Ajwain is an annual herbaceous aromatic and medicinal plant. Ajwain has its main importance in north Indian and Arabic as well as in Central Asian regions, where the dried fruits, reminiscent of celery seeds, are valued as a spice and their antibacterial and fungicidal properties are used. The main component of the essential oils of the ajwain fruit is thymol, which, in addition to its considerable burning sharpness, is reminiscent of thyme in taste.
The small ellipsoidal fissure fruits, up to two millimeters in size, show conspicuous longitudinal ribs and are somewhat similar in appearance to celery seeds. The fruits contain an essential oil with a high proportion of thymol, which is characterized by its fungicidal and bactericidal effect and a pleasant taste at the same time.
Thymol is also used in western industrial societies as an additive in certain products such as mouthwashes and toothpaste and is usually produced synthetically for these purposes. Ajwain has been cultivated on a limited scale for several thousand years. Its origin is believed to be in the eastern Mediterranean, possibly also in ancient Egypt.
There, the essential oil was used for a long time to embalm mummies because of its fungicidal and bactericidal properties combined with a pleasant smell. Today the distribution area mainly includes northern Indian regions and Iran. Ajwain fruits are also found in Arab countries as a component of certain spice mixtures.
Ajwain fruits are valued for their essential ingredients, which largely consist of thymol.The ajwain fruits are often incorrectly referred to as seeds or even lovage fruits, although there is no relationship or relationship to lovage. Thymol is a monoterpene that is also found in thyme, oregano, and savory. Thymol has a strong disinfecting, fungicidal and bactericidal effect.
The chemical formula is C10H14O, which means that thymol consists exclusively of the elements carbon and hydrogen, which are practically everywhere on our planet, and a single oxygen atom. In Indian cuisine, ajwain is mainly sought after as a hot spice with a flavor similar to thyme, which is particularly suitable for seasoning starchy vegetables, potatoes and legumes.
Because the flavorings contained are more soluble in fat than in water, it is advisable to sear the ajwain fruits in oil or fat to dissolve the flavorings and allow them to pass into the oil. Because of its strong and dominant aroma and because of its sharpness, which can be softened by cooking, ajwain is rarely used as the sole condiment, but is usually used as part of standardized spice mixtures.
In mixtures such as Berbere or Chat Masala, which are particularly well known in India and Arab countries, ajwain is one of the most important ingredients. The spice mixture Berbere probably originally comes from Ethiopia and creates a connection between Indian and Arab preferences. Chat Masala is a purely Indian blend of spices that is mainly used to refine salads, desserts and various chutneys.
The spice mixture Panch Phoran is widely used in Bihar and Nepal. It is a variant of the Bengali five-spice mixture. The so-called “perfumed butter”, which is produced in India, deserves special mention. It is butter that is flavored with ajwain, giving it a special scent and flavor.
The ingredients of the dried ajwain fruits are not only characterized by their aroma and their burning sharp taste, but also have a strong disinfectant, antifungal and antibacterial effect. In Ayurvedic medicine, ajwain is used as a medicinal plant to relieve indigestion and to lower fever.
Obviously, the antibacterial and fungicidal properties of the ingredients favor the regeneration of a healthy intestinal flora after an infection with germs that have led to the digestive problems. According to Ayurveda instructions, a spoonful of ajwain fruit is chewed and then washed down with hot water after a few minutes. This has the advantage that the bactericidal and fungicidal effects of the ingredients can develop in the oral cavity.
The so-called Omam water is a remedy that is being propagated in India for colds, coughs, heartburn and headaches. It is distilled water in which ajwain fruits have been soaked and which is drunk in sips. The effect of Omam water can be increased if the ajwain fruits are roasted beforehand and then soaked.
In conventional medicine, thymol, the main active ingredient of the ajwain fruit, is used against inflammation and fungal infections of the skin and mucous membranes, but also for colds and bronchial catarrhs. Thymol is therefore a component of many cold remedies. It has proven to be particularly effective against infectious molds and yeasts.
For example, thymol is found as an active ingredient in vaginal capsules and in agents for the treatment of oral cavity fungus. When treating with thymol, it should be noted that too high a dose can cause headaches and vomiting. Because of its bactericidal and fungicidal effect and the pleasant thyme flavor, thymol is often added to mouthwashes and toothpastes. The thymol, however, mostly comes from industrial-synthetic production.