Black caraway (Kala Jeera) Information, Benefits and Uses

Black caraway (Siyah Zeera) are the seed obtained from the plant Carum bulbocastanum. They are dark in colour compared to cumin seeds and have astringent, and very bitter taste. These aromatic seeds are rich in essential oil and consumed like a condiment and medicine. They are widely used as a spice, for flavoring dishes.

Black caraway, is used in Ayurveda for many digestive disorders. It considered as a stimulant. It has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-spasmodic, carminative, and lactation stimulant properties. They are used in treating diarrhea, dyspepsia, fever, flatulence, stomachic, hemorrhoids and hiccoughs. Black caraway is especially useful in diabetes, as it not only controls the elevated blood sugar level but also reduces bad cholesterol. It protects against diseases of heart and brain.

Black Cumin medicinal uses
By Sanjay Acharya - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

General Information

Black Caraway is a perennial aromatic spice found in dry temperate regions of northwest Himalayas, alpine areas of Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir and Uttaranchal. The plant is branched, tuberous. Leaves 2–3 pinnate, finely dissected. Flowers white, borne on compound umbels. Fruit vicid, ridged, vittae 3– 5 mm long, brown to dark brown.

Difference between Kala Jeera and Kalonji

In Ayurveda, three types of cumin seeds are mentioned

1. Jeerak

2. Krishna Jeerak

3. Kaarvi (also known as Sthula Jiraka, Upakunchika, Sushavi).

Jeerak is seeds of plant Cuminum cyminum belonging to family Apiaceae. It is commonly known as Cumin, Jeera, Jeraka, Jira, Zeera, Zira or Safed Jeera. Cumin or Safed Jeera is antimicrobial, anti-diabetic, antiepileptic antifertility, anticancer, antioxidant and immunomodulatory due to the presence of various pharmacologically active substance. It contains 2.5 to 4.5% volatile oil, 10% fixed oil and proteins. Volatile oil mainly consists of 30 to 50% cuminaldehyde, small quantities of a-pinene, b-pinene, phellandrene, cuminic alcohol, hydrated cuminaldehyde and hydro cuminine.

As Krishna Jiraka, the seeds of two species are used, namely Carum bulbocastanum (Syn Bunium persicum) and Carum carvi.

Carum carvi and Carum bulbocastanum have similar properties and both are used as Krishna Jiraka in Ayurveda. They have similar medicinal uses. In India Carum carvi, cultivated as cold season crop in plains of India and as summer crop in hilly areas of Kashmir, Kumaon, Garhwal and Chamba is more commonly used as Kala jeera or Black Caraway.

Kaarvi, also known as Kalaunji, Mangaraila, Black Cumin (sometimes referred as Black caraway) are the seeds of Nigella sativa. In Bengali, it is known as Mota Kalajira and Kalajira.

Kala Zeera and Kalounji are structurally and botanically totally different from each other. But both are known as and available as Black Cumin.

Kalounji (Nigella sativa) belong to plant family Ranunculaceae (buttercup or crowfoot family) whereas Kala Jira belong to Apiaceae, the Parsely / Carrot family. Kala Zira (Carum bulbocastanum) are smaller than regular cumin but have similar appearance. Nigella seeds are black, flattened, funnel shaped and do not even look like cumin seeds.

Scientific Classification

The botanical name of is Carum bulbocastanum W. Koch.. It belongs to plant family Umbelliferae / Apiaceae (the Parsley family). Below is given taxonomical classification of plant.

  • Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
  • Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
  • Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
  • Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
  • Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
  • Subclass: Rosidae
  • Order: Apiales
  • Family: Apiaceae / Umbelliferae – Carrot family
  • Genus: Bunium L. – earth-nut
  • Species: Bunium bulbocastanum L. – earth-nut


  1. Bunium persicum (Boiss.) Fedts.
  2. Bulbocastanum linnaei Schur

Part(s) used for medicinal purpose: Seeds, fruits

Plant type: Herb

Distribution: Cultivated in the hills and plains of North India and in the hills of South India.

