This is about ajwain, a spice that tends to not get its fair share of mention, IMO.
I have often come across people to whom Indian food is all about the usual suspects – turmeric, chilly powder, “curry” powder (though just as there is no one pan-indian cuisine, there is no one standard curry powder, in actual fact).
But ajwain has a very integral place in most of my Indian cooking, and finds a prominent spot on my spice shelf. I am a firm believer that it helps with digestion – any time you find yourself with this heavy feeling in your stomach, perhaps induced by some gastronomic indulgence, try this old home remedy. Chew just 1/2 a teaspoon of ajwain (if the taste is too strong for you, squeeze a couple of drops of lime juice in to it) , and you’ll be surprised by how quickly you’ll feel some relief.
I therefore use ajwain in many recipes – in curries (especially those made with chickpeas, kidney beans and kala chana) , when cooking vegetables such as cauliflower and potatoes that are said to cause gas to develop in the stomach, and I add it also to the dough for puris and paranthas for the same reason.
Here are a few things I have found about ajwain (sources below):
scientific name – trachyspermum ammi
Ayurveda counts ajwain among the 10 foremost herbs known for their anti-colic or anti-spasmodic action; infant colic is often treated with a poultice of ajwain. It has a stimulant action on the uterus and the digestive and circulatory systems, and can help with asthma and arthritis.
Ajwain seeds contain an essential oil which is about 50% thymol, which is a strong germicide, anti-spasmodic and fungicide.
Ahwain is sometimes used in a steeped liquid form against diarrhea and flatulence.
Research in India has shown that its oil can effectively cure ringworm infections.