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Caraway is a unique spice long used in cooking and herbal medicine (1).

Although frequently mistaken for a seed, this small, brown pod is really the dried fruit of the caraway plant (Carum carvi L.) (2).

Its slightly bitter, earthy flavor is reminiscent of licorice, coriander, anise, and fennel. It can be used whole or ground in both sweet and savory dishes, such as breads, pastries, curries, and stews. It’s sometimes infused into spirits and liqueurs as well.

When used medicinally, caraway can be made into a tea or taken as a supplement. You can also apply its essential oils to your skin (2).

In fact, emerging research suggests that the aromatic compounds responsible for its distinct taste may also provide health benefits, such as improved digestion (1).

This article explores caraway’s nutrients, benefits, and uses.

Caraway boasts a wide variety of essential nutrients, several of which are lacking in Western diets. These include iron, zinc, calcium, and fiber (3).

Just 1 tablespoon (6.7 grams) of caraway provides (4):

  • Calories: 22
  • Protein: 1.3 grams
  • Fat: 0.9 grams
  • Carbs: 3.34 grams
  • Fiber: 2.6 grams
  • Copper: 6.7% of the DV
  • Iron: 6.1% for women
  • Magnesium: 5.4% of the DV
  • Manganese: 4.8% for women
  • Calcium: 3.6% of the DV
  • Zinc: 4.6% for women

What’s more, caraway boasts a rich supply of health-promoting antioxidants, including limonene and carvone (5).

summary

Caraway is loaded with fiber and several important minerals, including iron, magnesium, copper, and calcium. It’s also a rich source of antioxidants.

Caraway has been used in traditional and folk medicine for centuries. Interestingly, preliminary research supports several of these benefits.

May reduce inflammation

Several caraway compounds demonstrate strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (2).

While inflammation is a natural bodily response, chronic inflammation can lead to various ailments, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Its symptoms may include ulcers, cramping, gas, diarrhea, bowel urgency, and irritation of digestive tissue.

In a study in mice with IBD, both caraway extract and essential oil reduced inflammation in colon tissue as effectively as common steroid-based drugs (6).

Despite these promising results, human research is needed.

May encourage healthy digestion

Caraway has historically been utilized to treat several digestive conditions, including indigestion and stomach ulcers.

A handful of small human studies show that caraway oil relaxes your digestive tract’s smooth muscle tissue, thus relieving indigestion symptoms like gas, cramping, and bloating (7, 8, 9).

Although the precise mechanism is unknown, its antimicrobial capacity may be responsible (1, 2).

One test-tube study revealed that caraway essential oil blocked the growth of harmful gut bacteria while leaving beneficial bacteria untouched. These good bacteria produce nutrients, reduce inflammation, improve digestion, and support your immune health (10, 11).

Another test-tube study found that caraway extract fought H. pylori, a bacterium known to cause stomach ulcers and digestive inflammation (12).

All the same, more studies are necessary.

May promote weight loss

Caraway may support weight loss and body composition.

In a 90-day study in 70 women, those who took 1 ounce (30 ml) of a 10% caraway oil solution daily experienced significantly greater reductions in weight, body mass index (BMI), and body fat percentage than those who received a placebo (13).

They also saw significant declines in total calorie and carb intake, compared with the placebo group.

Scientists speculate that these effects may be due to positive changes in gut bacteria that affect hormone regulation, fat metabolism, and appetite.

Keep in mind that research is ongoing.

Summary

Early research suggests that caraway may promote weight loss and help treat various inflammatory conditions and digestive disorders.

Caraway is cultivated around the world and relatively inexpensive. It’s readily available in most grocery stores, as well as online.

Culinary applications

Caraway is best known as an ingredient in rye and soda bread, but it can likewise be used in other baked goods, such as muffins, cookies, croutons, dinner rolls, and French toast.

It adds a peppery, warm bite to fruit-based desserts and sweets like pies, tarts, jams, jellies, and custards.

It can also be used in savory foods, such as dry rubs, curries, casseroles, soups, stews, and sauces. What’s more, you can try it as a seasoning for roasted vegetables or add it to pickled or fermented foods like sauerkraut.

Alternatively, steep caraway in hot water to make a soothing tea.

Supplemental dosage and possible side effects

Caraway comes in various forms, including the whole fruit (or seed), capsules, essential oils, and extracts.

Most types are ingested, but oil formulations diluted to 2% can be safely applied to unbroken skin (2).

No clear dosage recommendation has been established, but some research suggests that 1/2 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon (1–6.7 grams) of whole caraway divided into 3 daily doses is likely safe and effective (2).

Most healthy people tolerate caraway well, and few side effects have been reported. However, due to insufficient safety research, it shouldn’t be consumed by children or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding (2).

Plus, anyone with liver or gallbladder dysfunction should avoid caraway, as some evidence suggests that it can inhibit gallbladder emptying (2).

If you’re unsure whether caraway is safe for you, consult your healthcare provider.

summary

Caraway can be added to countless sweet and savory dishes, as well as taken as a supplement.

Caraway is a multifaceted spice with numerous culinary and medicinal applications.

Although widely considered a seed, it comes from the fruit of the caraway plant and boasts several minerals and plant compounds. In fact, it may aid weight loss, relieve inflammation, and promote digestive health.

This versatile ingredient can be used whole or ground to flavor desserts, sauces, breads, and baked goods.

Although it’s generally very safe, children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people with liver or gallbladder disease should not use caraway. Talk to a medical practitioner if you have any reservations about adding it to your routine.