13 Benefits & Uses of Caraway Seeds

by John Staughton last updated -

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Caraway seeds are most often used in baking, but they also have some surprising health benefits of which you should be aware of.

What are Caraway Seeds?

Caraway seeds come from the caraway plant, a member of the carrot family, Umbelliferae. This plant is also referred to as meridian fennel or Persian cumin. The plant’s roots can be eaten, but most people use the caraway fruit, which is mistakenly called seed as a result of its size and texture. Caraway seeds are very aromatic, and have a strong anise-like taste, making them popular in savory dishes, such as sauerkraut and harissa.

In modern times, caraway seeds are most often used in baking recipes, from rye bread to pastry toppings and cakes. They are often compared to fennel, and both make a good substitute for the other, although there is an obvious difference in the taste. Fennel is very heavily licorice-flavored, while caraway tends to have more peppery and citrus notes to it.

In addition to being used as a cooking spice, these seeds are a key ingredient in aquavit, a Scandinavian liquor, and kummel, a sweet Russian liquor.

Nutrition

Caraway seeds are rich in protein, carbohydrates, and various vitamins and minerals. They are a good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C and contain low levels of fat. Amongst minerals, they contain potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.

Caraway Seeds Health Benefits

Caraway seeds are used to treat many health issues primarily associated with digestive health that include IBS, constipation, heartburn, and bloating. Let us look at some of the benefits in detail.

Relieve IBS

When ingested, these seeds can reduce heartburn, bloating, and constipation, and topically, the active ingredients in these seeds have been shown to alleviate IBS symptoms and inflammation.

Improve Sleep

Drinking caraway tea prepared from caraway seeds helps reduce the effects of asthma and promote sleep. This is due to its high magnesium content, which can affect neurotransmitters in the brain and induce relaxation.

Menstrual Relief

Caraway tea is also popular as a pain-relieving tonic for menstrual cramps and also aids in promoting the production of a mother’s milk.

Weight Loss

Caraway extract is a popular diet tool to aid in weight loss since fiber helps you feel full and reduce excess snacking or overeating.

Heart Health

Caraway helps reduce the cholesterol levels in the cardiovascular system because of its high fiber content. It is also a great support supplement for heart health, along with its high antioxidant and potassium content.

Lower Blood Pressure

Caraway rich in potassium aids in reducing blood pressure.

Skin Care

A hot poultice of caraway is effective for treating red or irritated skin, while the essential oil is used in steam facials. The high concentration of antioxidants help the skin fight free radicals and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. This helps maintain skin elasticity and keeps the skin look younger.

Bone Health

Caraway seeds help improve bone health and bone density. This is due to the presence of zinc and calcium in them.

Caraway Seed Uses

There are several different ways to incorporate caraway seeds in your daily diet.

  • Use it as a flavoring in bread or cakes, or as a spice in vegetable and meat dishes.
  • It can also be sprinkled raw onto salads. As it is a pungent spice, so a little goes a long way.
  • Caraway tea is a popular medicinal method, as is using caraway as a warm wrap or poultice directly on the skin or site of pain/inflammation.
  • You may also see caraway in natural toothpaste and mouth fresheners.
  • Lotions, perfumes, and soaps often use caraway as a fragrance, the essential oil of which is derived from the seeds.

Caraway Seeds vs Fennel Seeds vs Cumin

While all three of these spices may look similar, they have very different flavor profiles.

  • Caraway seeds are long and thin and taste heavily of anise, with a strong bite of pepper.
  • Fennel seeds are a bit smoother and less pungent than caraway. However, they are similar in flavor to anise.
  • Cumin seeds are lighter in color and slightly larger than both caraway and fennel. They have a strong, warm flavor, with a little more heat.

Side Effects

Caraway seeds have side effects that include the following:

  • While caraway typically relieves heartburn, in some people it may actually cause heartburn.
  • An excess dose may cause bleeding or premature delivery/miscarriage. So women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use caraway seeds medicinally
  • Excess intake may also cause liver damage.
  • Stop taking caraway seeds at least two weeks before scheduled surgery, due to its effect on blood pressure and its function as a blood thinner.
About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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