Caraway: Is It Good for You?

There’s a lot more to caraway seeds than their use as a spice. These seeds have been a part of European and Asian cuisine for hundreds of years. It’s often found in savory foods like cheese, meat dishes, and sauerkraut. However, it is also used in herbal medicine. 

Historically, caraway seeds have been used to treat everything from indigestion to bloating to gas. Today, science can support some of these claims, but not all.

Caraway seeds do have some health benefits, but it’s important to understand exactly what research supports before adding this spice to your diet in large amounts.

Nutrition Information

One teaspoon of caraway seeds (about 2 grams) contains:

  • Calories: 7
  • Protein: Less than 1 gram
  • Fat: Less than 1 gram
  • Carbohydrates: Less than 1 gram
  • Fiber: Less than 1 gram
  • Sugar: Less than 1 gram

Caraway is an excellent source of:

Caraway seeds are also a rich source of antioxidants. The spice contains a significant amount of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids that are linked to a reduction in dangerous free radicals. These molecules within your body are unpaired electrons that steal electrons from other cells and contribute to a number of diseases.

Getting enough of these antioxidants has been linked to a reduction in your risk of heart disease, atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in your arteries), and high blood pressure.

Potential Health Benefits of Caraway

Caraway is a rich source of vitamins and minerals. However, the same aspects that make caraway so potent can also create health complications for people with certain medical conditions.

For the moment, research has found a number of potential health benefits to consuming moderate amounts of caraway:

Lower Risk of Inflammation

One of the most interesting properties of caraway seeds is their potential to help reduce chronic inflammation. This type of inflammation is connected to an increased risk of many other chronic conditions, from heart disease to dementia to arthritis. Reducing inflammation can lower your risk of all of these conditions and more. 

According to some studies, caraway seeds and caraway oil may help reduce inflammation safely and without unpleasant side effects.

Continued

This anti-inflammatory effect was most closely studied in relation to irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, but it also showed benefits in other locations of the body as well.

Improved Digestion

Caraway seeds have been used to help reduce symptoms of dyspepsia (indigestion) for hundreds of years. Now, scientific studies are beginning to back up this folk remedy. Several studies have found that consuming caraway oil may help reduce uncomfortable symptoms in the digestive tract.

Caraway seeds and caraway oil may help reduce intestinal distress on its own or in combination with peppermint oil. This may be because the caraway oil relaxes the cramping muscles in your intestines. However, more research is needed to pinpoint the exact cause of the reduced discomfort. 

May Aid in Weight Maintenance

Some studies suggest that consuming caraway extract could help you maintain or reduce your weight more effectively. The study found that people with higher BMIs were able to reduce their weight without actively changing their diets and activity levels by taking a small dose of caraway extract daily. However, more studies need to be done to identify the cause of this effect.

Potential Risks of Caraway

Because caraway is so potent, you should consult with your physician before taking it as a supplement. Consider the following before adding significant amounts of caraway to your diet:

Hypoglycemia

Caraway seeds have been shown to lower blood sugar levels. Further research to understand the effects on humans is required. As a result, people with diabetes should be cautious when consuming caraway oil, caraway extract, or other large quantities of caraway.

This is because caraway seeds in large amounts may lower blood sugar levels too far, leading to hypoglycemia (abnormally low blood sugar levels). People with diabetes should consult with their physician if they are considering using caraway oil to help control their blood glucose levels. 

Pregnancy Concerns

Caraway has not been studied for effects on people who are pregnant. People who are pregnant should avoid eating caraway seeds in large quantities as a precaution until further studies are done. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on October 28, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

BMC Pharmacology And Toxicology: “Herb-drug interactions: the influence of essential oil of caraway (Carum carviL.) on the pharmacokinetics of paracetamol.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon.

Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: “Antiobesity effect of caraway extract on overweight and obese women: a randomized, triple-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.”

Food and Nutrition Research: “Carotenoids: potential allies of cardiovascular health?”

FoodData Central: “Spices, caraway seed.”

Gastroenterology: “Efficacy of Caraway Oil/L-Menthol Plus Usual Care vs Placebo Plus Usual Care, in Functional Dyspepsia Patients with Post-Prandial Distress (PDS) or Epigastric Pain (EPS) Syndromes: Results from a us RCT.”

Natural Products and Bioprospecting: “Caraway as Important Medicinal Plants in Management of Diseases.”

Saudi Medical Journal: “The effect of oral administration of Carum carvi on weight, serum glucose, and lipid profile in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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