Ajwain (also known as mangrove seed or bishop’s weed), is a spice uncommon except in certain areas of Asia. It is a small, seed-like fruit of the bishop’s weed plant, (Trachyspermum ammi syn. Carum copticum), egg-shaped and gray in color. The plant is similar to parsley. Because of their seed-like appearance, the fruit pods are sometimes called ajwain seeds or bishop’s weed seeds.
Ajwain is often confused with the seed of love; Some dictionaries even mistakenly state that ajwain comes from the lovage plant. Ajwain is also called “owa” in Marathi, “vaamu” in Telugu, “omam” (ஓமம்) in Tamil, “ajwana” in Kannada, “ajmo” in Gujarati, “jowan” in Bengali, and “asamodagam” in the Singhalese language.
Flavour and aroma
Raw ajwain smells just like thyme because it also contains thymol, but it’s more aromatic and less flavorful, plus it’s slightly bitter and pungent. It tastes like thyme or caraway, only stronger. Even a small amount of raw dough will completely dominate the flavor of the dish.
In Indian cuisine, ajwain is almost never used, but is either dry roasted or fried in ghee or oil. This develops a more subtle and complex aroma, somewhat similar to caraway but “brighter”.
Among other things, it is used to make a type of paratha called “ajwain ka paratha”.
Ajwain grew up in the Middle East, probably in Egypt. It is now grown and used mainly in the Indian subcontinent, but also in Iran, Egypt and Afghanistan.
It is sometimes used as an ingredient in barberry, the favorite spice mixture in Eritrea and Ethiopia.
Carom seeds are the seeds of the herb Ajwain or Trachyspermum ammi. It is common in Indian cuisine.
Although referred to as “seeds,” the carom seed is the fruit of the Ajwain herb.
It is slightly green to brown in color and has a pungent and bitter taste. It is similar to cumin seeds, but its taste and aroma are closer to that of thyme.
They are often sold as whole seeds but can also be ground into a powder and used as a spice for cooking.
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The vine seeds are incredibly nutritious, they are rich in fiber, antioxidants, and other vitamins and minerals. Because of this, it has been associated with health benefits and has long been used in traditional Indian medicine practices.
Here are the top 6 health benefits and uses of carom seeds:
1. Has anti-inflammatory effects
Inflammation can be good or bad. Short-term inflammation is the body’s natural way of protecting against disease or injury.
On the other hand, chronic inflammation can have negative effects on your body and increase your risk of developing certain diseases.
Chromium seeds have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects and may reduce inflammation in your body.
A study in mice found that supplementation with pumpkin seeds had significant anti-inflammatory effects.
Similarly, a recent study found that mice induced with arthritis who were given carom seed extract for 21 days had improved markers of inflammation, such as decreased levels of elastase, an enzyme linked to inflammation.
While more research is needed, scientists have concluded that chromium seed extract may have potential as a treatment for inflammatory disease.
Some evidence suggests that carom seed extract may have anti-inflammatory properties. However, research is limited to animal studies.
2. May prevent coughing and improve airflow
Some evidence suggests that Ajwain may provide relief from coughing.
Although research is lacking, one study in guinea pigs found that carom seeds produced a greater antitussive effect than codeine, a common cough medicine.
Chromium seeds may also improve air flow to the lungs.
In a study in people with asthma, treatment with 0.057–0.113 ml per pound (0.125–0.25 ml per kilogram) of pumpkin seed extract increased airflow to the lungs 30–180 minutes after administration.
The effect was similar to that of theophylline, a common asthma medication.
Ultimately, more research is needed to better understand the effect of clove seeds on coughing and other respiratory symptoms in humans.
There is limited research suggesting that carom seeds may have anticoughing effects and could help increase airflow to the lungs.
3. Combats peptic ulcers and relieves indigestion
Chromium seeds are commonly used as a home remedy for digestive problems in Ayurvedic medicine.
