Caraway has a long history of use as a “carminative,” an herb said to relieve gas pain. Mentions of caraway for digestive problems can be found in Egyptian records, and the herb has been used in Europe for this purpose since at least the Middle Ages. The seeds, or their essential oil, are the part of the plant used medicinally

What is Caraway Used for Today?

Only double-blind, placebo-controlled studies can prove a treatment effective, and thus far such studies have not been performed on caraway alone. (For more information on why such studies are essential, see Why Does This Database Rely on Double-blind Studies?) However, a few double-blind studies have been reported on combination products containing caraway oil for the treatment of dyspepsia (non-specific stomach distress).

For example, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 39 people found that an enteric-coated peppermint oil and caraway oil combination taken three times daily by mouth for 4 weeks significantly reduced dyspepsia pain as compared to placebo.1 Of the treatment group, 63.2% of participants were pain-free after 4 weeks, compared to 25% of the placebo group. In other double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, a combination of caraway, bitter candytuft, feverfew, peppermint leaves, licorice root, and lemon balm also proved effective for dyspepsia.2,3

Double-blind comparative studies have also been reported. One such study of 118 people found that the combination of peppermint and caraway oil was about as effective as the standard drug cisapride (a drug used for dyspepsia that is no longer available).4 After 4 weeks, the herbal combination reduced dyspepsia pain by 69.7%, whereas the conventional treatment reduced pain by 70.2%. Finally, a preparation of peppermint, caraway, fennel, and wormwood oil was compared to the drug metoclopramide in a double-blind study enrolling 60 people.5 After 7 days, 43.3% of the treatment group was pain-free, compared to 13.3% of the metoclopramide group.

Far weaker evidence hints that caraway extracts may have anti-cancer,6 antibacterial,7,8 and antidiabetic9 actions. However, the evidence for these potential benefits is far too weak to rely on.

Caraway oil is said to be helpful for irritable bowel syndrome. Teas made from caraway are recommend for periodontal disease and canker sores. However, there is no meaningful supporting evidence for any of these uses.

Dosage

A typical dose of caraway is 0.05–0.2 ml of the essential oil taken three times daily.

Safety Issues

Caraway is generally regarded as safe when used in recommended doses. However, essential oils can be toxic to very young children, and excessive doses could be dangerous for adults as well. Maximum safe dosages in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease have not been established.