Related entry: Oleum Cari (U. S. P.)—Oil of Caraway
The fruit of Carum Carvi, Linné (U. S. P.) (Carum Carui, Linné).
COMMON NAMES: Caraway-seed, Caraway-fruit.
ILLUSTRATIONS: Bentley and Trimen, Med. Plants, 121; Köhler's Medizinal Pflanzen, Vol. I, Plate 91.
Botanical Source.—Carum Carvi (Carui) is a biennial plant, with a fusiform, fleshy root, and a stem about 2 feet high, erect, branched, leafy, angular, and furrowed. The lower leaves are nearly a span long, bright-green, petioled, doubly pinnate, with numerous opposite, finely-cut leaflets, of which the pairs next the midrib cross each other; those on the stem are much smaller, opposite, and very unequal. The umbels are numerous and erect. General bracts, if present, capillary, connected, when more than 1, by a membranous base. The flowers are numerous, white, or pale flesh-colored; marginal ones only perfect and prolific. Peduncles very small and convex. Calyx extremely minute; petals 5, obovate, inflexed. Stamens as long as the petals; anthers small, bilobed; ovary ovate. Fruit, or mericarps, narrow, bright-brown, elliptic-ovate, about 2 lines long, with pale, elevated, filiform ridges, and shining convex channels (L).
History.—Caraway is indigenous to Europe, growing in the meadows and on the mountains of the South of France, and flowering from April to July. It is cultivated and appears wild also in Iceland, Scandinavia, throughout Russia, in Siberia, Persia, and the Caucasus. It grows wild in the Himalayas, and a peculiar form, an annual, differing in many ways, yet belonging to this species, is cultivated near Morocco. Caraway is also cultivated in Great Britain, Germany, Holland, and the United States. Its seeds are completed in the second year of its growth, when they mature in the latter part of summer. They are procured by beating the plant, after it has been removed from its place of growth. They are termed mericarps.
Description and Chemical Composition.—"Oblong, laterally compressed, about 4 or 5 Mm. (1/6 to 1/5 inch) long, usually separated into the 2 mericarps, which are curved, narrower at both ends, brown, with 5 yellowish, filiform ribs, and with 6 oil tubes. Caraway has an agreeable odor, and a sweetish, spicy taste"—(U. S. P.). The virtues of caraway fruit are due to a volatile oil (see Oleum Carui), and. are readily yielded to alcohol or ether. The oil is at first pale, becomes darker by age, and has the peculiar fragrance and taste of the seed. The immature fruits are rich in tannin. Resin, wax, mucilage, sugar, and a greenish fixed oil, were shown by Trommsdorff to exist in the fruit.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Caraway is an aromatic carminative, used in flatulent colic, especially of children, and to improve the flavor of several medicinal compounds. The oil (Oleum Carui) is more generally used. The seeds are frequently added to cakes and confectionaries, to render them more agreeable, while, at the same time, they gently excite the digestive powers. Dose of the seeds, from 10 to 60 grains.