The Essential Oil Of Caraway

The essential oil is obtained mainly of caraway fruits by steam or hydrodistillation. A good overlook about different distillation facilities is given by Lawrence (1995). The oil is colourless or slightly yellowish and toxic to humans even in relatively low amounts. Amounts of 4g can already cause health disturbances for adults (Catizone et al. 1986). Carvone may also cause allergic effects (Roth and Daunderer 1996).

Instead of distillation of the ripe whole caraway fruit, it is also possible to chaff the umbels directly from the field into a container which is afterwards directly connected on a distillation unit. The essential oil yield gained in such a way was in the experiments of Hannig et al. (1988) about 481/ha. The early harvest had no negative influence on the oil composition (60% carvone in biannual caraway). Average essential oil yield (assessed on laboratory scale by Dachler et al. (1995) in variety tests) was around 70kg/ha, with top yields of 160kg/ha. In the contrary to earlier reported carvone contents (e.g. Lawrence 1992) they observed only 30-48% carvone in the tested biannual varieties.

Bazata et al. (1984) found, that during the distillation process the relation of carvone and limonene changed. At the beginning of the distillation the essential oil had higher amounts of carvone whereas at the end limonene predominated. The reason is that carvone as oxygen containing compound is several times more soluble in water than limonene.

The essential oil can be used in the food and cosmetics industries and has to a certain extent an antimicrobial and antioxidative effect.

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