You would have seen this spice in almost every major dish prepared at your home. And it is so for a reason – the benefits of cardamom are immense.
Popularly known as “Elaichi” in Hindi, “Aelakka” in Malayalam, “Elakkai” in Tamil, “Yelakulu” in Telugu, “Yalakki” in Kannada, “Ilaychi” in Gujarati, “Hr̥daya rōga” in Nepali and “Huba alhal” in Arabic – cardamom is a spice made from the seeds of several plants belonging to the family Zingiberaceae.
The spice is native to India, Bhutan, Nepal, and Indonesia. Cardamom pods are small (that’s how they are recognized), triangular in cross-section, and shaped as spindles.
Called the Queen of Spices, cardamom is the world’s third most expensive spice – surpassed only by saffron and vanilla. And not just that – this spice comes in different types as well.
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Cardamom is wonderully nutritious. But it is important to know of its other side too – the not-so-appealing one.
Green and black cardamom – the two major types.
Green cardamom, also known as true cardamom, is the commonest variety. This is distributed from India to Malaysia.
Black cardamom is native to the Eastern Himalayas and is mostly cultivated in Sikkim, Eastern Nepal, and parts of West Bengal in India. It is brown and slightly elongated.
We also have ground cardamom – which is nothing but what we get when the spice is crushed to obtain cardamom powder.
This spice does have an interesting history.
The use of cardamom dates back to at least 4,000 years. Considered one of the world’s oldest spices, it was used in ancient Egypt for its medicinal properties – and even as a part of rituals and embalming. And the Romans and Greeks used this spice for its pungent aroma. The Vikings discovered it during their travels and brought it back to Scandinavia.
As of today, Guatemala is the largest producer of this spice in the world.
The spice is believed to have originally come from the Western Ghats in Southern India.
All of this is not as important as what is inside cardamom – the nutrients that make it what it is today.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||6.7 g||23%|
|Dietary Fiber||28 g||70%|
|Vitamin A||0 IU||0%|
|Vitamin C||21 mg||35%|
And now, we head to the benefits.
Cardamom helps improve digestive health and prevents certain serious ailments like cancer. It also aids in diabetes treatment and helps you cope with depression. You can include cardamom in your diet as you usually do or even take cardamom milk (also called elaichi milk) to avail the wondrous benefits.
According to an Indian study, cardamom can be used in cuisines not just for flavor, but also for enhancing digestion . The spice also stimulates metabolism, given its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (2).
Cardamom is also known to stimulate the secretion of bile acid in the stomach, further aiding in digestion . The spice also prevents other gastrointestinal ailments like acid reflux, heartburn, diarrhea, etc.
Its antioxidant properties can promote heart health. Cardamom also contains fiber, the nutrient that can help lower cholesterol levels and enhance heart health.
The spice also can lower blood pressure levels – and this benefits the heart. Simply have a concoction of a teaspoon of coriander and a pinch of cardamom along with a cup of freshly squeezed peach juice.
Black cardamom seems to work much better than its green cousin when it comes to heart health. One study conducted on patients with ischemic heart disease had their plasma lipid profiles and antioxidant status and fibrinolytic activity (a process that prevents blood clots from growing and causing problems) getting better post the ingestion of black cardamom.
As per a report by the Harvard Medical School, cardamom is one of the ingredients heart experts usually include in their dinners .
Cardamom has exhibited its potential as a natural cancer treatment. Several animal studies have shown that the spice can be used to prevent, delay, and even reverse cancer formation.
As per one Saudi Arabian study, administration of cardamom powder had reduced the occurrence of tumors . Cardamom also decreases general inflammation, which inhibits the growth of cancer cells and encourages their death. Another Saudi Arabian study states that cardamom has the potential to treat forestomach cancer.
The spice had also shown desirable effects on chemically induced colorectal cancer in mice.
Cardamom has diuretic properties that can benefit cases of hypertension and epilepsy. These diuretic properties of cardamom also aid in detoxification.
According to a health report, cardamom can indeed help people cope with depression. Just powder a few seeds of cardamom and boil them in water along with your everyday tea. Take the tea regularly for better results (9).
Cardamom plays a role in fighting asthma symptoms like wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and tightness in the chest. The spice makes breathing easier by enhancing blood circulation within the lungs. It also fights related inflammation by soothing the mucus membranes.
Another report says that green cardamom can be used to treat asthma, bronchitis, and numerous other respiratory issues .
Cardamom is extremely rich in manganese – a mineral that can lower the risk of diabetes. However, a lot more research is required in this aspect.
Cardamom possesses antimicrobial properties that enhance oral health. According to the European Journal of General Dentistry, cardamom can protect against oral pathogens like Streptococci mutans. The pungent taste of cardamom even stimulates the salivary flow – and this can help prevent dental caries.
Cardamom can also work well in treating bad breath. Especially when you take a mixture of spices, including the seeds of anise, cardamom, and fennel – bad breath wouldn’t be a problem anymore.
One Polish study emphasizes on the use of cardamom for treating a lack of appetite. Even cardamom oil can be used as an appetite stimulant .
Cardamom can also aid in the treatment of histoplasmosis – a condition in which one of the symptoms is a lack of appetite .
According to an Indian study, cardamom effectively lowers blood pressure . You can simply include cardamom in your soups and stews or even baked items to keep your blood pressure levels in check.
