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Updated at 2021-01-30 07:27:51 UTC

Caraway: A Review of Its Anticancer Potentials

Caraway (Carum carvi), also known as “meridian fennel” or “Persian cumin,” is native to western Asia, Europe, and northern Africa. The principal agents in caraway oil are believed to be carvone or p-mentha-1,8-dien-2-one and limonene or p-mentha-1,8-diene, the precursors of carvone and anethofuran (Zheng, Kenney, and Lam 1992). Although caraway appears to be a potent antioxidant in vitro, it has not been adequately examined in humans. Recently, Kapoor et al. (2010) showed that caraway essential oil and oleoresins were progressively effectively with dose as antioxidants and more effective than commercial butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene. Caraway oil and its ethanol oleoresin showed better reductive power than the other oleoresins. The scavenging and reducing power against the diphenylpicrylhydrazyl (DPPH) radicals that caraway oil and oleoresins provide may be associated with their ability to donate hydrogen and the presence of reductones.


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Caraway (Carum carvi), also known as “meridian fennel” or “Persian cumin” 


Mazaki et al. (2006) examined the effect of caraway seed extract on mutagenesis induced by N-methyl- N-nitro-N′-nitrosoguanidine (MNNG) in S. typhimurium strains that are deficient in DNA MGMT. Their results indicated that caraway does not directly inactivate MNNG and O6-methylguanine-DNA MGMT may be involved in the response. Animal models have also been used to explore the anticancer potential of caraway in sites ranging from colon to skin cancers. Schwaireb (1993) examined dietary caraway oil for its effects on skin tumors induced by DMBA and croton oil in female BALB/c mice. Mice fed with a diet containing 3% caraway oil for 23 weeks from the beginning of tumor promotion decreased the number of mice with papillomas (p < .001), the number of papillomas per mouse (p < .0001), and the average papilloma volume (p < .0001). The number of carcinomas in those animals provided with caraway oil were significantly less than in the controls (Schwaireb 1993). Deeptha et al. (2006) examined the effects of oral caraway (30, 60, and 90 mg/kg body weight per day for 15 weeks) on aberrant crypt foci in male Wistar rats treated with the carcinogen 1,2-dimethylhydrazine. Aberrant foci are early morphological events that represent an important step in colon cancer progression. Treatment of rats with 60 mg/kg body weight of caraway decreased carcinogen-induced aberrant crypt foci, indicators of oxidative stress, and fecal bacterial enzyme activity.

Induction of GST by anticarcinogenic compounds is an important mechanism by which several spices, including caraway, may promote carcinogen detoxification and thereby lower cancer risk. Zheng, Kenney, and Lam (1992)reported that activity of the detoxifying enzyme GST in the liver increased markedly after gavage treatment with 20 mg carvone or limonene in A/J mice. Carvone was also found to increase the GST activity in the forestomach by about 80% (p < .05), more than double the GST activity in the large intestinal mucosa (p < .05), and more than triple the GST activity in the small intestinal mucosa (p < .005). Carvone also increased glutathione (GSH) in the lung (p < .005) and in the small (p < .05) and large intestinal mucosa (p < .05).

Caraway may also influence carcinogen activation by its ability to modify carcinogen bioactivation. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and halogenated aromatic compounds such as 2,3,7,8-tetrodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) are bioactivated by the xenobiotic-metabolizing CYP genes to form reactive metabolites that bind to DNA. Naderi-Kalali et al. (2005) reported that caraway extracts were effective in inhibiting the induction of CYP1A1 and CYP1A1-related RNA in rat hepatoma (H4IIE) cells. Caraway extracts >0.13 μM significantly inhibited CYP1A1 induction, as measured by the 2,3,7-ethoxyresorufin O-deethylase assay, with roughly a tenfold suppression in enzyme activity observed at concentrations of 1.3 and 13 μM, inhibiting TCDD-dependent induction by 50%-90%, depending on the solvent used (Naderi-Kalali et al. 2005). Overall, changes in both phase I and II enzymes are consistent with the ability of caraway and its active constituent to lower chemically induced cancers. The importance of caraway and its isolated components in drug detoxification mechanisms in humans remains largely unexplored.



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