Have you ever tasted cardamom? Do you even know? Maybe you’re you now thinking, what is cardamom? Often referred to as the “Queen of Spices,” cardamom, or elaichi, is one of the most common spices seen in an Indian household, but it’s loved and used all around the world.
The seeds have a warm, highly aromatic flavor that add a unique, sweet, floral flavor to any food or drink. This spice is also widely used as a digestive aid and natural breath freshener! “Cardamom fresh” not “minty fresh” breath is a result of the common chewing of the pods by men and women in India.
There are three types of cardamom: green, black and Madagascar. Most recipes usually call for green cardamom. Overall, it’s more expensive than average spices, but don’t worry because a little goes a very long way.
Cardamom is rich in powerful phytonutrients and is especially high in manganese, a trace mineral that helps the body form connective tissue, bones and sex hormones. It’s also crucial for normal nerve and brain function and plays a role in carbohydrate metabolism, fat metabolism, calcium absorption and blood sugar regulation. Just one tablespoon of cardamom supplies 80 percent of your body’s daily manganese requirements! It truly is an amazing medicinal spice that even shows promise for the natural treatment of cancer and diabetes. I bet you’ll be surprised just how medicinal this spice can be!
7 Cardamom Benefits
Cardamom can naturally help many common as well as serious health concerns, including:
1. Bad Breath
Cardamom is a very effective remedy against a common problem known as halitosis, or bad breath. Simply chewing on the seeds can help to eliminate any bad odors coming from your mouth. Some chewing gums even include it as an ingredient for this very reason.
Recently, a study conducted by the Department of Microbiology at Kurukshetra University in India done to explore the antimicrobial effects of cardamom extracts on oral bacteria, concluded that the extracts are effective against oral pathogenic bacteria like Streptococcus mutans and Candida albicans. (1)
Additionally, the major active component of cardamom oil, cineole, is a potent antiseptic known for killing the bacteria causing bad breath and other infections. So if you’re looking how to get rid of bad breath, look no further.
Not only can cardamom kill the bacteria that causes bad breath, but it might also help prevent cavity development on your teeth or even reserve cavities and tooth decay. It has all the cleansing benefits of a chewing gum but without any of the negatives (like stickiness).
Not only can it kill bacteria in your mouth, but with its somewhat sharp yet pleasant flavor the chewing of cardamom can also encourage a cleansing saliva flow while the fibrous outer coating of the pod can provide a mechanical cleaning of your teeth. (2)
Cardamom even shows promise when it comes to cancer, exhibiting potential as a natural cancer treatment. Animal studies have shown that it can be used as a chemopreventive agent or something that’s used to inhibit, delay or reverse cancer formation.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food showed that cardamom had a positive effect on skin health in animals. Researchers found that there was a significant reduction in the occurrence and number of tumors with oral administration of cardamom powder. The study concludes that cardamom has potential as a chemopreventive agent against two-stage skin cancer. (3)
In general, phytochemicals found in cardamom, including cineole and limonene, have shown an ability to take on a protective role against cancer progression. (4)
4. Blood Pressure
Cardamom might be able to help you lower your blood pressure, which is key to maintaining the health of your heart and kidneys. A study conducted by the Indigenous Drug Research Center at RNT Medical College’s Department of Medicine in India and published the Indian Journal of Biochemistry & Biophysics evaluated 20, newly diagnosed individuals with primary stage 1 hypertension and the effect of giving them three grams of cardamom powder daily in two divided doses for 12 weeks.
