Twenty species of aromatic annuals belong to this genus, distributed throughout N Africa to C Asia, India, and W China. All have umbels of white flowers and white-haired, ovoid fruits. Trachyspermum ammi (ajowan) is found in damp places such as stream banks and ditches. It is an important crop in India for culinary, medicinal, and industrial purposes. The foliage and seeds are rich in volatile oil, particularly thymol, as found in Thymus species (See, Common Thyme). Prior to World War I, some 1200 tons per year of essential oil was exported from India to Germany for extraction of thymol; thereafter, porcessing was developed in Calcutta. The aroma of ajowan seeds has been likened to a mixture of anise, oregano, and black pepper, while the oil is sweeter than oil of thyme. (Cornucopia H. Stephen Facciola, 1998).

Used by ancient Egyptians to treat vitiligo, the loss of pigment in the skin, ajava seeds contain 8-methoxypsoralen, which has been shown to stimulate the production of pigment in skin exposed to ultraviolet light. A liquid preparation made by boiling ground-up ajava seeds in water, taken after intercourse, is thought to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus.

Tender annual with stems branching from the base, and finely divided, pinnate leaves, 15-23cm (6-9in) long. Tiny white flowers, hairy outside, appear in long-stalked, dense umbels in summer, followed by tiny, pungently aromatic, ovoid fruits, about 2cm (¾in) long.

Common Name:
Other Names:
Ajava, Ajowan caraway, Ajowan Seeds, Bishop's Weed, Bishop's Flower, Bullwort, Flowering Ammi, Yavani, Ajwain
Botanical Name:
Trachyspermum ammi syn. T copticum, Ammi copticum, Carum copticum, Ammi majus
Moist soil in sun.
By seed sown in autumn or spring.
Whole plants are cut when flowering for extraction of oil. Seeds are collected when ripe and distilled for oil, or dried for use in infusions and powders.
30-90cm (1-3ft)
30-45cm (12-18in)
Min. 10-15°C (50-59°F) depending on cultivar.
Parts Used:
Whole plant, fruits (seeds), oil.
A bitter, aromatic, warming herb with a thyme-like aroma, and tonic, diuretic, and expectorant effects. It relaxes spasms, improves digestion, increases perspiration, and is strongly antiseptic.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for colds, coughs, influenza, asthma, diarrhea, cholera, colic, indigestion, wind, edema, arthritis, and rheumatism (fruits). Externally for vaginal discharge and rheumatism (fruits). Used mainly in Ayurvedic medicine as a stimulating decongestant for the respiratory and digestive systems. Oil is given to expel hookworms.
To treat kidney stones, and psoriasis.
Culinary Uses:
Seeds are used to flavor savory dishes, including curries, legumes, breads (naan, pakora, paratha), and pastry snacks, especially in India, Iran, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan. An ingredient of a spice mix known as chat masala. Not suitable as a substitute for thyme in Western cooking.
Economic Uses:
Seed extracts are added to cough medicines, soaps, and epoxy derivatives.
Contraindicated in hyperacidity.
Possible Side Effect:
Ajava seeds side effects include nausea and headache
Drug Interactions:
Taking Ajava seeds with these drugs may increase the risk of bleeding or bruising:
Abciximab, (ReoPro)
Antithrombin III, (Thrombate III)
Argatroban, (Argatroban)
Aspirin, (Bufferin, Ecotrin)
Aspirin and Dipyridamole, (Aggrenox)
Bivalirudin, (Angiomax)
Clopidogrel, (Plavix)
Dalteparin, (Fragmin)
Danaparoid, (Orgaran)
Dipyridamole, (Novo-Dipiradol, Persantine)
Enoxaparin, (Lovenox)
Eptifibatide, (Integrillin)
Fondaparinux, (Arixtra)
Heparin, (Hepalean, Hep-Lock)
Indobufen, (Ibustrin)
Lepirudin, (Refludan)
Ticlopidine, (Alti-Ticlopidine, Ticlid)
Tinzaparin, (Innohep)
Tirofiban, (Aggrastat)
Warfarin, (Coumadin, Jantoven)
Lab Test Alteration:
  • May increase HDL levels.
  • May increase liver function tests
Disease Triggering Effects:
May worsen liver function in people with liver disease.
Supplement Interactions:
Encylopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright ©: 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited pp 392-393
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright©2007 by Barry Fox,PhD pp.28-29