Cardamom is a proven aphrodisiac. The spice is rich in a compound called cineole, and just a small pinch of cardamom powder can release nerve stimulants and fuel your passions.
Some reports say that cardamom can also treat impotence. Further research is warranted.
Cardamom has muscle-relaxing properties, and these can help relieve hiccups. All you need to do is add a teaspoon of cardamom powder to hot water. Let it steep for about 15 minutes. Strain and consume slowly.
A mixture of cardamom, cinnamon, and black pepper can work wonders for treating a sore throat. While cardamom soothes the sore throat and reduces irritation, cinnamon offers antibacterial protection. And black pepper improves the bioavailability of the two ingredients. You can take 1 gram each of cardamom and cinnamon powders, 125 mg of black pepper, along with 1 teaspoon of honey. Mix all ingredients and lick the mixture thrice a day.
Cardamom also has been found to reduce nausea and prevent vomiting. In one study, test subjects who were given cardamom powder showed less frequency and duration of nausea and less frequency of vomiting.
According to the Central Food Technological Research Institute in India, cardamom contains several components that relieve blood clots. But yes, adequate research is lacking in this aspect.
The skin benefits of cardamom can be attributed to its antibacterial and antioxidant properties. The spice helps treat skin allergies and improves skin complexion. It can also be used as a tool to cleanse the skin.
One of the benefits of cardamom is that it can give you fair skin. Cardamom essential oil helps in removing blemishes, thus giving you a fairer complexion.
You can either buy skin care products containing cardamom or its essential oil. Or you can simply mix cardamom powder with honey and apply it as a face mask.
Cardamom contains vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant. It improves blood circulation throughout the body. Also, the many layers of phytonutrients in the spice can improve blood circulation – which invariably enhances skin health.
Cardamom, especially the black variety, has antibacterial properties. Applying a cardamom and honey mask (a mixture of cardamom powder and honey) to the affected area can give relief.
Cardamom is often used in cosmetics to impart fragrance. Due to its distinct spicy, sweet scent, both cardamom and cardamom oil are used in perfumes, soaps, body washes, powders, and other cosmetics. Oriental style perfumes and other scented products often use cardamom as an ingredient in addition to other essential oils.
Cardamom can be used in skin care products for antiseptic and anti-inflammatory purposes to calm and soothe the skin, thanks to its therapeutic effects. When added to perfumes, it can stimulate the senses. Facial soaps use cardamom to impart a warming sensation to the skin.These cosmetics using cardamom for therapeutic reasons are known as aromatherapy products.
The strong scent of cardamom can ward off unpleasant odors. This makes it a great addition to cosmetic products, such as toners, that serve a specific function but smell unappealing due to the inclusion of certain ingredients. Cardamom is added to these products to mask the unpleasant scent while retaining the benefit of the cosmetic.
Cardamom essential oil is often added to cosmetics that are applied to the lips (such as lip balms) to impart the taste of the oil and make the lips smooth.
You can simply apply the oil to your skin before you go to bed and wash it off in the morning.
Black cardamom helps in flushing out the toxins that could otherwise harm your skin. Chewing some black cardamom detoxifies your body, thus providing you with clearer skin.
Cardamom can contribute to improved hair growth and the treatment of certain scalp issues.
The antioxidant properties of cardamom, and especially the black type, nourish your scalp and improve its health. The spice also nourishes the hair follicles and enhances hair strength. You can wash your hair with cardamom water (mix the powder with water and use before shampoo) to achieve the desired results.
The antibacterial properties of the spice even treat scalp infections, if any.
This is a given. Improved scalp health most often means stronger and better-looking hair. The spice strengthens your hair roots and offers shine and luster to your hair.
These were the benefits. A simple spice can transform your health, provided you take it on a regular basis. And now, we have an important question to address – what is the difference between cardamom and coriander? Firstly, why should we care about such a comparison?
Cardamom is one of the most prized spices all over the world. It can be used in the whole as well as ground form in a variety of dishes ranging from curry powders, dals, and masalas to desserts and drinks. While cooking the seeds, they should be bruised with the back of a knife or ground with other spices before frying. Given below are the tips for the usage of cardamom as an ingredient.
That’s the different ways you can use cardamom in your cooking. But even before you do that, you need to first select and store the spice, right?
How are you going to do that?
Both ground and loose seeds of cardamom are available in the spice section of the supermarkets while whole pods are available in specialty stores.
Cardamom is an expensive spice, and so, other spices are often added to ground cardamom to reduce the cost. The opening of the pods or the grinding of the seeds causes a quick loss of the flavor and aroma of the cardamom due to the rapid loss of the essential oils.
Proper storage of cardamom is of prime importance to retain its taste and aroma and extend its shelf life.
Okay. Now you know how to pick the right kind of cardamom and store it properly. How about using the spice in some delectable recipes?
The recipes are great for sure. But the facts about cardamom give you an entirely new perspective about the spice.
Wondering where to buy this spice?
Yes. And here they are.
Though taking cardamom in normal amounts is safe, taking the spice as a medicine might have some undesirable effects. Stay safe and consume it only in food amounts. Or avoid use altogether.
If you have gallstones, avoid intake. Cardamom seed is known to trigger gallstone colic.
Continue adding this spice to every major dish in your home. And continue to appreciate its benefits too.
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