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Ajwain (Caraway)

Caraway is not the same as anise, cumin or fennel.

Meaning (Etymology):
The German term for caraway, Kümmel, derives from Latin cuminum for cumin and was misapplied to the plant popular in Germany. Latin cuminum leads, via Greek kyminon [κύμινον], further back to Semitic forms, e. g., Old Hebrew kammon [כמן].

Some names for caraway in tongues of Europe, especially Northern Europe (where caraway is particularly popular), also relate to Latin cuminum, e. g., Danish kommen, Latvian ķimenes, Estonian köömen, Polish kminek and Bulgarian kim [ким]. Some of these names were transmitted via the German name.

Similarly to Latin cuminum, Greek karon [κάρον] means cumin, not caraway. Its origin is not clear; it derives maybe from the name of a region in Asia Minor (Caria), but may well be a variant of Greek kyminon cumin or belong to the kin of coriander. The word was transferred to Latin as carum with the changed meaning caraway and thus gave rise to number of modern names of caraway, e. g., French carvi, Italian caro, Greek karvi [καρβί] and Norwegian karve.

The English term caraway also belongs to that series: It was probably mediated by Arabic (modern form al-karawya [الكراويا]) from Latin carum. Cf. the Iberic names Portuguese alcaravia and Spanish alcaravea and see also capers on the derivation of the prefix al-. (1)

Central Europe to Asia; it is not clear, however, whether caraway is truly indigenous to Europe. Today, it is chiefly cultivated in Finland, the Netherlands, Eastern Europe and Germany, furthermore North Africa, particularly Egypt.(2)

The botanical name of caraway is:
Carum carvi L.

Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Subclass: Rosidae
Order: Apiales
Family: Apiaceae – Carrot family
Genus: Carum L. – carum
Species: Carum carvi L. – caraway

Other names this herb may be known by are:
Bishop’s Weed (5)

Some of the main constituents (chemical composition) in ajwain are:
Thymol which acts as an antibacterial and antifungal. In addition, in smaller amounts the phyto-chemicals pinene, cymene, limonene and terpinene are present.

In depth scientific analysis:
The constituents of the seedof C. copticum included carbohydrates (38.6%), fat (18.1%), protein (15.4%), fiber (11.9%), tannins, glycosides, moisture (8.9%), saponins, flavone, and mineral matter (7.1%) containing calcium, phosphorous, iron, cobalt, copper, iodine, manganese, thiamine, riboflavin, and nicotinic acid [3, 9]. C. copticum grows in different areas of the world containing different compounds. Main components of the oil of Iranian and African C. copticum oil are carvacrol, γ-terpinene, and p-cymene while thymol (97.9%) is the main component of south Indian plant oil. It was also reported that thymol (45.9%), γ-terpinene (20.6%), and o-cymene (19%) are the major components of the oil of C. copticum but ethylene methacrylate (6.9%), β-pinene (1.9%), and hexadecane (1.1%) were the other constituents of the plant [10]. Thymol (72.3%), terpinolene (13.12%), and o-cymene (11.97%) were also identified as constituents of C. copticum. Chemical composition of C. copticum in two areas in Iran was assessed and results showed that the plant in Kamfiruz contains γ-terpinene (48.07%), p-cymene (33.73%), and thymol (17.41%) compared to the composition of plant in Eghlid area which included γ-terpinene (50.22%), p-cymene (31.90%), and nerolidol (4.26%) as main components.

Chemical constituents of the essential oilof C. copticum and its acetone extract were also examined by GC and GC-MS analysis. Results showed that 96.3% of the total amount of the essential oil contains 26 components including thymol (39.1%), p-cymene (30.8%), γ-terpinene (23.2%), β-pinene (1.7%), and terpinene-4-ol (0.8%) while 68.8% of the total amount of its acetone extract has thymol (39.1%), oleic acid (10.4%), linoleic acid (9.6%), γ-terpinene (2.6%), p-cymene (1.6%), palmitic acid (1.6%), and xylene (0.1%) [13]. Hydrodistillation and supercritical fluid (CO2) extraction (SFE) methods of the plant were also performed. In hydrodistilled oil, there were 8 components including thymol (49.0%), γ-terpinene (30.8%), p-cymene (15.7%), b-pinene (2.1%), myrcene (0.8%), and limonene (0.7%), but in SFE method with the best condition of temperature, pressure, and dynamic extraction time there were 3 components including γ-terpinene (14.2%), p-cymene (23.1%), and thymol (62.0%). (6) (7)

On a scale from very low to extremely high:
The measurement for caraway is very high. (8)

I insert the level of salicylate here due to the fact I have found this naturally occurring food constituent/food chemical triggers barbering, cutting, picking, plucking, and self-mutilation in birds who engage in feather destruction.

