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Subheshaja (सुभेषज) – Ajwain or Oma Seeds

“Here, taste this, Preethi,” said Dr. Radha, thrusting a bowl into the teenager’s hands. 

“My favourite snack! Oh, this ‘sev’ is so yummy, Aunty!” exclaimed Preethi munching joyfully. 

“But it has a different flavour from what is available in the shop. There a slight pungent and kind of mildly bitter edge to the flavour. Why is that, Aunty? Have you added some extra ingredient?”

“Do you know that this type of sev is also called “Omapudi” Preethi? Because it contains ‘oma’ or “omam” as we South Indians say. People in North India know it as ajwain.”

“Oh! I didn’t know that it’s called ajwain. Is there an English name for it too?”

“Oh yes, the English name is carom seeds although botanically speaking, they are fruits and not seeds.”

“Ok, I’m sure there must be some health benefits of ajwain that you’re waiting to tell me about, Aunty,” laughed Preethi.

“Haha, yes, you know me too well, Preethi! Ajwain is rich in minerals and vitamins and a good source of fiber and antioxidants. The volatile oil in ajwain is rich in two compounds called thymol and carvacrol and laboratory studies have shown that these compounds have strong antibacterial effects.” (1)

“I remember that as a toddler, when my brother used to cry for no reason, my grandmother used to make a kashaya with ajwain and give him and he would soon stop crying. She used to say that he must have had a stomach ache that got relieved by drinking the kashaya.”

“Quite possible. Ayurveda uses ajwain as a digestive aid, to cure stomach problems and sometimes, the fruits may be crushed and applied externally too to give relief from abdominal colic. Research shows that extracts of ajwain help to reduce ulcers induced in laboratory animals. (2)

“What other benefits does ajwain have, Aunty?”

“Well, scientists are studying this herb in great detail in the laboratory and they have found promising results of ajwain in reducing the ‘bad’ cholesterol and total cholesterol and triglyceride level. It has also been shown to increase the levels of ‘good’ cholesterol.” (3)

“Another study has found evidence that the thymol extracted from ajwain can reduce the blood pressure in laboratory animals. This action is believed to be similar to that of drugs called calcium channel blockers that are prescribed to persons with high blood pressure.” (4)

“High blood pressure is called hypertension, right, Aunty?”

“Indeed, yes. And the medicines used to treat this condition are called anti-hypertensives. Different anti-hypertensive drugs act by different ways. I’ll tell you about calcium channel blockers which I just mentioned. When calcium ions enter the channels present in the cells of the arteries and the heart, they cause a very strong contraction of these organs which tends to increase the blood pressure. Drugs called calcium channel blockers block this entry of the calcium due to which these organs relax, and so, the blood pressure gets lowered. Now the ajwain study I mentioned has found that thymol in the seeds may have a similar action to calcium channel blockers and thus reduces blood pressure.”

“Wow! Ajwain really has so many benefits that I never knew about, Aunty! I think I’ll tell my dad to take more of it from now onwards.”

“Wait a minute, Preethi. While ajwain is safe for most people, some of them may develop nausea if they take high amounts. So be careful in what you’re advising. Also, ajwain is not recommended for pregnant women because it can have a negative impact on the growing foetus.”

References 

  1. Xu J, Zhou F, Ji BP, Pei RS, Xu N. The antibacterial mechanism of carvacrol and thymol against Escherichia coli. Lett Appl Microbiol. 2008 Sep; 47(3):174-9. Available online at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19552781/ 
  2. Ramaswamy S, Sengottuvelu S, Haja Sherief S, Jaikumar S, Saravanan R, Prasadkumar C and Sivakumar T. Gastroprotective activity of ethanolic extract of Trachyspermum ammi fruit. Int J Pharm Bio Sci. 2010 Jan; 1(1). Available online at: https://www.ijpbs.net/abstract.php?article=MTc1 
  3. Saleem, U., Riaz, S., Ahmad, B., & Saleem, M. (2017). Pharmacological Screening of Trachyspermum ammi for Antihyperlipidemic Activity in Triton X-100 Induced Hyperlipidemia Rat Model. Pharmacognosy research, 9(Suppl 1), S34–S40. Available online at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5757323/ 
  4. Aftab K, Atta-Ur-Rahman, Usmanghani K. Blood pressure lowering action of active principle from Trachyspermum ammi (L.) sprague. Phytomedicine. 1995 Jul;2(1):35-40. Available online at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23196098/ 
Anusuya Kashi

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