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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Drugs Containing Volatile Oils

Caraway consists of the dried ripe fruits of Carum carvi Linn., belonging to family Umbelliferae.






Caraway fruits, Fructus carvi, Carum, Caraway Seed.


Biological Source


Caraway consists of the dried ripe fruits of Carum carvi Linn., belonging to family Umbelliferae.


Geographical Source


It is cultivated widely in northern and central parts of Europe, Turkey in Asia, India, and North Africa. It is also available in Canada, the United States, Morocco, Germany, Russia, Norway, and Sweden.       




The use of caraway is well-known in classic days and it is believed that its use originated with the ancient Arabs, the ancient Arabs called the ‘seeds’ Karawya and so the origin of our word Caraway and the Latin name Cam, According to Pliny the name Carvi was derived from Caria, in Asia Minor, where according to him the plant was originally found. In old Spanish the name of caraway occurs as Alcaravea. The use of caraway was also quite popular during the Middle Ages and in Shakespeare’s times.




The plant is an erect biennial herb. It prefers loamy soil. About five seeds are sown in March or April in drills, 1 ft apart. The plants when strong enough are thinned out to about 8 inches in the rows. Proper manure and weeding is done. When the oldest fruits are mature and ripe, the plant is cut and the Caraways are separated by thrashing. They are then dried either on trays in the sun or by very gentle heat over a stove with occasional shaking.




The fruits which are incorrectly called seeds are laterally compressed, translucent, slightly curved and somewhat horny in nature. They are yellowish brown in colour with five distinct ridges. The fruits are of 4 to 7 mm long, 1 mm broad, and thick. They evolve a pleasant, aromatic odour when bruised and have an agreeable taste.


                   Carum carvi



Dorsal region consist of four vittae and the commissural surface has two vittae and a carpophore. The epicarp has polygonal tubular cells along with few stomata which are covered with cuticle. The mesocarp consists of rounded parenchyma cells, with scattered sclereids. The endocarp has elongated sub-rectangular cells, whereas the endospermis is made of thick-walled cellulosic parenchyma cells consisting of oil globules, calcium oxalate crystals, and aleurone grains.

                         Schematic diagram of T.S.


   Transverse section of Caraway fruit (mericarp)

Chemical Constituents


Caraway grown in more northerly altitudes are richer in essential oil than that grown in southern regions and similarly if caraway is grown in full sun a greater percentage and richer oil is obtained. It has 4–7% volatile oil which consists of about 60% carvone alone with dihydrocarvone, carveol, carvacrol, and terpene limonene. The chief constituent of the oil is a hydrocarbon termed carvene and an oxygenated oil carvol.





Both fruit and oil possess aromatic, stimulant, flavouring agent and carminative. It is recommended in dyspepsia, as a tonic; as stomachic, for flatulent indigestion, as a excellent vehicle for children’s medicine and also as a spice.


Allied Drug


Cuminum cyminum is commonly used in many parts of country. The volatile oil content is only about 3 to 4%.


Marketed Products


It is one of the ingredients of the preparations known as Gripe water (Himalaya Drug Company) and Sage Baby oil (Sage Herbals).


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