Ajwain, scientific name – Trachyspermum copticum, also known as bishop’s weed or carom seeds, is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae (Umbelliferae).
The Umbellifers, which has about 2,700 members, are small flowering shrubs (same as the members of parsley or carrot family) which also include wide category of herbs and spice plants such as fennel, parsley, dill, aniseed and caraway.
It is an annual herbal plant growing up to three feet in height. The seeds are olive green to brown in color, have similarity in appearance to cumin or caraway seeds marked with vertical stripes on their outer surface. Nevertheless, they can be easily distinguished from cumin and caraway by their tiny size and elliptical shape. Their flavor closely resembles to that of thyme since they comprise essential oil, thymol.
The plant is originated in the eastern Mediterranean, possibly Egypt, and spread up to India from the Near East. In present day, it is mainly cultivated in India and Iran.
The fruits are rarely eaten raw. They are commonly dry-roasted or fried in ghee, clarified butter. This allows the spice to develop a more subtle and complex aroma.
The seeds contain: dietary fiber (11.9%), carbohydrates (38.6%), tannins, glycosides, moisture (8.9%), protein (15.4%), fat (18.1%), saponins, flavone and mineral matter (7.1%) containing phosphorous, calcium, iron and nicotinic acid. Ajwain fruits yield 2 percent to 4 percent brownish essential oil, with thymol as the major constituent (35% to 60%).
Health benefits of ajwain (carom seeds)
Therapeutic uses of these seeds also include antiseptic, carminative, amoebiasis expectorant, antiparasitic, antimicrobial, antiplatelet-aggregatory and antilithiasis, as well as treating common cold and acute pharyngitis. Galactogogic and diuretic activities have also been observed.
Flu and colds – the seeds contain about 50 percent thymol, a well known and antibacterial essential oil and, along with thyme, it can be used to boost the immune system to ward off flu, colds and other viral infections. Thymol is also used in the treatment of gastro-intestinal ailments, lack of appetite and bronchial problems. In addition, it aids in releasing the mucus and phlegm from the nasal tracts.
Relief from flatulence, gas and bloating – in case of flatulence, Trachyspermum copticum and dried ginger in equal weight may be soaked in two and half times the quantity of lime juice. This mixture is then dried and powdered with a little black salt. A teaspoon taken with a little warm water works wonders. Additionally, it is very useful in alleviating spasmodic pains of the intestines and stomach in children as well as adults, and is a good anti-acidic agent.
Beneficial during pregnancy – due to its great curative and anti-inflammatory properties, it is great for lactating and pregnant mothers. The seeds also maintain proper health of the unborn child. But, it is advisable to consult a nutritionist in case of any side effects. Ajwain water is also considered to accelerate recovery after childbirth. After pregnancy, the plant is known to heal the woman’s body internally and helps maintain blood circulation. In some cases, the plant is also considered to improve breast milk production in lactating mothers.
Reduces weight – drink half glass of water with soaked carom seeds on an empty stomach. This will dissolve the fats. Consume 1 tsp of carom seeds on an empty stomach every morning. It helps to lose about 4 to 5 kg in a month.
Respiratory system – one of the therapeutic effects of Trachyspermum copticum is its effect on the respiratory system. It is used as anti-dyspnea and anti-asthma in traditional medicine. In this context, numerous analysis have been carried out including inhibitory and relaxant effects on histamine receptors, antitussive effect in guinea pigs, stimulatory effect on adrenoreceptors of guinea pigs’ tracheal smooth muscles, and its bronchodilatory effect on airways of asthmatic individuals.
Side effects of ajwain (carom seeds)
While bishop’s weed is safe for daily use when taken in moderate dosages, care should be taken when using it for long-term consumption, as it may cause photo-sensitivity in some individuals, particularly when taken regularly for prolonged periods of time. Moreover, this spice should also be avoided by individuals suffering from liver diseases, diverticulitis conditions and ulcerative colitis.
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