Indian kitchen would be incomplete without this wonder spice – Ajwain or Ajwan seeds. You would possibly use it more for medicinal purpose than for culinary use. In food it offers strong and pungent flavor and often added to make food easily digestible. Many preparations with lentils and legumes would have Carom seeds added. It has been long known as digestive tonic and reduces gastro-intestinal problems. Many Indians have habit of chewing fennel seeds along with carom seeds to aid digestion and serve as mouth fresher.
Ajwain seeds are believed to have originated in West Asia, from where its use has spread throughout Asia and parts of Europe. Ancient medicinal forms – Ayurved and Unanni – have treated this spice with respect and used them in treatment of wide range of diseases. Even references of medicinal use of this spice by ancient Greeks and Romans have been found. Traditional Chinese medicine have also used carom seeds for treatment of common disorders.
Trachyspermum ammi or Carum copticum, as named scientifically is popular by name Ajwain, Bishop’s weed or carom seeds. Locally this spice has various names Kummon/ Kamme Muluki, Ajwan, Kamun al-muluki, Taleb el koubs (in Arabic), ajvini / ajwan / adarjawan (Hindi), Omam or Asamtavoman (Tamil), vamu (telegu), Omum (Malayalam), Onva / ova (Marathi), oma (kannada), Yavan (Gujarati), dipyaka / yamanika (Sanskrit), ajowan / ammi eleve / carum / grand ammi (French), ajowan / ameo bastardo (Italian), ajave / ajowan / espuma del mar (Spanish), zhuijao de za cao (chinese) and jugyoui jabcho (Korean).
Ajwain plant is quite similar to parley and offers very strong aroma. Leaves are thick and when crushed over hand would leave odor of thymol. The fruit pods look like seed and are often confused with lovage seeds. The seeds are dark green or brown in color and similar but small compared to cumin or caraway seeds. The seeds can be eaten raw, but tastes really pungent and hot due to presence of thymol.
Nutritional value of Ajwain seeds
Ajwain seeds are possibly spice with highest concentration of thymol, an essential oil with strong and pungent aroma. Studies show that it carom seed also contains other phytochemicals like pinene, cymene, limonene, terpinene, steroptin, cumene, thymine and other aminoacids. It contains minor amount of minerals like calcium, iron and dietary fibers.
Health benefits of Ajwain Seeds
Health benefits of ajwain seed includes its ability to treat indigestion and related disorders, reduce flatulence, act as antibacterial, antiseptic, treat cholera, prevent kidney disorders, aid weight loss, reduce pimples and acne. These benefits can be attributed to biochemicals and Thymol essential oil present in Ajwain. Some benefits of ajwain seeds are discussed below:
Ajwain treats indigestion and related disorders
Modern lifestyles and dietary practices tend to increase flatulence in our digestive tracts. Three commonly used spices effective over flatulence are: Ajwain, Fennel seeds and Cumin seeds. In India, Ajwain seeds are used as a home remedy for indigestion. Ajwain stimulates appetite and enhances digestion. Regular chewing of Ajwain seeds provides relief from stomach upset and gas. Many Ayurvedic medicines use Ajwain seeds for curing indigestion and flatulence.
Powdered Omum seeds are soaked in milk and then filtered. This milk is fed to babies as carminative and treating common indigestion problem in babies.
Ajwain for hyperacidity and gastric ulcer
Ajwain seeds can aid in treating hyperacidity. However intake in high quantity can aid stimulate secretion of gastric juice. In a study, Ajwain water was found to treat hyperacidity, inhibit secretion of gastric acid and protect gastric ulcers in rats. Thus Ajwain water can be used in keeping check on acidity. Along with other herbs like caraway, licorice it has been used in treatment of gastric ulcers. Try this more remedy for hyperacidity and gastro esophageal reflux – Consume equal mixture of carom seeds and cumin seeds along with some dry ginger powder to treat indigestion and hyperacidity.
Ajwain as Antiseptic
Ajwain with high thymol content is used as an antiseptic. It is used for cleaning wounds and treating skin infections. Thymol in Ajwain seeds, is known as a strong germicide, anti-spasmodic and fungicide. Thymol was used as antiseptic in surgeries during world war. Decoctions of ajwain have been traditionally employed as disinfectant in treating mild skin injuries. Extracts of ajwain are used in medicated rinse as antibacterial agent. It offers antiseptic and astringent properties which are comparable to synthetic drugs. Ajwain leaves can be crushed and applied on infections.
Antimicrobial property of Ajwain
In a study of 54 plants which bears medicinal importance in Ayurveda, Ajwain plant was one of them. The study pointed out to significant antibacterial properties of ajwain seeds. Ajwain essential oil can be used in food industry as preservative and protecting against growth of fungus, as pointed out by this study. Another compound with potential medicinal and antibacterial property – thymoquinine has been isolated from ajwain seeds. Similarly ajwain essential oil was found to inhibit growth of fungus Candida in lab studies.
