Wild Carrot, Queen Anne's Lace
Daucus carota ssp. maxima.
Botany and Production
Daucus carota, Umbelliferae or Apiaceae family, is mostly known for its edible root from Daucua carota spp. sativa, the cultivated carrot. However the seeds contain an essential oil as well. Commercial production of the essential oil is mainly carried out with the leftovers of carrot seed production aimed at growers. The species Daucus carota includes various wild subspecies.
Daucus carota ssp. maxima originates from the sea-coasts of Southern Europe. Our known cultivated carrot root, Daucus carota ssp. sativa most probably is a cross breed between the wild subspecies D. carota ssp. carota from Central Europe and D. carota ssp. maxima from the Mediterranean. 'Most probably', because cultivation of this known vegetable, carrot, goes back to ancient times.
The wild varieties of carrot have a narrow, white and hard root with a strong aromatic smell and an acrid taste, quite different from the thick fleshy reddish root of the cultivated form. Its inflorescence is distinguished by the single sterile deep purple or black flower in the center of the otherwise mostly white or sometimes rosé flowered flat or slightly curved umbel. The flowers have a delicate lace-like structure.
D. carota, ssp. maxima is a tall plant, attaining up to 1.5m height. The hairy feathery foliage of young plants is traditionally collected in Crete as a wild vegetable in the spring. When the seeds ripen in the early summer, the umbels curve strongly to protect the seeds in an almost globose and very beautiful structure. An old English popular name for wild carrot, appropriately, is 'birds nest'. The small seeds are slightly flattened, with numerous bristles. Remarkable about the wild carrot is, that each plant develops individually, one by one. We never see all of the wild carrots in a population to be at approximately at the same stage of development.
A rosé colored inflorescence of Daucus carota ssp. maxima in the hills near our distillery. Note the single dark sterile flower, and the beautiful lace-like structure. When the seeds are ripening, the plant closes around them, protecting them in this marvelous structure. Note the still flowering plants in the background.
We collect the wild carrot seeds in July- August, when the umbels have closed upon the seeds and the seeds have ripened and dried inside their shelter, in the region of Kydonias, province of Chania. Even though this time of year is the hottest here in Crete, we collect at a splendid site at about 150m altitude with a view towards the sea to the north and the white mountains towards the South. These views make up for the heat. Collection is time consuming, since the plants are spread, ripen individually one by one and the heads are cut one by one. It takes many visits to the Daucus populations to complete collection for a distillation. We steam distill the heads for at least 6 hours, and the oil has a deep, lasting sweet smell with flowery undertones.
The dried heads still preserve their perfect structure protecting the seeds after many months. This picture we took in March this year, the heads were collected in July last year. Such a beautiful creation of nature, we enjoy them at home as a decorative 'flower arrangement' all year.
And here is a picture of the heads just after distillation in July, when they had given us their oil. Note how they have opened up again, opened their embrace and freed their seeds and essence during distillation. Again, they resemble the flattish flowers in structure, they have come full circle and fulfilled their purpose.
It seems, that we have found an unusual composition compared with analyses of other Daucus carota seed oils, but then again, we are not aware of anyone else who has analyzed the composition of Daucus carota ssp. maxima seed essential oil from Crete yet, so that our results can be verified. We have identified the main component (31%) as himachalol by GC/MS, a component which is not reported anywhere in literature to be a component of a D. carota oil. However, until our findings are supported by other investigators, we can only propose the identity of this main component of our oil. Generally, the oil is very rich in sesquiterpene constituents.
Main components positively identified: α-longipinene (9.5%), sabinene (8.6%), β-himachalene (8.1%), β-bisabolene (4.3%), limonene (3.5%) α- and β-pinene (2.6% and 2.5%), terpinen-4-ol (1.2%), iso-bornyl acetate (1.3%), trans-β-caryophyllene (1.3%), trans-β-farnesene (1.0%), γ-himachalene (4.3%), δ-cadinene (1%), β-myrcene (1.4%), γ-terpinene (0.9%), and elemicin, cis-γ-bisabolene, caryophyllene<9-epi-trans>, α-himachalene, linalool, α-terpinene, all around 0.5-0.6% each.
