Cardamom or Elaichi, is the world’s 3rd most expensive spice, trailing behind saffron and vanilla. It is commonly used in treating digestive problems such as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, intestinal gas, heartburn, and loss of appetite. It is also used against common cold, bronchitis, sore throat, and cough.
Scientific name – Elettaria cardamomum (True or green cardamom), Amomum subulatum (Black cardamom)
Family – Zingiberaceae
Other names – Cardamono (Spanish), Elaichi (Indian), Cardamomo (Italian), Indian Cardamom, Lesser Cardamom, Cardamom Essential Oil.
Cardamom is native to India, who was the largest producer until the 20th century when the Central American country Guatemala, took over. Cardamom are of two main types; the true or green cardamom which is distributed from India to Malaysia, and black cardamom which is native to the eastern Himalayas, and also cultivated in eastern Nepal and some other parts of India.
Both types of cardamom are used in cooking. They serve as great spices and add flavor to foods and drinks. Elaichi is a common ingredient in Indian cuisines. The Nordic countries also make use of cardamom, particularly in baking. The Middle East finds it best to be used as spice and also flavorings in tea and coffee.
Nutritional value / properties of Cardamom per 100 grams (USDA) – Quick overview
- Energy – 311 calories
- Total fat – 7 g
- Cholesterol – 0 mg
- Sodium – 18 mg
- Potassium – 1119 mg
- Carbohydrate – 68 g (Dietary fiber – 28 g)
- Protein – 11 g
Cardamom provides just 311 calories of energy. It has no cholesterol, and just 18 mg of sodium. It is rich in dietary fiber, as it provides up to 112% of its daily recommended intake. This important spice is also rich in potassium, iron, vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, and calcium.
Cardamom Medicinal uses / Health benefits
The Indian Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine has used cardamom for many decades as an important ingredient in treating many types of diseases and disorders. Tracing back to such traditional applications, cardamom was used in treating gum and teeth infections, detoxifying the kidney, dissolving gallstones, used as antidotes for poisons and venom, and against cold and sore throat infections.
Below are some of the therapeutic applications of Cardamom:
Treats Digestive system problems
The Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine use cardamom to treat digestive system disorders. It is one of the commonest uses of this wonderful spice. It can used as a remedy against nausea and vomiting, stomach aches and upset, and also flatulence and stomach cramps.
These traditional uses at least have some scientific claims to back it up. A study published in the journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, has ranked cardamom above most other spices when it comes to assisting digestive functions (1).
Worth mentioning is the rich dietary fiber content of cardamom. This fiber acts as a laxative and improve the passage of solid waste through the body, thus preventing constipation. It also helps in preventing bowel diseases, and improving overall intestinal health.
Also, the essential oil content of this wonderful spice has been linked with the treatment of stomach ulcers and prevention of flatulence, although, with few scientific evidences.
Using cardamom for treating oral diseases is an age-long traditional application that has been practiced by folk healers for more than a century. Interestingly, these uses have scientific basis. A study conducted in 1991 proved the antimicrobial activity of cardamom seeds (2).
This wonderful spice is used as an effective remedy against bad breath or halitosis. By just chewing on its seeds, you can do away with your bad breath by killing the bacterial microorganism responsible for it. This application has been proven by a research carried out to test the activity of cardamom against dental caries causing microorganisms (3).
The results found the extracts of this medicinal spice to be effective against oral pathogenic bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus mutans.
The consumption of cardamom can no doubt help prevent tooth decays and the development of oral cavities. This is mainly due to its antiseptic property, which is attributed to the most active component of its rich essential oil content, cineole.
Many health experts have compared cardamom to our day-to-day chewing gums, stressing how it lacks the nuisance associated with a chewing gum, while retaining its benefits such as pleasant taste, stimulating saliva flow, and mechanical cleansing of teeth. For this reason, many chewing gum producers have included cardamom into their list of ingredients.
Prevents Cardiovascular diseases
The consumption of cardamom can help lower your blood pressure, which is a prerequisite for maintaining a good cardiovascular system. This blood-pressure lowering property of cardamom has been proven by a research carried out on hypertensive humans to evaluate the effect of cardamon powder given to them over a period of 12 weeks (4).
The results revealed how consumption of this wonderful spice was able to successfully lower their blood pressure, while enhancing fibrinolysis and improving antioxidant status. Also, the patients did not show any side effect.
Many other researches using cardamom have demonstrated its cholesterol and heart beat regulating ability, which all fosters good heart health. It has also been poised by many to help improve blood circulation.
Protects against Cancer
Just as most medicinal spices, cardamom has the potential to prevent or even reverse the formation of cancerous growths. A study conducted in the year 2012 found the herb to possess a potential in the treatment of skin cancers (5).
Another study conducted in just 2016, has reaffirmed the potential of spices such as turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, basil, coriander, cardamom, etc in the prevention and treatment of various types of cancers (6).
Cardamom can be beneficial for those suffering from asthma. This was shown by a research which tested cardamom-extracts against carbachol-mediated bronchoconstriction in rats under anesthesia. The results were interesting, as cardamom-extracts were able to show some bronchodilatory effect, which opened up the wind pipes and made breathing easier for the rats; just exactly what an asthma patient needs (7).
However, this cannot be regarded as enough evidence. More research needs to be done, preferably on humans to ascertain this medicinal property.
- Other benefits of cardamon with few evidences include:
- Acts as a great antidepressant
- Possess anti-inflammatory effects
- Can detoxify the body, due to its rich essential oil content
- Can also improve blood circulation (Effect attributed to essential oil content)
- May help prevent urinary disorders
- May be found helpful in the treatment of hiccups
- Acts as a great antioxidant
- May fight cold and flu
- Can boost the immune system
- Can relieve muscle ache
Side effects of Cardamom
There are no known side effects of consuming cardamom. Potential side effects are still not known. However, the following might be very helpful:
- The pregnant and breast-feeding mothers should stay on the safe side and avoid using doses of cardamom for medicinal uses. There is still no reliable information on the safety of you and your baby when taking cardamom in medicinal amounts.
- For those with gallstones, it is advised you do not consume cardamom in amounts greater than those in your day-to-day cuisines. It is reported that its seeds can cause gallstone colic.