Drug Levels and Effects:

Summary of Use during Lactation:

Caraway (Carum carvi) seeds contain numerous volatile oils, the most prominent being carvone and limonene. Caraway is a purported galactogogue,[1][2][3][4][5] and maternal use has been advocated to reduce colic in the breastfed infant[6] No scientifically valid clinical trials support these uses, although one small, old study found no galactogogue effect. Galactogogues should never replace evaluation and counseling on modifiable factors that affect milk production.[7] Two studies found small, but measurable amounts of d-carvone in the milk of mothers given the chemical experimentally. Caraway is "generally recognized as safe" by the US Food and Drug Administration. It is usually well tolerated, with the primary side effects being gastrointestinal such as heartburn, eructation, flatulence, and nausea. In two studies nursing mothers were given d-carvone. No adverse effects were noted in mothers or infants.

Dietary supplements do not require extensive pre-marketing approval from the US Food and Drug Administration. Manufacturers are responsible to ensure the safety, but do not need to prove the safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements before they are marketed. Dietary supplements may contain multiple ingredients, and differences are often found between labeled and actual ingredients or their amounts. A manufacturer may contract with an independent organization to verify the quality of a product or its ingredients, but that does not certify the safety or effectiveness of a product. Because of the above issues, clinical testing results on one product may not be applicable to other products. More detailed informationabout dietary supplementsis available elsewhere on the LactMed Web site.

Drug Levels:

Maternal Levels.

Eighteen lactating women were given 100 mg of d-carvone mixed with lactose and talc in a capsule on 3 test days. Milk samples were collected every 2 hours for 8 hours starting at the time of ingestion. Carvone was detected in milk at all collection times, with the average concentrations of 1.3 mcg/L at 0 hours, 7.2 mcg/L at 2 hours, 5.6 mcg/L at 4 hours, 4.3 mcg/L at 6 hours and 2.7 mcg/L at 8 hours after the dose. The average peak carvone concentration in milk was 10.5 mcg/L. Carvone metabolites were not detected in any milk samples.[8]

In another study, 20 mothers consumed 30 mg of d-carvone in 75 grams of hummus every third day for 28 days (10 exposures) at about 2 hours before a "usual" nursing time. Breastmilk samples were obtained 2 hours after ingestion on the first and last days of carvone intake. Carvone was detectable in the milk of 18 mothers. Average carvone concentrations in breastmilk were 2.5 mcg/L and 3.8 mcg/L on the first and last days of sampling, respectively. However, these values did not differ statistically, and the combined average carvone concentration was 3.2 mcg/L. A control group of 20 women who did not ingest d-carvone had no detectable carvone in their breastmilk.[9]

Infant Levels.

Relevant published information was not found as of the revision date.

Effects in Breastfed Infants:

A study compared 3 groups of women. One group of 20 nursing mothers consumed 30 mg of d-carvone in 75 grams of hummus every third day for 28 days (10 exposures) at about 2 hours before a "usual" nursing time. A second group of 20 nursing mothers followed the same regimen, but their hummus contained no d-carvone. A third group of 8 mother received the d-carvone flavored hummus, but were exclusively formula feeding their infants. After this 28-day period, both groups of breast-fed infants showed greater acceptance of d-carvone-flavored mashed potatoes than the formula-fed infants who preferred the unflavored potatoes. The authors interpreted these results to mean that breastfed infants are more receptive to a wide array offlavorsthan formula-fed infants.[9]

Possible Effects on Lactation:

A group of 5 nursing mothers were given no herb for 5 days, 15 mL of a 10% infusion of caraway seeds 3 times daily for 10 days, followed by another 5-day control period from days 15 to 20. Their diet and environment were kept constant during the study period. Milk volume was measured daily and milk fat percentage was measured on days 5, 10, 15 and 20. No effect on milk volume or percentage of fat was seen.[10] Because of the lack of randomization, blinding and controls, and small number of participants, no valid conclusion can be made from this study on the galactogogue effects of caraway.


1. Yarnell E . Botanical medicine in pregnancy and lactation. Altern Complement Ther. 1997;3 (April):93-100.
2. Kopec K. Herbal medications and breastfeeding. J Hum Lact. 1999;15:157-61. PMID:10578793
3. Hardy ML. Women's health series: herbs of special interest to women. J Am Pharm Assoc (Wash). 2000;40:234-42 . PMID:10730024
4. Low Dog T. The use of botanicals during pregnancy and lactation. Altern Ther Health Med. 2009;15:54-8. PMID:19161049
5. Alachkar A, Jaddouh A, Elsheikh MS et al. Traditional medicine in Syria: folk medicine in Aleppo governorate. Nat Prod Commun. 2011;6:79-84. PMID:21366051
6. Stapleton H. The use of herbal medicine in pregnancy and labour. Part II: Events after birth, including those affecting the health of babies. Complement Ther Nurs Midwifery. 1995;1:165-7. PMID:9456733
7. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Protocol Committee. ABM clinical protocol #9: use of galactogogues in initiating or augmenting the rate of maternal milk secretion (First revision January 2011). Breastfeed Med. 2011;6:41-9. PMID:21332371
8. Hausner H, Bredie WL, Molgaard C et al. Differential transfer of dietary flavour compounds into human breast milk. Physiol Behav. 2008;95:118-24. PMID:18571209
9. Hausner H, Nicklaus S, Issanchou S et al. Breastfeeding facilitates acceptance of a novel dietary flavour compound. Clin Nutr. 2010;29:141-8. PMID:19962799
10. Nikolov P, Avramov NR. [Investigations on the effect of Foeniculum vulgare, Carum carvi, Anisum vulgare, Crataegus oxyacanthus, and Galga officinalis on lactation]. Izv Meditsinskite Inst Bulg Akad Naukite Sofia Otd Biol Meditsinski Nauki. 1951;1:169-82. PMID:14888359

Substance Identification:

Substance Name:


Scientific Name:

Carum carvi

Drug Class:

  • Complementary Therapies

  • Food

  • Galactogogues

  • Phytotherapy

  • Plants, Medicinal

  • Administrative Information:

    LactMed Record Number:


    Last Revision Date:

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