Monday, April 21, 2014
Parts Used: seeds, leaves, roots
Meridians/Organs affected: colon, lungs, stomach, female reproductive
Properties: carminative, aromatic, stomachic, emmenogogue, galactogogue, expectorant, general stimulant, diuretic, antispasmodic
Caraway is in the Carrot (Umbelliferae) family. It is a hardy biennial that gets up to two feet tall with dark green leaves that are deeply divided and resemble carrots. It has hollow stems and umbels of small white or pink flowers that appear in its second year followed by the seeds. It is a native of Europe and Asia although it has been naturalized in several countries, including the united states. The seeds are often confused with cumin although their tastes and uses cannot compare. This confusion still lasts today so when in doubt pay attention to the Latin names. Caraway reseeds itself fairly easily.
Caraway's history is one of humor and confusion. Caraway was known as an herb of 'retention' or staying power. It was often used for love potions and as a feed for homing fowl. It was also believed that if caraway seeds were placed on or in expensive items that a thief would be paralyzed until the owner could get home. (You simply can't make up this stuff!)
Fossilized seends have been found in Mesolithic sites and in Neolithic dwellings so it was used as far back as 8000 years ago. The Egyptians used it in cooking to make onions more digestible and in breads. They also used it in religious ceremonies. The Romans would eat the seeds to sweeten their breath after meals and in cakes to assist with digestion. Saint Hildegarde used it for gas, as a diuretic, stimulant, galactogogue, stomachic, and an emmenogogue. The seeds have been found to be useful in cases of pleurisy and bronchitis, and when chewed they help with flatulence, digestion, and intestinal griping (common when using laxatives). Caraway is great for colic as well and has been used for menstrual irregularity.
Caraway is one of the most used spices in Europe. It is used in pate's, cheeses, sausages, sauerkraut, rye and other breads, pork dishes, goulashes and casseroles. The Germans have a liqueur known as 'kummel' that is flavored with caraway (which brings us another tasty little bit of confusion as the finest of all kummels is called 'Creme de Cumin'-good luck figuring THAT one out...lol). The earliest caraway liqueur was made in 1575 in Amsterdam by Lucas Bols.
As it is a member of the carrot family, the parsnip-like root can be eaten like a vegetable. Parkinson actually said that the roots boiled and eaten can help a weak stomach, promote urine, and help with flatulence. The leaves can also be added to dishes to give them a caraway flavor.
Oil of caraway is used in soaps and perfumes. Caraway also has been used by midwives to increase the milk flow in nursing mothers. Caraway should not be used by pregnant women as it can stimulate menses.
As is customary with my posts you will find some links included here for your benefit. Use them as you deem necessary.