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Caraway soothes stomach cramps

Caraway belongs on your spice shelf, but also in your medicine cupboard. The workgroup "Development History of the Study of Medicinal Plants" (Studienkreis Entwicklungsgeschichte der Arzneipflanzenkunde) at the University of Würzburg has chosen caraway as the medicinal plant of the year 2016. Caraway is used in naturopathy to treat digestive problems and bloating. It promotes the secretion of gastric juices, and the blood supply to the mucous membranes of the digestive tract. Above all, caraway relieves cramp and colic and also acts as a disinfectant. Caraway oil is recommended for irritable bowel syndrome. It is applied externally to relieve wind in infants and small children. Pure caraway oil is steam distilled from dried caraway seeds; the clear colourless to yellow fluid contains 60 percent carvone, which is the main active substance in caraway

Cooking with caraway

Caraway seed tea is milder, but less potent. To make it yourself, crush one or two teaspoons of caraway seeds lightly in a mortar to release the essential oils. Pour over a cup of very hot water, cover and let it stand for about ten minutes. Strain and drink.

Caraway is widely used in cooking, although not everyone is a fan. Its slightly sweet, spicy flavour is reminiscent of aniseed. Caraway is popular as a flavouring for bread, sauerkraut, and potato and cabbage dishes. It's also thought to make them more digestible. Harzer cheese (a sour milk cheese) served with chopped onions and caraway seeds in a vinaigrette dressing is a classic regional dish around Frankfurt in Germany. It's called "Handkäs mit Musik" which translates as "hand cheese with music".

Botanical facts

Caraway (Carum carvi) is a biennial plant from the Umbellifer family. It grows wild in mild climates in Europe and Asia, but you are strongly advised not to pick from wild plants, because they are so hard to distinguish from other Umbellifers which are highly poisonous, such as fool's parsley and hemlock. Caraway is grown commercially in southern France, the Netherlands, England, central Germany, Sweden, Russia and Egypt. The only seeds of interest for medicinal purposes are those that contain essential oils.

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.aid.de