Some studies show that carom seed extract may fight peptic ulcers, which are ulcers of the esophagus, stomach, or small intestine.
For example, a 2-week study in mice noted that treatment with carom seed extract improved stomach ulcers caused by ibuprofen.
The study found that the effect of the extract was similar to that of a common drug used to treat peptic ulcers.
Chromium seed extract may also help prevent and treat gas and chronic indigestion. Indigestion is classified as persistent pain and discomfort in the upper part of the stomach. Delayed gastric emptying is one of the common causes of indigestion.
Interestingly, seasoning with mangroves seeds has been shown to speed up the process of food passing through the stomach in mice, which may help improve indigestion. However, this has not been proven in human studies.
There is some evidence that carom seeds may help fight peptic ulcers and improve indigestion, but research is limited to animal studies.
4. May lower blood pressure
High blood pressure is a common condition that increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Conventional treatment includes the use of medications such as calcium channel blockers. These blockers prevent calcium from entering your heart cells and relax and widen your blood vessels, which leads to lower blood pressure.
Some research suggests that thymol – one of the main components of carom seeds – may have calcium channel blocking effects and may help lower blood pressure levels.
For example, studies have shown that clove seed extract reduces blood pressure levels in rats.
However, research on the effectiveness of clove seeds in lowering blood pressure levels is still limited. More studies are needed to understand how the seeds affect blood pressure in humans.
Ajwain may act as a calcium-channel blocker and help lower blood pressure levels, though current research is limited to animal studies.
5. Improves cholesterol levels
Animal research suggests that chromium seeds may lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. High levels of cholesterol and triglycerides are risk factors for heart disease.
In one study in rabbits, carom seed powder reduced total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
Similarly, a study in rats found that Ajwain extract was effective in lowering total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL levels of (bad) cholesterol while increasing levels of heart-protective HDL (good) cholesterol.
However, in both studies, carom seed powder was only shown to be effective in treating high cholesterol levels when used in high doses you wouldn’t get from eating the seeds through a normal diet.
More studies are needed to evaluate how the seeds affect cholesterol levels in humans.
Animal studies show that carom seed powder and extract in high doses may reduce elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels — both of which are risk factors for heart disease.
6. Fight bacteria and fungi
Chromium seeds have powerful anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
This is likely attributed to two of its active compounds, thymol and carvacrol, which have been shown to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi.
Test-tube studies suggest that these compounds may fight potentially harmful bacteria such as Escherichia coli (E. coli), salmonella—which causes food poisoning and other health conditions.
One test-tube study noted that chromium seeds were more effective against multidrug-resistant strains of bacteria and fungi including Candida albicans, Candida cruci, and Streptococcus mutans than other solvents.
However, more research is needed to study how the seeds affect the growth of bacteria and fungi in humans.
Test-tube studies show that carom seeds and its compounds may inhibit the growth of certain strains of bacteria and fungi, including E. coli, Salmonella, and Candida albicans.
Is Ajwain safe?
For most people, carom seeds are safe to consume.
However, pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid it due to the potentially dangerous effects on the health of the fetus, including possible birth defects or even miscarriage.
If you are pregnant, it is important to consult your healthcare provider before taking carom seed in seed, extract, or powder form.
In addition, anecdotal reports of nausea have been noted after ingestion of high doses of Ajwain. For this reason, the seeds should be eaten in small quantities.
Carom seeds are safe to consume for the majority of people. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid taking carom seeds, as they have been shown to have toxic effects on fetuses.
The bottom line
Ajwain have long been used in traditional Indian cuisine and Ayurvedic medicine.
It has been shown to possess antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects and may be effective in treating peptic ulcers and reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
However, most of the evidence is from animal studies and test tube studies, and more research is needed to better understand the benefits of broccoli seeds on human health.
Carom seeds are considered safe for most people. However, the seeds are not safe for pregnant women as they have been linked to adverse effects on the fetus.
If you want to add carom seeds to your diet, you can find them in stores and online.