contains 3–7% essential oil with the main components divided into carvone (50–60%) and limonene (40%). The fruit also contains approximately 10% fixed oil along with 20% carbohydrate and 20% protein. Just like cumin seeds, caraway seeds can be a good source of iron and manganese, but only when consumed in quantities of 2-4tsp per day. They also contain certain Vitamins (B Complex and C) and Minerals (Phosphorous, Potassium, Sodium, Zinc) in moderate amounts.

According to Ayurveda, they are light in digestion and hot in potency. They are similar to cumin seeds in their pharmaceutical properties. Ayurvedic texts ascribe the following health benefits to Caraway seeds:
-    Caraway seeds can be chewed to kindle appetite. They are also good as a digestive aid and have a carminative effect (ease out gas).
-    Due to its above-mentioned properties, they are very commonly used as anti-flatulent and in abdominal colic – especially in kids.
-    In diarrhea, having the patient sip on caraway seed infusion frequently (and stopping any food intake) helps bind the stools faster, reduces distension and aids digestion.
-    Also used to get rid of bad breath.
-    Just like fennel seeds and cumin seeds, caraway seeds are used to tone up and cleanse the uterus post delivery and to induce or increase milk production.
-    They are known to have anti-inflammatory effect and therefore can be used in swellings and mild inflammations, both internally (as infusion or decoction) or externally (as a paste or as an infusion to wash sores).
-    Its regular use strengthens a weak heart and a weak body.
-    Sitting in a tub filled with a warm decoction of caraway seeds helps ease the pain in piles and in lower pelvic pain in women.

Modern research has corroborated the carminative and diuretic properties of caraway seeds and currently there is research being done on its anti cancer, anti diabetic and anti bacterial effect. Also being studied is its effect on irritable bowel syndrome. So here is another wonder herb, right in your kitchen.

Will be back with the last of ‘Jeerak Trai’ in my next article. Until then, have a good one!

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