Habitat: Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Afghanistan, and Iran.

Propagation: By bulbs or seeds

Siyah Zeera Oil: The essential oil obtained from the seeds of Siyah Zeera is brown-black in colour and used as condiment.

Vernacular names / Synonyms

  1. Scientific name: Carum bulbocastanum
  2. Ayurvedic: Krishna jiraka, Kashmira jirak
  3. Unani: Jira Siyah, Kamoonarmani, Zeeraa Siyah, Kamoon, Kamoon-roomi
  4. Siddha: Shemai-shiragam, Pilappu-shiragam
  5. English: Black Caraway, Black cumin, Black jeera, Imperial cumin, Kashmiri jeera, Wild cumin
  6. Persia: Jira-shak
  7. Nepal: Himali jira, Kalo jira
  8. Pakistan: Kala Jira
  9. Iran: Zire Kermani

Constituents of Carum bulbocastanum

The seeds contain 40-60 percent volatile oil. The principal constituents of the essential oil are cuminaldehyde (45.4%) and p-cymene (35%). Carvone, limonene, a- pinene, ß-pinene, cymene and terpinene are the minor constituents. Flavonoids, mainly quercetin derivatives, polysaccharides and calcium oxalate are also present.

Important Medicinal Properties

Carum bulbocastanum is rich in medicinal properties. The understanding of these properties will help us to better utilize this herb. These also indicate the conditions in which we should avoid it.

Below is given medicinal properties along with the meaning.

  • Antispasmodic: Used to relieve spasm of involuntary muscle.
  • Antimicrobial: Active against microbes.
  • Carminative: Preventing the formation or causing the expulsion of flatulence.
  • Digestive: Digestant.
  • Expectorant: Promotes the secretion of sputum by the air passages, used to treat coughs.
  • Emmenagogue: Stimulates or increases menstrual flow.
  • Galactagogue: Promotes or increases the flow of a mother's milk.
  • Stomachic: Stimulates gastric activity.
  • Uterine disinfectant: Disinfects uterus.

Medicinal Uses of Siyah Zeera (Krishna Jirak / Kala Jira / Black Caraway)

Krishna Jirak or Zeera Siyah, like other cumin seeds are good for digestive system. They support digestion, give relief in flatulence, and indigestion. They removes toxins from uterus and given after delivery. They are used as a medicine in diarrhea, dyspepsia, fevers, inflammations, indigestion, cough, intestinal catarrh and all types of anorexia.

Black Caraway is effective in treatment of following ailments

  1. Appetite loss
  2. Bronchitis
  3. Cough
  4. Common cold
  5. Diabetes
  6. Fever
  7. Liver and gall bladder diseases
  8. Obesity
  9. Swelling of throat / mouth

Black caraway Health Benefits

  1. It stimulate appetite and digestion.
  2. It stimulates menstruation.
  3. It gives relief in gas.
  4. It reduces blood sugar level.
  5. It helps to reduce weight.
  6. It lowers bad cholesterol LDL.
  7. It is good for cardiovascular health.
  8. It pacifies Vata, Pitta, and Kapha Dosha.
  9. It is stomachic, carminative, and tonic.
  10. It soothes uterine muscles, alleviates menstrual cramps.
  11. It increases lactation.
  12. For indigestion and diarrhea, the seeds are crushed and taken with water.
  13. For Stomach ache and Gastric problem, powdered cumin seeds are taken with lemon juice.

Dosage of Siyah Zeera

The powder Kala Zeera can be taken in dose of 1-3 grams for obesity, digestive disorders, low appetite, respiratory ailments etc.

Contraindications, Interactions, Side-effects and Warnings

  1. Hazards and/or side effects not known for proper therapeutic dosages.
  2. Do not take in inflammation of the kidneys.
  3. It may reduce the effectiveness of allopathic hypertension medicine if taken in high amounts.
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