In clinical tests caraway indicates some benefit in both relaxing smooth muscles in the respiratory tract as well as stimulating the respiratory tract to expel mucosa. Caraway also shows promise in lowering blood pressure and lowering blood lipid and overall LDL cholesterol while raising overall HDL cholesterol. Clinical studies also indicate caraway contains properties preventing urinary stones. Caraway seed also shows some amount of anti-cancer benefit in low doses, but may antagonize liver damage in higher doses. In regards to parasite control caraway does seem to have an effect on reducing some parasites. Essential oil from caraway seed, specifically thymol seems to be effective in combating both gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria, but only in high doses is thymol highly effective on both bacteria and seems to be most effective on gram-positive bacteria. Caraway is effective in destroying both aspergillus and candida. Caraway also seems to soothe and sedate in terms of seizures. (9)

Main Preparation Method: Seed and essential oil. However the fruit is also used.


However, use of this herb does not come without considerations, warnings and extreme caution when utilizing it in connection with our companion birds.

Taking into account that exotic birds are small, delicate creatures with very efficient and uniquely designed digestive tracts we must remember to use diluted levels of all herbs, spices, and OTC remedies when treating or feeding our birds.

Caraway contains properties that reduce fertilization and may cause early abortion of female eggs.

Also, caraway may increase gastric acid which may not be positive when taken into consideration that an increase in this acid may actually increase food transit time. In birds who suffer malnutrition a quicker food transit time would not be advisable.

My suggestion when using caraway in your bird’s diet? Always use organic seed and rarely, if ever use essential oils.

Allow me to digress. When using essential oils consult with someone educated specifically for exotic birds in the use of EOs. Essential oils should never, never be used full strength when it comes to birds. Birds have extremely sensitive systems which rapidly absorb constituents from any substance they ingest or inhale. Furthermore, when it comes to diffusing essential oils for birds, their respiratory system is not like a human’s. They do not have diaphragms; their respiratory system is relatively dry compared to ours and cannot filter the oil droplets. They can literally suffocate from the oil in essential oils, not to mention the phenols in essential oils. Yes, people have been diffusing essential oils for birds for years and years, but do we really know what that is doing to their delicate respiratory system? No. My advice? Just don’t. When using EOs topically or internally please dilute EOs down to minute dilutions.

Now back to caraway for our birds. Considering all of the potential advantages, I would include caraway as a potential staple seed in my birds’ diets, but I would offer it as a sprouted seed to ensure maximum nutrition. I would only add about one half teaspoon per day per kg of body weight. That isn’t much when you consider most birds are well under a kg (2.2lbs). When you consider all of the other foods one feeds to their bird during the day, variety being the spice of life, this amount is plenty. In addition, understanding that a small amount of caraway may prove to be beneficial to the liver, but too much may actually have an adverse effect, and any cumulative amount may add to the adverse effect, maintaining a small amount in the diet is precautionary and wise.

The above said, we always must keep in mind the “stacking” of nutrients whenever we add any food source to our birds’ already existing diet. Bioaccumulation of nutrients can easily cause over-nutrition, or hypervitaminosis creating a cesspool of toxicity in our birds’ liver and kidneys. If an acute toxicity builds up, especially in kidneys or a liver that is already suffering damage, or organs that are diseased but have not yet been diagnosed our bird could easily land in our veterinarian’s ER or even worse succumb to death.

If you notice I have added in boldboth tannins and saponins in the above in depth analysis. I want to bring to your attention these two constituents. The stacking of tannins in our birds’ diets can potentially cause dietary anemia by blocking the absorption of iron and leaching out of Vitamin B12. Tannins act as a diuretic and B12 as a water soluble vitamin is easily lost through urine excretion. Many other water soluble vitamins many be lost in this manner too, but B12 is a difficult vitamin for our birds to obtain and maintain, other vitamins are much easier to come by. Saponins prevent the absorption of other nutrients from food that is ingested. When we feed several foods that may contain saponins our birds may not be properly absorbing the nutrients from those foods.

ORAC Values:
USDA’s statement regarding the ORAC value:
Personally I believe this statement is “bunk” and I believe the antioxidant properties in foods do matter.
And of course here the USDA is contradicting themselves only years earlier:
For this reason I will supply the ORAC value of each food, herb and spice when available.
ORAC value of caraway: Unknown.

Ref: (1); (2); (3); (4); (5); (6); (7); (8); (9); (10)

©4.19.16   Machelle Pacion   Passion Tree House LLC   All Rights Reserved

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