The range of Carum carvi is immense (from Northern Europe to the Mediterranean regions, Russia, Iran, Indonesia and North America). In numerous countries it is a very common species and, as a result, an integral part of their folk medicines. For example in Poland caraway is recommended as a remedy to cure indigestion, flatulence, lack of appetite, and as a galactagogue (Tyszynska-Kownacka and Starek 1988). In Russia it is also used to treat pneumonia (Czikow and Laptiew 1982). In Great Britain and the USA it is regarded a stomachic and carminative. On The Malay Peninsula caraway is one of the nine herbs ground together and made into a decoction to be drunk at intervals after confinement, and in Indonesia the leaves mixed with garlic and spat on the skin are recommended to treat inflamed eczema (Perry 1980). Some of the properties are supported by scientific research and observations and are the reason for using caraway in contemporary medicine.
11.3. CARUM CARVI IN CONTEMPORARY MEDICINE 11.3.1. Fruit of Caraway as Medicinal Resource
Nowadays, as it used to be in the Past, Carum carvi is mainly known as a spice and the source of essential oil for the cosmetic industry. The role it plays in herbal medicine is a little less important, but also significant. The caraway fruit (Fructus carvi) is mentioned by pharmacopoeias of numerous European countries, USA and others. It is most of all used as a component of herbal mixtures recommended as a digestive, carminative and galactagogue.
Fruits of caraway as a herbal material should have following appearance: yellow to greyish-brown achenes, 3-6mm long and ca. 1mm thick, of a slightly crescent-shape with both ends pointed and 5 lighter colour ridges.
Caraway fruit should smell aromaticly and be quite spicy in taste. Normally it contains 12-20% oil, ca. 20% protein, ca. 20% carbohydrates, flavonoids, minerals and finally about 6% of the most important constituent, which is responsible for the medicinal and aromatic properties—the essential oil.
Oleum carvi is obtained from fruits by the means of distillation with water vapour. It is a transparent liquid, colourless or sometimes light yellow, with a pleasant smell and spicy taste (Ruminska 1973). Its basic constituents are: carvone (50-65%), limonene (up to ca. 50%), dihydrocarveol, dihydrocarvone, sabinene, carveol, beta-pinene and other terpenes.
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