045. Carum carui. Common caraway.
Synonyma. Caruon, Pharm. Lond. & Edinb.
Carum seu Careum. Gerard Emac. p. 1034.
Caros. J. Bauh. iii. p. 69.
Cuminum pratense, Carui officinarum. Bauh. Pin. p. 158.
Carum vulgare. Park. Theat. p. 910. Camer. Epit. 516. Raii Hist, p. 446. Synop. p. 213. Morison Umbellifer. p. 24. Jacq. Flor. Aust. 393. Haller Stirp. Helv. N. 789. Withering. Bot. Arrang. p. 312.
Class Pentandria. Ord. Digynia. Lin. Gen. Plant. 365.
Ess. Gen. Ch. Fructus ovato-oblongus, striatus. Involucr. 1-phyllum. Petala carinata, inflexo-emarginata.
The root is biennial, long, thick, white, and has a sharp sweetish taste: [Parkinson says that these roots are better eating than parsneps.] the stalk is round, strong, channelled, branched, and rises to the height of two or three feet: the leaves are long, and subdivide into numerous pinnulae or segments, which are narrow, pointed, of a deep green colour, and have a sweet taste: [The leaves are said to afford an oil similar to that of the seeds,—Vide Lewis and others.] the flowers grow in terminal umbels, generally consisting of ten radii, and furnished with both a general and a partial involucrum, each of which, in the specimen we have figured, consisted of four or five narrow segments: the corolla is composed of five roundish blunt petals, which are white, and curled inwards at the extremities: the five filaments are slender, about the length of the petals, and crowned with small round antherae: the two styles are short, capillary, and furnished with simple stigmata: the seeds are two, naked, brown, bent, striated, and of an oblong shape.
This plant produces its flowers in May and June. It is a native of Britain, and grows in meadows and low grounds; but the seeds of the cultivated plant are said to be larger, more oily, and of a more agreeable flavour than those of the wild plant, which are hot and acrid.
Caraway seeds are well known to have a pleasant spicy smell, and a warm aromatic taste, and on this account are used for various oeconomical purposes. [Semina Carui satis communiter adhibentur ad condiendum panem. Rustici nostrates esitant jusculum e pane seminibus Carui & cerevisia coctum. Distillatores seminibus Carui utuntur in rectificatione spiritus frumenti, ut ille acuatur oleo stellatitio carui, utpote calefaciente, unde spiritus fortior apparet, &c.] "They give out the whole of their virtues, by moderate digestion, to rectified spirit. Watery infusions of these seeds are stronger in smell than the spirituous tincture, but weaker in taste: after repeated infusion, in fresh portions of water, they still give a considerable taste to spirit. In distillation, or evaporation, water elevates all the aromatic part of the Caraways: the remaining extract is almost insipid, and thus discovers, that in Caraways there is less, than in most of the other warm seeds of European growth, of a bitterish or ungrateful matter joined to the aromatic. Along with the aqueous fluid there arises in distillation a very considerable quantity, about one ounce from thirty, of essential oil; in taste hotter and more pungent than those obtained from most of our other warm seeds." [Beaume obtained from six pounds of unbruised caraway seeds four ounces of essential oil as colourless as water.]
The Caraway seeds are esteemed to be carminative, cordial, and stomachic, and recommended in dyspepsia, flatulencies, and other symptoms attending hysterical and hypochondrial disorders: they are also reported to be diuretic, and to promote the secretion of milk. They formerly entered many of the compositions in the Pharmacopoeias; but are now less frequently employed. An essential oil, and a distilled spirit, are directed to be prepared from them by the London College.