Ajwain is a popular spice in India that is prized for it’s ability to not only add taste to breads and biscuits but also for it’s power to cure everyday ills. Many Indians are more likely to drink a little omam water (ajwain seeds steeped in warm water) than to pop an aspirin for a headache, take a cough syrup for a common cold, an antacid for heartburn or an antihistamine for allergies. This folk remedy of India has also now received scientific backing. Researchers have identified more than two dozen medicinally active compounds in these tiny crescent-shaped seeds. One of the active ingredients in Ajwain is as strong as morphine!
Ajwain for Natural Pain Relief
Ajwain contains thymol that can numb pain. This is evident when one chews on raw ajwain the mouth is filled with a hot and bitter flavour that is so intense that it can momentarily numb the tongue. Researchers in Iran where Ajwain is a folk remedy for headaches and arthritis, found that the pain-numbing power of ajwain is comparable to the effects of morphine as an analgesic (pain reliever).
Choline – The Secret Element
Omam water has been used as a cure for gastrointestinal ills for ages – relieving heartburn, relieving belching and bloating, reducing flatulence and stopping diarrhea. Ajwain can also be used to treat asthma, high blood pressure, coughing and bacterial infections. All of it’s healing effects are backed by research and scientific evidence.
Researchers gave a boiled extract of Ajwain to one group of asthmatics. Another group of asthmatics received theophylline, a bronchodilator that expands the airways. The researchers measured lung function every 30 minutes or so. Those who had the ajwain extract experienced improved breathing ability (by upto 32 %) which was similar to the drug.
High Blood Pressure
Ajwain had the same effect as the calcium channel blocker Verapamil (Calan) in decreasing the blood pressure of lab animals. The researchers stated that acetylcholine probably played an integral role in the blood-pressure-lowering effect of Ajwain.
Researchers in Iran discovered that ajwain is more efficacious than codeine in suppressing a cough in lab animals. The reason: The acetylcholine calms the contractions that results in coughing.
Researchers in India discovered that ajwain destroyed eight strains of infection-causing bacteria. And in a test of 54 herbs against drug-resistant Salmonella bacteria, ajwain was one of those that could kill the germs.
The Applications of Ajwain
Thymol, the essential oil of Ajwain is found in toothpaste and mouthwashes. Components of Ajwain are also used to maintain the shelf life of packaged foods and perfumes. Ajwain is used to perk up the flavours of dishes featuring root vegetables and legumes. In India it is mostly used in lentil preparations both for it’s taste and it’s ability to improve digestion and to prevent flatulence. Pakoras, samosas, papads and parathas all feature Ajwain as a flavouring spice.