Carvone, a member of the terpenoid class of compounds, is naturally produced by certain plants. It is the main component in spearmint oil (Mentha spicata) but is also found abundantly in oils from caraway seeds (Carum carvi), ginger grass, and dill (Anethum graveolens). At room temperature, it is a pleasant-smelling, colorless, pale-yellow liquid that is commonly used as a flavoring agent in products like chewing gum and liqueurs and to improve the aroma in perfumes and soap. Carvone is also found in many essential oils, like from the plants mentioned above, which have been used for thousands of years in perfumes, medicines, and spices.1
Classification within Terpenes: Monocyclic monoterpenoid alkene ketone
D-carvone is the main component of caraway seed essential oil (50% – 76%) but also occurs in relevant quantities in dill seed oils (Anethum graveolens) (30% – 60%). Spearmint (Mentha spicata) is a major source of carvone which is a highly profitable cultivation by farmers.2
Caraway, dill, and spearmint are among the oldest herbs known and their uses are not limited to food only, but includes use by herbalists and for pharmaceutical preparations. Dill has been reported as a galactagogue with antihyperlipidemic, antioxidant, and antihypercholesterolemic activities. Caraway seeds have expectorant, antispasmodic, stimulant, and tonic effects. The seeds are often chewed after meals for digestive purposes and to relieve heartburn. Spearmint has antispasmodic, carminative, and stimulant properties. It is a potential chemoprotective agent due to its ability to increase the detoxifying abilities in the cells of mice.3
Carvone has been used extensively in spices for flavoring food where a rye or caraway note is required, for example in bread, cheese, sauces, cordials, and sauerkraut. Spearmint is used for flavoring beverages like tea as well as in gum and breath fresheners. Dill seeds and oils are used to flavor cakes, vinegar, salads, soups, and many other food products.
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Essential oils extracted from the dill, caraway, and spearmint plant species are extensively used in cosmetics and perfuming agents. Spearmint oil is also often used in aromatherapy and is in high demand for use in toothpaste and other oral care products.
Carvone Use in Aromatherapy
Dill Seed Essential Oil (Anethum graveolens)
Dill seed essential oil has a sweet, fresh, herbaceous and faintly earthy scent with a middle fragrance note. It is purifying, revitalizing, balancing and a cleansing agent beneficial to the digestive system. It blends well with caraway, black pepper, cinnamon, clove, grapefruit, elemi, lemon, orange, nutmeg, spearmint, sandalwood, and peppermint. For massage, the essential oil should be diluted in a carrier oil to 5% or less and should not be used during pregnancy. It is ideal for use in aromatherapy, vaporization, and warm baths. As vapor therapy, it can be used for colic, indigestion, and nervous tension especially when feeling overwhelmed by a crisis.4
Uses in an Aromatherapy Lamp
The relaxing effects of dill essential oils can help soothe stress and nervous exhaustion and, calm feelings of panic, relieve night-time cramps, and promote sleep. A combination of dill, lavender, and lemon balm essential oils will give off a sweet, minty and spicy aroma that will soothe the senses and relax the nerves.
Dill essential oil in aromatherapy can provide a mildly refreshed feeling after an illness, strengthening the circulation and stimulating the entire body. Deeply inhaling the vapors will relax the senses and help promote feelings of calm relaxation.
Caraway Seed Essential Oil
The benefits of caraway include antiseptic, antihistamine, astringent, digestive, disinfectant, expectorant, stimulant, and tonic properties. The sweet, spicy, herbaceous aroma of the oils is commonly used for digestive issues, constipation, excess phlegm, loss of appetite and menstrual cramps.
Caraway essential oils blend well with chamomile, cumin, dill, ginger, frankincense, basil, coriander, and orange. The aroma is musky, fruity, and hot. The principal constituents are carvone (50% – 60%), and limonene. Research has confirmed that the high concentration of carvone aids digestion by stimulating and releasing gastric juices.5
Caraway essential oils are used in aromatherapy to aid respiratory problems, digestive problems, menstrual problems, and appetite issues. Used in an aromatherapy lamp on its own or in a blend with other essential oils the aroma is deeply inhaled to soothe the digestive tract and abdominal area.
Spearmint Essential Oil
Spearmint oil is used in aromatherapy to help alleviate nervousness, fatigue, headaches, migraines, and digestive problems. Spearmint oil is considered to be gentler than peppermint oil as it contains lower amounts of menthol. For inhalation, just two drops in a diffuser or in hot water can be used to treat stress or respiratory problems. Because it is mild, it can be used for children.
Safety Profile of Carvone
Carvone can be harmful if swallowed and has an acute oral toxicity warning. It may cause adverse skin reactions and has a warning for skin sensitization. Safety may vary depending on additives, impurities, and other factors. Old or oxidized essential oils should be avoided. It is contraindicated for pregnancy and breastfeeding mothers and diabetics should use it with caution. Indian dill seed essential oil is high in parsley apiole and could present a high risk of abortion if taken orally. Indian dill seed oil should not be confused with European dill seed oil (Anethum graveolens) the latter of which is not toxic as it contains less than 1% apiole. (6)
Additional Information about Carvone
R-(-)-Carvone is used in air fresheners and S-(+)-Carvone has been shown to be effective against a high-fat diet to induce weight gain.
In the Netherlands S-(-)-Carvone marketed under the name ‘Talent’ is used for the purpose of inhibiting the premature sprouting of potatoes. R-(-)-Carvone has been proposed as a mosquito repellent and the US Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing it for registration as a pesticide.
Molecular Formula: 6 C10H14O
Molecular Weight: 150.221 g/mol
Boiling Point: 231.00 °C. @ 760.00 mm Hg
Boiling Point: 137.00 to 138.00 °C. @ 50.00 mm Hg Vapor