Fruits of caraway ingested orally produce an effect on the digestive tract, bile ducts, liver, and kidneys. They have spasmolytic properties towards the smooth muscles of the intestines, bile ducts and the sphincter regulating the flow of bile and pancreatic juices to the duodenum. They act as a cholagogue and increase the secretion of gastric juices, which results in appetite and digestion stimulation. Fructus carvi is a well known mild carminative helping to painlessly void the gas products of the metabolism. This is especially important for newborns and infants. Caraway has also mild diuretic properties.
In women during lactation caraway fruit favours milk secretion. Although the component acting as a galactagogue hasn't been identified, it is present in the whole plant; leaves, stems and even roots. The milk secreted by women regularly drinking caraway tea has a beneficial anti-gripping effect on the digestive tract of breast-fed babies.
El Shobaki et al. (1990) reported advantageous effects of caraway extract on intestinal iron absorption.
The isolated essential oil of Carum carvi is administered orally as a component of mixed drugs. Pure is recommended for external use. It exhibits antifungal activity (Guerin and Reveillere 1985), kills dermal parasites and shows good inhibitory properties against Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhi, Vibrio cholerae (Syed et al. 1987) and Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mishenkova et al. 1985).
There is increasing evidence that a lot of plant derived substances may play an important role in cancer prevention. For example organosulphur compounds consumed in cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli) significantly decrease the incidence of cancer in humans (Oszmianski and Lamer-Zarawska 1996). Cancer chemopreventive agents produced by plants were firstly discovered during an international screening programme (1956-1981) started by The National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, USA. Its aim was to discover the natural compounds exhibiting anticancer properties (Sadowska 1991). Belman (1983) and Wattenberg and Sparnins (1989) reported the cancer chemopreventive activity of essential oils and their monoterpene components. The essential oils from caraway and dill (Anethum graveolens L.) as potentially anticarcinogenic substances were investigated by a group of scientists from Minneapolis: Zheng, Kenney and Lam (1992). Both oils exhibited high biological activity. The cancer chemopreventive property of caraway oil is probably due to the induction of the detoxifying enzyme glutathione S-transferase (GST). Zheng et al. (1992) reported that carvone and limonene are the compounds responsible for the above mentioned property while carvone exhibited even higher activity as a GST inducer. In 1993 Higashimoto et al. reported potent antimutagenic activity of caraway extracts against N-methyl-N'-nitro-N-nitrosoguanidine induced cancers in experimental animals.
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