By Dr. Bharat Vaidya B.A.M.S., M.D.

Owner and Founder of Ayurved Sadhana Vidyalaya
Photo Credit: Anupama Vaidya

Today we would like to bring the knowledge about the remarkably interesting plant which is used in Indian cuisine and in Ayurvedic traditional herbal preparations. When we used to get a stomach ache or gas trouble, my mother used to give us 1-part Ajma seeds with 2 parts of dry shredded coconut to eat. The stomach ache would vanish immediately. The coconut helps to reduce the sharp taste of Ajma seeds. Also, we use Ajma while making various dals, fish curries, snacks, rotis, pooris, biscuits, and other dishes to give the different aroma and taste at the same time to help in digestion. We also make fritters out of Ajma’s leaves using besan flour which is unique in taste. Ajwain seeds almost smell similar to thyme as they also contain thymol but they are more aromatic and less subtle in taste than Thyme.

Interesting Ethnobotany:

Ajwain has been used as an ayurvedic medicine since ancient times. Ajwain or Ajma is mentioned in Brahmanas as a wormicidal which means destroying the worms or micro-organisms (Krimighna). As per Europeans, this plant is originally from Greece. In Greece, people used Ajwain for food preparation including in Greek Curry. Another source mentions that Ajwain migrated from Egypt to Europe in 1549. In the UK, for first time, it was used as medicine in 1893 by Dr. Daule. Its oil is used in Cholera. Ajma is Antispasmodic, Stimulant, Tonic and Digestive (Waring-Bazar Medicine, 1894, Calcutta, India). In Hysteria, it is used as a muscle relaxant.  It is digestive. Ajwain water is known as Omam Water. (Home Department Correspondence, November 1880). Till 1950, it was used as the best wormicidal for animals in India and combined with animal fodder.

    • Name: Ajwain, Ajmoda, Ajma
    • Botanical Name: Trachyspermum ammi
    • Sanskrit: Ajmoda (it smells like a goat or goats like it), Yavani
    • Parts Used: Seeds and leaves

Ajwain is also known as Ajma or Carom Seed. Ajwain is very hot in nature.  The seeds are Kapha and Vata nashak (Destroys Kapha and Vata). Ajwain seeds have a bitter-pungent taste which is very unique. These properties make it useful in intestinal parasites and an overgrowth of microorganisms within the digestive system. Ajwain is commonly used in “Gripe Water” which is given to babies and children in cases of Colic. The seeds are a rich source of Thymol, which are employed for their positive antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, local anesthetic, and antifungal properties. Furthermore, the seeds are carminative, stimulant, antispasmodic; they are given in flatulence, dyspepsia, diarrhea, cholera, and hysteria. A teaspoon of the roasted seeds mixed with rock salt is a household remedy for indigestion. The seeds are efficacious in relaxed sore throat, bronchitis, and habitual drunkenness.

Some of the uses as per Ayurveda are as follows:
    1. Outside: Ajma is applied locally to body aches as Analgesic to relieve pain. The juice of Ajma leaves or oil is used in arthritis. It is useful in eye diseases, worms, vomiting and pain due to Vata.
    2. Digestive system: Ajma is a carminative (Relieving flatulence), appetizer, analgesic (Relieves pain) and anthelmintic (Antiparasitic). It is used in emesis or vomiting. Also, during elderly population, to control the air element (Vata), eat Ajma in any form – seeds, powder, or decoctions daily.
    3. Circulatory system: It acts as a cardiac stimulant in cardiac disorder. Ajma is a heart tonic when taken before going to bed daily.
    4. Respiratory system: Due to its Kaphaghna property (Kapha Reducer), it is used in cough (bronchitis), asthma, and hiccough in the powder form or in the form of smoke. Its smoke gives quick relief in cough, hiccough, and asthma.
    5. Nervous system: The decoction of Ajma roots nourishes the brain and gives strength to nerves but, it is contraindicated in epilepsy.
    6. Reproductive system: It is an uterine stimulant as well as an aphrodisiac. Therefore, it is used in amenorrhea (Absence of menstruation), dysmenorrhea (Painful menstrual periods) and infertility. Though friendly to females, it should not be given in pregnancy. This is one of the herbs of choice during the postpartum period.
Household and Ayurvedic Preparations:
    • Fumes of the Ajwain seeds inhaled carefully thrice daily for a month or two reduces the desire for alcohol and opium.
    • In case of migraines, roll some Ajwain seeds in a piece of tissue paper, light it and smoke like a cigarette.
    • It acts as an excellent nerve tonic. Sauté Ajwain seeds in cow’s ghee with the kernel of tamarind seeds in equal proportion. After the mixture turns golden brown, powder the mixture, and preserve in an airtight container. Take a teaspoonful of this powder with honey and milk before going to bed.
    • Ajma or Ajwain acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. Powder of the Ajwain seeds mixed with an egg white is applied over umbilical hernia in infants and children.
    • Fumigation of garlic skins with ajma on hot coals or burning wood is one of the oldest traditional methods used in postpartum.
    • In Piles, sugarcane juice, coriander powder and Ajwain mixed in equal parts should be given.
    • In Toothache, Ajwain and cardamom powder in equal parts should be kept under the tooth at night.
    • In hoarseness of voice (Swarbhanga) ghee made from goat’s milk and processed with alkaline and Ajwain is extremely useful.
    • Black sesame 2 parts and Ajwain 1 part roasted in sesame oil and eaten in the morning can help uterus to become strong.
    • After delivery for safeguard from diseases, Ajwain seeds 1 tablespoon 3 times in a day does wonders.
    • One of the other ways to consume the Ajwain seeds is to boil 2 cups of water with 2-3 teaspoons of Ajwain seeds. Once, water is boiled and the color of water is changed, turn off the flame. Strain the water and drink this throughout the day to detoxify your body and help increase the metabolism.
    • Half an hour before breakfast in the morning, chew 1 teaspoon of Ajwain seeds every day in the morning and drink the warm water to help your body release digestive juices to increase agni or digestive fire and to lose weight.
    • We always made a Kadha or hot decoction using Ajwain when anyone in the family had a cold and cough. Flu season is upon us and with Covid-19 and flu along with Fall season, it is a good idea to add Ajwain Kadha in your recipe list.
Please check out ‘Flu Season Remedy: Ajwain Kadha or Decoction” recipe here.

Pregnancy and heartburn, but intake of it in moderation for Vata problems in pregnancy is fine. It may worsen liver function in people with liver disease.

  • Charak Samhita
  • Harit Samhita
  • Sushrut Samhita

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