This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
The well-known aromatic Caraway Seeds of our household cakes, and of the confectioner's sugared comfits, depend for their cordial and comforting properties, (especially when bruised) on an essential oil which is fragrant, carminative, and spicy. Though originally the herb (Carum carui) inhabited Caria, a province of Asia Minor, it is now cultivated for commerce in England, particularly about Kent and Essex. What are known as Caraway Seeds are in reality the small dried fruit taken from the umbels. When rubbed in a mortar they give off an agreeable, strong-smelling sort of scent. Chemically, their volatile oil consists of "carvol," and a hydro-carbon, "carvene," which is a "camphor".
In Germany the peasants flavour their cheese, soups, and household bread with Caraway Seeds. Also in Germany, as well as in Russia, a favourite liqueur, Kummel, is prepared from the Caraway, whilst the seeds are given for hysterical affections, being finely powdered, and mixed with ginger and salt for being spread with butter on bread. The "powdered seed put into a poultice taketh away blacke and blew spots of blows, and bruises".
The oil, or seeds of Caraway do sharpen vision, and promote the secretion of breast-milk. Therefore dim-sighted men, and nursing mothers, may rejoice in eating seed-cake. This was formerly a standing institution at the feasts given by farmers to their labourers at the end of wheat sowing. Roasted apples are served at table in Trinity College, Cambridge, together with a small saucerful of Caraway seed.
For the flatulent gripings of infants a good Caraway julep may be made by infusing half an ounce of the bruised seeds for six hours in half a pint of cold water, covered over; then pour off the liquor, strained through muslin, and sweeten it to taste; from one to three teaspoonfuls may be given to a baby for a dose. As a draught for flatulent colic in the adult, twenty grains of the powdered seeds may be taken, with a lump of sugar, in a wine-glassful of hot water. But narcotic effects have been known to follow the chewing of Caraway Seeds in excess, such as two or three ounces at a time. In the north of England an oaten cake made with treacle, and Caraway Seeds, is commonly eaten at breakfast. A poultice of crushed Caraway Seeds steeped in hot water to the consistence of a pulp, and applied within muslin around a sprained joint, will afford speedy relief. The young roots of Caraway plants as cultivated in Kent, and Essex, may be sent to, table like parsnips; they warm and stimulate, and strengthen a cold languid stomach.