Ajwain seeds increases immunity. Ajwain seeds are believed to have protective effect on body by increasing immunity. In Unani system, these seeds are considered to enhance body resistance to pathogens.
Ajwain for oral care
Oil of Ajwain is also used in toothpaste, while various mouth wash use ajwain seed extract for fighting oral bacterial and bad breath. Chewing ajwain seeds along with fennel seeds is good way of keeping bad breath away. In a lab study, extract of ajwain seed inhibited activity of Streptococcus mutans bacteria which are major cause of dental caries. The study attributed presence of naphthalene derivative responsible for such protective antibiofilm activity. Ajwain oil is proven to cure tooth pain. Along with equal parts of clove oil and water, it is used as home remedy to floss mouth and treat tooth ache, bad breath and tooth decay.
Ajwain helpful in muscle spasm
Ajowan has anti spasmodic properties, mainly due to presence of thymol, and is used for treating colic and griping pains, asthma, muscle spasms, cramps, rheumatism, arthritis and edema. The seeds are thought to relax the uterus and provide relief from menstrual cramps.
Analgesic properties of Ajwain
Ajwain seed are considered to reduce body pain. Traditionally, paste of ajwain seeds is applied over insect bite as natural pain killer. Various home remedies uses ajwain seed and ajwain seed oil to treat headache, ear ache and stomachache. Various Ayurvedic formulations available for pain of tooth or ear use ajwain seed oil. Ajwain is used as folk medicine for headache and join pain in Iran. As home remedy for pain, roast some ajwain seeds and apply to the painful area by placing them in cotton bag. Essential oil vapours reduces pain in the area.
Ajwain seed oil is effective in reducing inflammation and swelling. It is effective in treating arthritis. Massaging joints with carom seed oil is believed to provide relief in rheumatic pain. Scientific evidence of analgesic properties of Carom seeds indicates their pain relieving benefits comparable to small morphine dose.
Ajwain benefits over epilepsy
In Iran, Ajwain is considered to have medicinal properties in treating epilepsy and depression. Animal studies have confirmed such Anticonvulsant and depressant effects of Ajawin. Rats supplemented with ajwain seeds were able to handle drug induced convulsions and seizures. With mild sedative effect, ajwain seeds contains ingredients which helps treat epilepsy and nervous depression.
Ajwain prevents cancer
Thymoquinone, has been isolated from ajwain seed which is considered to have anticancer properties. Lab studies showed that ajwain seeds were able to inhibit growth of breast cancer cells without affecting growth of other body cells. Further studies are required to establish any such anti-cancer claims of ajwain seeds.
Ajwain for kidney & liver disorders
Ayurveda have been using Ajwain seed and ajwain seed oil in treating liver and kidney disorders. Regular chewing of ajwain seeds is helpful in treating alcoholism and preventing carvings for alcohol. While some believe carom seeds can cure kidney stones, no such scientific evidence is established yet. Lab studies have pointed to antioxidant and liver protective function of ajwain seed oil. Ajwain seed oil protected rats treated with chemicals which damage liver.
Benefits for hair and skin
Ajwain seed oil with antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory property are useful in treating skin infection and infection of scalp. It is effective in treating lice, dandruff and psoriasis. It can be used in reducing skin inflammation and treat eczema. This oil can be used as after shave oil. Ajwain seed oil is used in treating wounds and prevents infection.
Ajwain seed paste is often used in treating pimples, acne and insect bite. This paste is effective in relieving pain including headache. Ajwain water can be used as homemade shampoo for washing hair and treating dandruff and lice. Try these home remedy for your skin and hair
- Ajwain seed powder should be mixed with yoghurt and left overnight. Apply this pate to your face and allow it to remain for an hour. Wash with lukewarm water to find light acne free face.
- Ajwain seed powder along with honey and lemon juice makes great facial scrub.
- Make a paste of 2-3 curry leaves, 3-4 dried grapes, 1/4 tsp of carom seeds and 1 tsp of honey. Consume this daily to stop problem of grey hair.
Ajwain for respiratory disorders
Ajwain is traditionally used for treating respiratory infections, asthma. People suffering from asthama are asked to chew Ajowan regularly followed by drinking warm water early in the morning. Scientific studies have pointed out to its benefits over asthma and dyspnea. Carom seeds inhibit histamine receptors in respiratory tract and provide relief from allergic cough. Some home remedy for respiratory disorder –
- Cold – Roast ajwain seeds and inhale the fumes coming out. It helps in relieving nasal congestion.
- Homemade nasal inhaler – Heat some ajwain seeds. Make a bulb filled with ajwain seeds in your handkerchief. Rub this against your palm and press against your nostril. Essential oils released due to friction aids relive nasal congestion.
- Asthma – Consume ajwain seeds along with jaggery to treat bronchitis and asthma.
Weight loss due to Ajwain
When you search health benefits of Ajwain on internet, you would also find benefits of ajwain for weight loss. However, Ajwain has nothing to do with weight loss. It just aids in digestion and helps to relieve from stomach upset or indigestion.