The results were great. Not only did cardamom help to decrease systolic, diastolic and mean blood pressure, but it also increased total antioxidant status by 90 percent at the end of three months. (5)
The high manganese content in this spice makes it an excellent choice for diabetics and anyone struggling with blood sugar issues. Research has shown that individuals diagnosed with diabetes have low blood levels of the trace mineral manganese. It’s unclear if having diabetes causes levels to drop or if low levels of manganese contribute to developing diabetes. Either way, adding additional manganese to the diet is a smart idea for diabetics, which is why you should use this spice as part of your diabetic diet plan. (6)
One clinical study found that people with diabetes who had higher blood levels of manganese were more protected from LDL or “bad” cholesterol than those with lower levels of manganese as well. All this together shows that this spice is effective at combatting the onset of diabetes. (7)
6. Digestive System
Cardamom is a traditional remedy in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of digestive issues like stomach aches, but there is also science to back this common usage. Studies have shown that cardamom ranks above other spices when it comes to assisting the various stages of digestion. (8)
The methanolic extract from the spice appears to be the component that helps in controlling gastrointestinal disorders, such as acidity, flatulence and stomach cramps. Studies have shown that cardamom also has gastroprotective effects, including helping stomach ulcers.
An animal model study published in 2014 looked at the effects of hot water extracts of cardamom pods, turmeric, and sembung leaf on gastric ulcers induced by aspirin on animal subjects. Throughout the study, animals were given the herbal mixture or another substance believed to be a protective agent followed by aspirin or they were just given aspirin.
The researchers found that the animals who received the herbal combination including cardamom before aspirin administration exhibited fewer gastric ulcers in number, smaller areas of gastric ulcers as well as a lesser degree of stomach lining damage compared to the subjects in the aspirin group. (9)
Cardamom may also provide relief for people struggling with breathing issues like asthma. One study using an animal model indicated that the spice exhibits bronchodilatory effects, which means it’s a substance that dilates the bronchi and bronchioles, decreasing resistance in the respiratory airway and increasing airflow to the lungs. Basically, cardamom was shown to help make breathing easier, which of course is the main goal for anyone suffering from asthma or any shortness of breath. (10)
Cardamom refers to herbs within the Elettaria (green) and Amomum (black) genera of the ginger (Zingiberaceae) family.
- 18 calories
- 4 grams carbohydrates
- 0.6 gram protein
- 0.4 gram fat
- 1.6 grams fiber
- 1.6 milligrams manganese (80 percent DV)
- 0.8 milligrams iron (4.4 percent DV)
- 13 milligrams magnesium (3.3 percent DV)
- 0.4 milligrams zinc (2.7 percent DV)
- 22 milligrams calcium (2.2 percent DV)
- 65 milligrams potassium (1.9 percent DV)
- 10 milligrams phosphorus (1 percent DV)
Cardamom vs. Coriander
Cardamom and coriander are two spices that have many similar benefits. For instance, they’re both used to naturally treat high blood sugar and diabetes, high blood pressure, and digestive issues, and they both have a floral flavor. In addition, there are five digestive spices in Ayurveda that have been used for thousands of years with incredible success. Coriander and cardamom are both on this list. The other three are fennel, cumin and ginger.
However, there are also some distinct differences between these two spices, such as:
- Made from the seed pods of various plants in the ginger family
- Indigenous to Southern Asia and India
- Used in Ayurveda for balancing doshas and is considered a warming spice
- Introduced to North America by British Colonial settlers in 1670
- Guatemala is currently the largest producer
- Used as a natural remedy for bad breath, cavities, and asthma
- Comes from the seed of the cilantro plant
- Native to the Mediterranean and other points in Southern Europe to Northern Africa and all the way to Western Asia
- Used in Ayurveda for balancing doshas and is considered a cooling spice
- Brought to the Americas via Guatemala initially by a German coffee planter in 1914
- India is currently the largest producer
- Used as a food-poisoning preventative, helps treat UTIs and improves cholesterol levels
Cardamom Recipes & Uses
Ground cardamom is readily available and found in grocery stores, but it’s best to buy it in the form of whole pods if you can find them (and have the time to do a little spice grinding). A benefit of the pods is that they stay fresh longer and are more potent. This spice can be stored for up to a year when purchased in the pod form and can be ground with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
There are three types of cardamom: green, black and Madagascar. Most recipes call for the green variety. It generally has a strong, slightly sweet and floral flavor. A high-quality cardamom can be an expensive spice to buy, similar to true cinnamon and vanilla, but it’s so potent that typically only a teaspoon or less is needed in recipes — so it will last a while.
