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Carom Flowers.jpg
Flowers of Trachyspermum ammi
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Apiales
Family: Apiaceae
Genus: Trachyspermum
Species: T. ammi
Binomial name
Trachyspermum ammi
  • Ammi copticum L.
  • Carum copticum (L.) Link
  • Trachyspermum copticum Link

Ajwain, ajowan (/ˈæəwɒn/)[3] Trachyspermum ammi, also known as Ajowan caraway, Oomam (ஓமம்) in Tamil [4] bishop's weed[5] or carom, is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. It originated in India. Both the leaves and the fruit (often mistakenly called seeds) of the plant are consumed by humans. The plant is also called bishop's weed, but this is a common name it shares with some other different plants. The "seed" (i.e., the fruit) is often confused with lovage "seed".[6]


Ajwain fruit (schizocarps)

The small fruits are pale brown schizocarps and have an oval shape, resembling caraway and cumin. It has a bitter and pungent taste, with a flavor similar to anise and oregano. They smell almost exactly like thyme because it also contains thymol, but is more aromatic and less subtle in taste, as well as slightly bitter and pungent. Even a small number of fruits tends to dominate the flavor of a dish.[6]

Cultivation and production[edit]

The plant is mainly cultivated in Iran and India.[6] Rajasthan produced about 55% of India's total output in 2006.[7]

Culinary uses[edit]

The fruits are rarely eaten raw; they are commonly dry-roasted or fried in ghee (clarified butter). This allows the spice to develop a more subtle and complex aroma. In Indian cuisine, it is often part of a chaunk, a mixture of spices fried in oil or butter, which is used to flavor lentil dishes. In Afghanistan, the fruits are sprinkled over bread and biscuits.[8]

Medicinal uses[edit]

Ajwain is used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine primarily for stomach disorders such as indigestion and flatulence.[6] In Tamil it is called Oomam (ஓமம்) and used in Siddha medicine as a cleanser, detox, and antacid.[citation needed] In general, the crushed fruits are applied externally as a poultice.[9]

Essential oil[edit]

Hydrodistillation of ajwain fruits yields an essential oil consisting primarily of thymol, gamma-terpinene and p-cymene as well as more than 20 trace compounds (predominately terpenoids).[10]


  1. ^ USDA GRIN entry
  2. ^ ITIS entry for Trachyspermum ammi
  3. ^ definition of ajowan in Oxford dictionary (British & World English)
  4. ^ "Trachyspermum ammi". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 14 December 2015. 
  5. ^ "Bishop's Weed". SPICES BOARD INDIA. Archived from the original on 14 October 1999. Retrieved 14 August 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d Aliza Green (January 2006). Field Guide to Herbs & Spices: How to Identify, Select, and Use Virtually Every Seasoning at the Market. Quirk Books. pp. 116–117. ISBN 978-1-59474-082-4. 
  7. ^ Rajasthan Gov, Commissionerate of Agriculture.
  8. ^ Alan Davidson (2014). The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford University Press. pp. 9–. ISBN 978-0-19-967733-7. 
  9. ^ Bairwa, Ranjan; Rajawat, BS; Sodha, RS (2012). "Trachyspermum ammi". Pharmacognosy Reviews. 6 (11): 56. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.95871. 
  10. ^ Singh, Gurdip; Maurya, Sumitra; Catalan, C.; de Lampasona, M. P. (June 2004). "Chemical Constituents, Antifungal and Antioxidative Effects of Ajwain Essential Oil and Its Acetone Extract". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 52 (11): 3292–3296. PMID 15161185. doi:10.1021/jf035211c. 

External links[edit]

  • Ajwain from The Encyclopedia of Spices
  • Ajwain page from Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages
  • Hawrelak, JA; Cattley, T; Myers, SP (2009). "Essential oils in the treatment of intestinal dysbiosis: A preliminary in vitro study". Alternative Medicine Review. 14 (4): 380–4. PMID 20030464. 

Further reading[edit]

Hill, Tony. (2004) "Ajwain" in The Contemporary Encyclopedia of Herbs and Spices: Seasonings for the Global Kitchen. Wiley. p. 21-23. ISBN 978-0-471-21423-6.