Ajwain during menstruation
Carom seeds are helpful in reducing muscle cramps and indigestion common before menstruation. Ajwain seed oil can be helpful to relax and reduce cramps. As home remedy for menstrual cramps or excessive menses, ajwain water with seeds soaked over night should be drank.
Home remedies with Ajwain
Some of these home remedies have been used traditionally and do not have much scientific backing.
Headache – Paste made by grinding ajwain seeds with some water should be applied to forehead to relieve recurring headache and migrane.
Post natal care – Ajwain water made by boiling ajwain in water should be given to nursing mother as it helps lactation and cleansing body.
Infertility – Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurved believe in aphrodisiac properties of ajwain seed. It is believed to enhance fertility and treat sexual disability problems. As home remedy for premature ejaculation and low sperm count, a teaspoon of paste made by grinding roasted ajwain seeds, tamarind kernels and ghee (clarified butter) is consumed with milk at night.
Cholera – 1-3 drops of Ajwain oil is useful in cholera, diarrhoea. Water boiled with Ajwain seeds is given to check vomiting in early stages of cholera.
Pimples – Paste ajwain seed powder and yogurt/honey is effective over pimples and acne.
Ear ache – Heat garlic and carom seed in proportion 1:2 in coconut or sesame oil. Heat till oil is reddish in color. Allow this oil to cool and add couple of drops of oil in ear to treat earache. Alternately one can apply 1-2 drops of ajwain oil in ear to treat ear pain. Ajwain seed oil is traditionally used in treating deafness.
Body Aches – Body should be massaged with mixture of ajwain oil and coconut oil.
Bed wetting – Make powder of sesame seeds and carom seeds in proportion 2:1. Mix this with equal quantity of jaggery. A teaspoon of this mixture can prevent bedwetting problems in children.
Cough syrup – Mix ajwain seed powder, licorice powder and dried ginger power in equal proportion. Add same amount of honey. The paste can be consumed to relieve cough, sore throat and nasal allergies.
Mosquitos – Mix carom seed powder with mustard oil. Mosquito repellant cardboard sticks can be made by dipping long cardboard pieces in this oil and be kept in corners of room.
Appetizer – Make powder by grinding equal quantities carom seed, fennel seed, dried ginger and black cumin seed. A teaspoon of this powder mixed with clarified butter or ghee should be consumed with cooked rice to increase appetite.
Side effects of carom seeds
Over consumption of carom seeds may lead to nausea, vomiting or gastric ulcers. The seed are small enough to lock inside dental cavities and its quite irritating removing them.
How to make Ajwain water or Omum water?
Add 5 teaspoon of ajwain seed per liter of water. Heat the water at low flame, let it simmer for few minutes. You would find water turning golden brown in colour. Stain the water to remove the seeds. Do not throw away the stained seeds. You may wish to dry them and eat them later or use it as manure for your garden plants. You may add some lemon or organic honey for flavor and natural taste. This herbal ajwain water can be drank cold or warm.
Benefits of Ajwain Water
Drinking ajwain water or omum water is a good for healthy digestion and keeping away bloating, flatulence. Ajwain water is especially useful for nursing mother or women recovering after pregnancy. It is natural tonic and stimulates secretion of digestive juices. It also promotes lactation in nursing mothers. Often for breastfeeding mother, benefits of foo are passed on to their feeding infant. Drinking of ajwain water also helps prevent bloating, gas or stomach aches in infants. In India, diluted ajwain water is fed to small children for its health benefits. It is believed that drinking ajwain water also helps cleanse uterus. Ajwain water is also useful in case of dysentery, cholera or nausea.
Another way to enjoy benefits of ajwain water is to just add some seeds to your daily water, without heating or straining. No problem if you find some seeds in your mouth while drinking.
Best way to eat Ajwain Seeds
Best way to eat Ajwain is directly chewing. While chewing, saliva mixes with Ajwain, which together helps in healthy digestion. However, people often complain that ajwain seed sticks in between their teeth or the seeds are too hot for them. In such case one can try out Ajwain Water. Ajwain tea is form of herbal tea which is popular as well. Ajwain monofloral honey is also available in market, which has thymol content.
How to make Ajwain Tea?
There are several variants of making Ajwain herbal tea. One basic way is heating great ayurvedic herbs in water.
- Add ajwain seeds, holy basil or tulsi, some turmeric powder,fennel seeds and cardamom to water. Heat the water till the water reduces to half. Strain water to remove herbs. Drink this herbal tea when warm.
- If you are tea fan, just add some cardamom and ajwain seeds while making tea. Ajwain offers some bitter and hot flavour to tea, but is good on cold and cough.
Culinary uses of Ajwain seeds
Dried ajwain seeds, whole or in powdered form are often used in various recipes. It offers flavor to some of the bland food. It is used with protein rich food to improve its digestibility. Try out some ajwain parathas or baked ajwain crackers at your home. It can offer alternate flavor or hotness to pepper.