Ajwain (Trachyspermum ammi) is a plant that produces small, seed-like fruits similar to caraway and cumin. It comes from the Apiaceae family, which is a group of plants that includes celery, caraway, coriander, fennel, parsley, and parsnips. It goes by many other names, including carom seed, bishop’s weed, and ajowan caraway.
Ajwain is common in Indian food. It has a strong, bitter taste with an aroma similar to thyme. The “seeds,” which are actually fruits, are typically dry-roasted or ground and used in spice mixtures. They are also used in Ayurvedic and Siddha medicine to help treat numerous issues. These are healing systems that involve the belief that your overall health and wellness depend on a balance between your body, mind, and spirit.
Ajwain seeds have a small amount of oil in them known as ajwain oil. The oil contains thymol, a phenol that gives the fruit its thyme-like smell. Thymol is commonly used to treat digestive problems. It also has antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Here are some of the health benefits that ajwain has to offer:
Active enzymes in ajwain improve the flow of stomach acids, which can help to relieve indigestion, bloating, and gas. The plant can also help to treat peptic ulcers as well as sores in the esophagus, stomach, and intestines.
Many of the essential oils in ajwain, most notably thymol and carvacrol, can help to fight the growth of bacteria and fungi. They may also help to fight bacteria like salmonella and E. coli, which can lead to food poisoning and other stomach issues.
Lower Blood Pressure
Research in rats indicates that thymol in ajwain might act to keep calcium from entering the blood vessels in your heart, helping to lower blood pressure.
Cough and Congestion Relief
Ajwain can provide relief from coughing as well as clear mucus from your nose, both of which make breathing easier. It may also help to widen the bronchial tubes, which can help those with asthma.
Due to the anti-inflammatory properties of thymol and other essential oils, ajwain can help to reduce pain associated with toothaches. Thymol may also help to improve your oral health by fighting bacteria and fungi in the mouth.
Arthritis Pain Relief
Ajwain can also help to soothe pain and swelling. Crushed fruit can be made into a paste and applied to the skin at the joints to treat arthritis pain. Alternatively, you can fill your tub with warm water and add a handful of seeds for a soothing bath.
Ajwain is rich in fiber and minerals, but since the typical serving size is low, you won’t likely get a lot of nutrition from eating them.
Nutrients per Serving
A single serving (one teaspoon) of ajwain contains:
- Calories: 5
- Protein: less than 1 gram
- Fat: less than 1 gram
- Carbohydrates: 1 gram
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Sugar: 0 grams
It also contains:
- Essential fatty acids
Things to Watch out For
Ajwain is a safe addition to most people’s diets, but it should be avoided by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Compounds in ajwain have been shown to potentially cause birth defects or miscarriage.
How to Prepare Ajwain
Ajwain is a common ingredient in Indian, Pakistani, and Middle Eastern dishes. It’s typically ground right before it’s used and added during the final stages of cooking.
You can find whole dried ajwain online, in spice shops, or in Indian or Middle Eastern food markets. You can use ajwain in many different ways, including:
- Making the Indian bread ajwain paratha
- Creating flavorful chicken, fish, bean, or lentil curries
- Flavoring meat, rice, soups, and sauces
- Mixing it with fenugreek, turmeric, and mustard seeds to create a pickling liquid
- Boiling it in water to create ajwain (oma) water to ease indigestion or help with weight loss