Cardamom is native to the evergreen forests of India.
This spice is commonly used in Indian cuisine, but it has also made its way into Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for mouth ulcers, digestive problems, and even depression.
Some of the health benefits of this peppery, citrusy spice are now making their way into modern studies.
It’s well worth adding cardamom to your food for the flavor alone, but these health benefits are also something to consider whenever you break out the spices.
Cardamom is a seed pod, known since centuries for its culinary and medicinal properties. The spice is native to evergreen rain forest of southern India and grown in only few tropical countries. Botanically, it belongs to the family of "Zingiberaceae" and consists of two genera; Elettaria and Amomum.
Generally, the plant grows up to 4 meters in length in thick clumps and starts bearing its prized seed pods soon after about two years of plantation. Each pod measures about 1-2 cm in length.
Health benefits of cardamom
Digestion – Cardamom is related to ginger and can be used in much the same way to counteract digestive problems. Use it to combat nausea, acidity, bloating, gas, heartburn, loss of appetite, constipation, and much more.
Detoxify – This spice helps the body eliminate waste through the kidneys.
Halitosis – In India they chew cardamom after meals or whenever they need to freshen their breath.
Diuretic – Part of the reason cardamom is such a good detoxifier is thanks to the diuretic properties. It helps clean out the urinary tract, bladder, and kidneys, removing waste, salt, excess water, toxins, and combating infections too.
Depression – The science behind the antidepressant qualities of cardamom hasn’t been studied yet, but Ayurvedic medicine swears by the tea as a means to fight depression.
Oral Health – Apart from helping with bad breath, cardamom is used for mouth ulcers and infections of the mouth and throat.
Cold and Flu – This pungent spice may help prevent and relieve cold and flu symptoms. It’s also used for bronchitis and coughs.
Cancer – Animal studies are showing promise that cardamom protects against, inhibits growth, and even kills some cancers.
Blood Pressure – As a diuretic and fiber rich spice, cardamom significantly lowers blood pressure.
Blood Clots – Cardamom prevents dangerous blood clots by preventing platelet aggregation and the sticking to the artery walls.
Antioxidant – Many of the vitamins, phytonutrients, and essential oils in cardamom act as antioxidants, cleaning up free radicals and resisting cellular aging.
Pathogens – The volatile essential oils in cardamom inhibit the growth of viruses, bacteria, fungus, and mold.
Anti-inflammatory – Like ginger and turmeric, its relatives, cardamom has some anti-inflammatory properties that limit pain and swelling, especially in mucus membranes, the mouth, and throat.
Hiccups – Cardamom is an anti-spasmodic that can help get rid of hiccups. This also applies to other involuntary muscle spasms, like stomach and intestinal cramps.
Aphrodisiac – Traditional medicine lists cardamom as a powerful aphrodisiac that can help with erectile dysfunction and impotence.
In general, cardamom seeds are sought-after in sweet and dessert preparations. The pod is split open to its expose underlying seeds either with fingers or small knife. The seeds are then crushed (powdered) using a hand mill just before their use in cooking. However, whole pods are preferred in savory dishes, which give a further punch to the recipe since their peel contains certain amounts of valuable essential oils.
Here are some preparation tips:
This delicate spice is being used as flavoring agent in both foods, soups and refreshing drinks.
The pods have been in use in the preparation of sweet dishes in many Asian countries. Elaichi-pista (cardamom and pistachio) kulfi is a famous summer dessert in India, Pakistan, and Iran. Elaichi kheer is another popular rice pudding with added pistachio, and raisins in these regions.
It is used as a flavoring base in the preparation of tea, coffee, and cold drinks.