Carom seeds are the seeds of the ajwain herb or Trachyspermum ammi. They’re common in Indian cuisine.
Although referred to as “seeds,” carom seeds are the fruit of the ajwain herb.
They’re slightly green to brown and have a pungent, bitter taste. They look similar to cumin seeds, but their taste and aroma are closer to that of thyme.
They’re often sold as whole seeds but can be ground into a powder and used as a cooking spice.
Carom seeds are incredibly nutritious and are rich in fiber, antioxidants, and other vitamins and minerals. Because of this, they have been associated with health benefits and have long been used in traditional Indian medicine practices.
Here are the top 6 health benefits and uses of carom seeds.
1. Carom seeds can fight bacteria and fungi
Carom seeds have powerful antibacterial and antifungal 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 indicate that these compounds may combat potentially harmful bacteria like Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Salmonella — culprits of food poisoning and other health conditions.
One test-tube study observed that carom seeds were more effective against multidrug-resistant strains of bacteria and fungi including Candida albicans, Candida krusei, and Streptococcus mutans than other solvents.
However, further research is needed to examine how the seeds may affect the growth of bacteria and fungi in humans.
Summary: Test-tube studies show that carom seeds and their compounds may inhibit the growth of certain strains of bacteria and fungi, including E. coli, Salmonella, and Candida albicans.
2. Carom seeds improve cholesterol levels
Animal research indicates that carom seeds may lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. High cholesterol and triglyceride levels are risk factors for heart disease.
In one rabbit study, carom seed powder reduced total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
Similarly, a study in rats found that carom seed extract effectively lowered total cholesterol, triglyceride, and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels while also increasing heart-protective HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Still, in both studies, carom seed powder only proved effective at treating high cholesterol levels when used in high doses that you won’t get from eating the seeds through a normal diet.
More studies are needed to evaluate how the seeds may affect human cholesterol levels.
Summary: Animal studies show that high doses of carom seed powder and extract may reduce elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels — both risk factors for heart disease.
3. Carom seeds may lower blood pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common condition that increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Traditional treatment involves the use of medications like calcium-channel blockers. These blockers prevent calcium from entering the cells of your heart and relax and expand blood vessels, resulting in lower blood pressure.
Some research indicates that thymol — a major component of carom seeds — may have calcium-channel-blocking effects and could help lower blood pressure levels.
For instance, studies demonstrate that carom seed extract reduces blood pressure levels in rats.
However, research on carom seed’s effectiveness in lowering blood pressure levels is still limited. Further studies are needed to understand how the seeds may affect human blood pressure.
Summary: Carom seeds may act as a calcium-channel blocker and help lower blood pressure levels, though current research is limited to animal studies.
4. Carom seeds help with peptic ulcers and relieve indigestion
Carom seeds are commonly used as a household remedy for digestive issues in Ayurvedic medicine.
Suggested read: 10 proven health benefits of cardamom
Some studies show that carom seed extract may combat peptic ulcers, which are sores of the esophagus, stomach, or small intestine.
For example, a two-week rat study observed that treatment with carom seed extract improved stomach ulcers caused by ibuprofen.
The study found that the effect of the extract was comparable to that of a common medication used to treat peptic ulcers.
Carom seed extract may also help prevent and treat gas and chronic indigestion. Indigestion is categorized as persistent pain and discomfort in the upper part of your stomach. Delayed stomach emptying is one of the perceived causes of indigestion.
Interestingly, carom seed spice has been shown to accelerate the process of food passing through the stomach in rats, which may help improve indigestion. Still, this has not been proven in human studies.
Summary: There is some evidence that carom seeds may help fight peptic ulcers and improve indigestion, but research is limited to animal studies.
5. Carom seeds may prevent coughing and improve airflow
Some evidence suggests that carom seeds may provide relief from coughing.
Though research is scant, one study in guinea pigs found that carom seeds produced an anti-coughing effect greater than codeine, a common medication used to treat coughs.
Carom seeds may also improve airflow 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 kg) of carom seed extract body weight increased airflow to the lungs 30–180 minutes after administration.
The effect was comparable to that of theophylline, a common asthma medication.
More research is needed to better understand carom seeds’ effect on coughing and other respiratory symptoms in humans.
Summary: Limited research suggests that carom seeds may have anti-coughing effects and could help increase lung airflow.
6. Carom seeds have anti-inflammatory effects
Inflammation can be good or bad. Short-term inflammation is your body’s natural protection against illness or injury.
Suggested read: 7 health benefits and uses of anise seed
On the other hand, chronic inflammation can have negative effects on your body and increase your risk of certain diseases.
Carom seeds have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects and may reduce inflammation in your body.
A rat study found that supplementing with carom seed extract had significant anti-inflammatory effects.
Similarly, a recent study found that arthritis-induced rats given carom seed extract for 21 days had improved inflammatory markers, such as lowered elastase levels, an enzyme associated with inflammation.
While more research is needed, scientists concluded that carom seed extract might potentially treat inflammatory disease.
Summary: Some evidence suggests that carom seed extract may have anti-inflammatory properties. However, research is limited to animal studies.
Are carom seeds safe?
For most people, carom seeds are safe to consume.
Still, pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid them due to potentially dangerous fetal health effects, including birth defects or even miscarriages.
If you’re pregnant, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider before taking carom seeds in seed, extract, or powdered form.
Additionally, anecdotal reports of nausea after ingesting high doses of carom seeds have been noted. For this reason, the seeds should be eaten in small amounts.
Summary: Carom seeds are safe for most people to consume. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid taking carom seeds, as they have been shown to have toxic effects on fetuses.
Carom seeds have long been used in traditional Indian cuisine and Ayurvedic medicine.
They have been shown to possess antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects and may effectively treat peptic ulcers and reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Still, most evidence is from animal and test-tube studies, and further research is needed to better understand the benefits of carom seeds on human health.
Carom seeds are considered safe for most people. However, the seeds are unsafe for pregnant women as they have been associated with harmful effects on fetuses.