It can be used whole or steeped in hot water and various liquids to create teas and other infused beverages. The seed can also be removed from the pod to be ground and added into various dishes and smoothies.
This spice pairs well with flavors like cinnamon, vanilla, almond, ginger, clove, coconut and rose. It adds a complex depth when combined with these flavors. It’s a popular additive in the Indian chai tea. It can also be used in savory stews and soups, all types of breads, as well as sweeter dishes like puddings, cakes, pancakes and pies. It’s a great spice to use for steeping in hot liquids like green and mint teas or cold smoothies too.
Try my delicious and easy herbal Chai Tea Recipe with the addition of one to two pods of cardamom to steep and remove before drinking, or grind the seeds of one pod and add in with the other spices.
You can try the following cardamom recipes as well:
- Warm Autumn Salad Recipe
- Baked Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Recipe
- Grain-Free Oatmeal Recipe
- Spicy Kale Chips Recipe
Interesting Facts & History of Cardamom
Cardamom is native to the moist forests of southern India. The fruit can be collected from wild plants, but most is cultivated in India, Sri Lanka and Guatemala. The tall plants flower for eight to nine months each year. The pods or capsules ripen slowly and must be picked when they are three-quarters of the way ripe.
After harvesting, the pods are then washed and dried. The method of drying dictates the final color of cardamom. White indicates the pods have been dried for many days in the sun leaving them bleached. Green pods have been dried for one day and night in a heated room. The three seeds inside each pod are considered the cardamom spice.
By the early 21st century, Guatemala became the largest producer of this spice in the world, with an average annual production between 25,000 and 29,000 tons. The plant was introduced there in 1914 by Oscar Majus Kloeffer, a German coffee planter. India was formerly the largest producer, but since 2000 the country has become the second largest producer worldwide.
It’s a popular ingredient in South Asian dishes, especially curries, and in Scandinavian pastries. Sometimes the name “cardamom” is used for other similar spices of the ginger family (Amomum, Aframomum, Alpinia) that are used in African and Asian cuisines or for commercial adulterants of true cardamoms.
The essential oil occurs in the cells underlying the epidermis of the seed coat. The oil content of a seed varies from 2 percent to 10 percent with its principal components being cineole and α-terpinyl acetate. Cardamom oil is used to flavor pharmaceuticals and also as fragrance in perfumes, soaps, detergents and other body care products.
Cardamom is very safe when taken by mouth in normal food amounts. There are no known common, potential side effects when it’s ingested in normal food amounts.
If you have gallstones, then you should not take cardamom in medicinal quantities. The seed may trigger spasmodic pain for gallstone sufferers.
The safety in medicinal amounts for pregnant and nursing moms is unclear. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, then it’s best to have cardamom in food amounts and not medicinal amounts.
Cardamom Key Points
- Known as the “Queen of Spices,” cardamom is a favorite in India both for its culinary and medicinal value.
- It can be purchased whole in pods or pre-ground.
- This spice can be added to a wide range of food and beverages, including hot teas, curries, stews, smoothies and desserts.
- It’s especially high in the trace mineral manganese, providing 80 percent of your daily requirements in just one tablespoon.
- It also contains fiber, iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc, potassium and phosphorus.
- Studies have shown that cardamom can be an effective natural treatment for lowering blood pressure, which benefits heart and kidney health.
- Research has shown that it can kill bacteria in the mouth that contributes to bad breath and cavities.
- This spice has shown potential when it comes to the natural treatment of diabetes, cancer and asthma.
From the sound of it, you might think leaky gut only affects the digestive system, but in reality it can affect more. Because Leaky Gut is so common, and such an enigma, I’m offering a free webinar on all things leaky gut. Click here to learn more about the webinar.
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