Bishop's weed is a small, erect, annual shrub, with soft fine hairs. It has many branched leafy stems; feather-like leaves 2.5 cm long; and 4 to 12 ray flower heads, each bearing 6 to 16 flowers. The fruits are minute, egg-shaped and grayish.
Bishop's weed consist of moisture 7.4 percent, protein 17.1 percent, fat 21.8 percent, minerals 7.9 percent, fiber 21.2 percent and carbohydrates 24.6 percent per 100 grams. Calcium, iron, phosphorus, carotene, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin are amongst the vitamins and minerals in it.
Steam distillation of crushed seeds yields an essential oil which is valued considerably in medicine on account of the presence of thymol.
Botanical Name- Trachyspermum ammi
Indian Name- Ajwain or Omum
Below are some of the medicinal properties of bishop's weed:
- Bishop's weed is a valuable herb in the treatment of diarrhea, dysentery, atonic dyspepsia, cholera, colic, flatulence and indigestion. For relieving flatulence, dyspepsia and spasmodic disorders, the seeds may be eaten with betel leaves. A teaspoon of these seeds with a little rock-salt is a home remedy for indigestion.
- In case of colic, bishop's weed, dry ginger and black salt in the proportion of 1:1/2:1/4 should be ground together and taken in three gram doses with warm water. In case of flatulence, bishop's weed and dried ginger in equal weight may be soaked in two-and-half times the quantity of lime juice. This is then dried and powdered with a little black salt. About two grams of this powder is taken with warm water.
- The volatile oil extracted from the seeds is also useful in cholera, flatulent colic, diarrhea, atonic dyspepsia and indigestion. It is usually given in doses of 1 to 3 drops. Omum water, that is, the water distilled from the seeds, is an excellent carminative that relieves flatulence and is antispasmodic in colic and flatulent dyspepsia. It is also administered in the early stages of cholera in doses of 30 to 60 grams to check vomiting.
- A mixture of the seeds and buttermilk is a valuable remedy for relieving difficult expectoration caused by dried up phlegm. The seeds are also efficacious in bronchitis. A hot fomentation with the seeds is a popular remedy for asthma. Chewing a pinch of ajwain seeds with a crystal of common salt and a clove is very effective for cough caused by acute pharyngitis in influenza.
- Bishop's weed is useful in the treatment of common cold. It has a remarkable power to open up clogged and congested nasal passages. A tablespoon of seeds crushed and tied up in a cloth bundle can be used for inhalation. A similar bundle placed near the pillow, while sleeping, also relieves nasal congestion. For infants and small children, a small pouch can be pinned to their dress under the chin when they are sleeping. In case of adults, a teaspoon of the seeds can be put in boiling water and the vapors inhaled.
- An infusion of the seeds mixed with common salt is an effective gargle in acute pharyngitis, sore and congested throat and hoarseness of the voice due to colds or shouting.
- The seeds are also useful in the treatment on migraine and delirium. They should either be smoked or sniffed frequently to obtain relief.
- The seeds, combined with the kernel of tamarind seeds are an effective aphrodisiac. These should be fried in equal quantity of pure ghee, powdered and preserved in airtight containers. A teaspoon of this powder, mixed with a tablespoon of honey, taken daily with milk before retiring, makes an excellent aphrodisiac. It increases virility and cures premature ejaculation.
- The oil extracted from the seeds is beneficial in the treatment of rheumatic and neuralgic pains. It should be applied on the affected parts.
- It is also beneficial in earache. About half a teaspoon of the seeds in heated in 30 ml of milk till the essence of the seeds permeate the milk. The milk is then filtered and used as ear drops. It decreases congestion and relieves pain.
In case of pain caused by boils in the ear, 3 grams each of ajwain seeds and garlic are boiled together in 40 grams of sesame oil till they turn red. The oil is then strained and cooled to body temperature, and used as ear drops.
The seeds are used as a spice, in flavoring numerous foods, as anti-oxidants, preservatives and medicine.