D. carota oils are tested non-toxic, non-irritant, non-sensitising. Did not produce any irritation or sensitization reaction even when tested at 100% on a person with perfume dermatitis. Some carrot seed oils can contain asarones in larger amounts, and more caution should be taken if that is the case.
Principle of Action
Revitalises mature skin, aids regeneration after burns and injuries. The oil to use after a crisis, and not during. Promotes diuresis, aids the liver and digestion.
In Skin care products for mature, dry and devitalized skin. Strengthens the lower epidermal cells. Effective in the treatment of wrinkles. Restores tone and elasticity. Perfume fixative properties. Can promote the flow of scanty menstruation and relieve stagnation.
The seeds of the wild carrot have been known since antiquity. Dioscurides, the ancient Greek physician, botanist and pharmacologist mentions wild carrot, Staphylinos, in his famous work 'De Materia Medica' dated around 75 AD, a work considered one of the most influential herbal books in history, in use well into the 17th century. He mentions, that 'the seeds drunk as tea or used as a vaginal suppository, promote the flow of menstruation' and 'drunk as a tea it is diuretic and used in urine retention and edemas'...'Also the seed promotes conception'. He also mentions, that the cultivated carrot makes a better food, but has a much inferior medicinal activity. Still today, D. carota ssp. maxima is called 'Staphylinakas' in Crete.
The essential oil of carrot seeds is used as a fragrance fixing compound in perfumes. We have blended it successfully with myrtle and laurel oil, but also with leaf oils from various citrus trees and lavender. Also blends with the sweet, warm flower oils ylang-ylang and geranium have been reported.
Our own perfume favorite is a mixture of wild carrot seed oil and the precious oil distilled from Mandarin flowers (Citrus reticulata).
Wild carrot seed oil has an underlying deep and flowery fragrance, which can lighten up and warm our beings. It aids us in looking inward and to center ourselves, to relax into our being. It is the oil we turn to after and not during a crisis. A calming and comforting oil, it can ease tension and anger.
The oil stimulates the regeneration of the liver cells and aids in their detoxification and can be taken internally (2 drops in a small glass of alcohol) as well as rubbed on the area diluted at 5% in a carrier oil. Good the morning after excessive drinking. It is useful after hepatitis or liver problems and aids both for this activity as for its digestion stimulating action when one has eaten too much or too fat foods. Our oil also seems to have a spasmolytic activity, probably related to the presence of himachalol and himachalenes, and can be used for clockwise abdominal massage when our stomachs are tense and bloated, or menstruation scanty and stagnated.
Due to its antiseptic and diuretic properties, it may help with urinary tract infections.
Daucus in general has been reported to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood, to increase red blood cells and even to have anti-coagulant (blood-thinning) activity.
Especially recommended for mature, dry and devitalized skin, it energizes the basal layer of skin cells, tones and nourishes the skin. Added to a cream or oil (1-3%) it also helps in cases of dermatitis, eczema and acne. One can also prepare a skin tonic as described under cypress, which, used daily soon proves very effective for dry and mature skin. Restoring tone and elasticity, the oil prevents and reduces wrinkles quite effectively. Mix it in a body oil (1-3%) or, for the area around the eyes mixed at 2% in sweet almond oil and used drop-wise. Wild carrot seed oil ( at 1-3%) blended with especially jojoba oil and natural vitamin E or wheatgerm oil is an excellent sun tan lotion, not only protecting the skin but also favoring a beautiful golden tan. However, this blend will only provide a SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of about 2.
A luxury bath to smooth dry and tired skin can be prepared by warming a liter of full fat milk or a good cupfull of full fat cream slightly and dissolving 5 tablespoons of honey, previously mixed with 10 drops of wild carrot seed oil and adding to the bath. Always add just before entering the bathtub.
As explained in the botany section, the name Daucus carota essential oil by itself, does not indicate, if the oil is obtained from seeds of the cultivated subspecies or from wild subspecies. Ideally, essential oils from the cultivated subspecies should read D. carota ssp. sativus. However, since the bulk of essential oil commercially available is obtained from the seeds of the commercially cultivated carrot, the name Daucus carota alone signifies, that the source is the cultivated carrot.
Oils obtained from wild subspecies should read D. carota ssp carota, the European wild carrot or D. carota spp. maxima, the Mediterranean wild carrot.
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