Cardamom is not just a versatile spice that goes well with foods as varied as tea and stew, savory meat and fish, and sweets and cakes, but it also has myriad health benefits to offer. Found in two types, a small green variety (Elettaria cardamomum) and a large black variety (Amomum subulatum), cardamom has been long recommended by ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine for a number of ailments ranging from the common cold to erectile dysfunction.1 Ayurveda considers cardamom a tridoshic remedy, which means it can balance the three doshas, namely kapha, pitta, and vata. As per ayurvedic philosophy, all diseases arise from imbalances in these three doshas.
[pullquote]According to ayurvedic expert Peggy Breeze, black cardamom subdues kapha, pitta, and vata, while green cardamom stimulates pitta and soothes vata and kapha.[/pullquote]
From the nutritional viewpoint, cardamom has a good amount of dietary fiber, with just 2 grams of the ground spice meeting 2% of our daily fiber requirement. That apart, it can provide some amount of potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, and vitamin C. However, we get these nutrients only in minute quantities since we usually do not have more than 2 tablespoons of cardamom powder in a day.2 In addition to this, it has several antioxidants in the form of terpenes and flavonoids that give it a moderate ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) value of 2764 – the ORAC value indicates how effective a substance is in fighting free radicals.3 Cardamom’s antioxidant power is enhanced when it is combined with other antioxidative herbs like turmeric and cloves. Here’s a look at the benefits of cardamom.
1. Treats Cold And Cough
[pullquote]If you are not daunted by the pungency of black cardamom, you may use it in place of the green variety. Black cardamom has a higher cineole content.[/pullquote]
Green cardamom has been traditionally used to relieve cold and cough. Research finds that this is largely due to the presence of a compound called 1,8-cineole, which works as an expectorant and helps clear out mucus.4 Also known as eucalyptol, 1,8-cineole is what makes eucalyptus oil a standard remedy for a cough and cold and respiratory diseases. Commercial cough lozenges also contain this aromatic compound.
Cardamom tea for a cough and cold: Add a few seeds of cardamom, a clove, and a teaspoon of honey in a cup of boiling water. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Drink hot.
2. Treats Asthma And Bronchitis
Folk medicine has also used cardamom to ease asthma attacks and bronchitis, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. Asthma attacks occur when the airways become narrow due to inflammation and then get further clogged up with excess mucus, leading to a shortage of oxygen.
In a study on rats and rabbits, it was found that cardamom helps in several ways. While 1,8-cineole clears the mucus, the flavonoids in cardamom dilate the bronchi (the tubes that carry air to the lungs) and thus ease the process of respiration. Researchers feel that this bronchodilatory effect of cardamom might prove helpful in the mainstream treatment of asthma as well.5
If you suffer from asthma, keep adding cardamom to your dishes. You may also want to drink cardamom tea during winter and in seasons when you are likely to get an attack. An ayurvedic formula called eladi churna, which contains cardamom, among other herbs, is often taken for relief from asthma.6
Caution: Do not use cardamom to alleviate your asthma symptoms if you already have an allergy to cardamom itself.
3. Helps In Digestion
The beneficial effect of black cardamom in digestion is well documented in Unani and ayurveda. It improves digestion and decreases instances of constipation, indigestion, belching, bloating, heartburn, and gastric inflammation. In fact, studies show that by consuming large cardamom, you could inhibit gastric lesions induced by medications like aspirin as well.7 By eliminating bad bacteria, the fiber-rich pods of black cardamom can also help restore the bacterial balance in your gut and aid in digestion. Extract from the fruit and the rind has been found to have an antibacterial effect against Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause severe gastric infections.8 Since it has antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties, cardamom can also reduce the severity of stomach cramps.
Cardamom tea for digestion: Add a teaspoon of cardamom powder to a cup of boiling water and let it steep for 10–15 minutes. Drink this after a meal for better digestion.
4. Reduces Vomiting
The aroma of cardamom can help reduce nausea and vomiting. A simple remedy that ayurveda recommends, irrespective of your dosha type, is having an infusion of 1/2 teaspoon each of green cardamom and fennel powder along with a little honey in a cup of lukewarm water. However, if your nausea is due to a vata imbalance, where the vomiting is often triggered by hypersensitivity of the mind, you may also mix 1/2 teaspoon each of cardamom and fennel powder in honey or warm milk. This will have a relaxing effect.9
5. Increases Appetite
Cardamom is known to not just help with digestion but also stimulate the appetite by enhancing the production of saliva and gastric juices. Green cardamom, along with fennel and ginger, has been used by ayurvedic practitioners to stimulate appetite in anorexic patients. It also helps manage the symptoms of anorexia such as nausea or vomiting. Having teas prepared from these herbs after a meal can help in digestion as well as exert a calming effect on the patient.
An ayurvedic formula for treating anorexia symptoms: Mix 2 parts ashwagandha, 1 part gotu kola, 1 part cardamom, and 1 part fennel powder. Add 1–2 teaspoons of this in a cup of water with a little honey. Sip on this every 2–3 hours.10
6. Protects The Liver And The Kidney
Cardamom’s antioxidative properties also help protect the liver. The liver needs a constant supply of antioxidants to carry on the detoxification process. A study on rats with liver damage caused by a medicine found that an aqueous extract of cardamom reduced all markers of liver damage significantly, including the levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. It also increased the good cholesterol levels significantly.11 Another study found that cardamom could reverse the kidney damage caused by chewing tobacco. Though the study was carried out on rats, researchers suggested that green cardamom could play a protective role against renal failure due to tobacco use in humans as well.12
7. Helps In Detoxification
Ayurveda holds that certain illnesses or ailments of the body are caused by the buildup of excess “ama” or toxin in the body. It is described as similar to a sticky substance that can block normal circulation and lower energy levels. Ayurveda suggests eating ama-reducing foods to purge the toxins, and cardamom is one of those foods.13 To put it in layman terms, cardamom helps detox the body.
8. Manages Obesity
[pullquote]Add cardamom to your meals, but also remember to cut down on refined carbs and trans fats. Exercise is also vital in managing obesity.[/pullquote]
Cardamom can help with obesity by improving your digestion and metabolism. It can also lower your total cholesterol level without significantly affecting your HDL (good cholesterol) levels. High total cholesterol is often an indicator of inflammation in the body, and inflammation increases the risk of obesity. Obese people also often have visceral fat deposition around their abdominal organs caused, more often than not, by a diet rich in refined carbs and trans fats.
In an animal study, rats that were fed a high-carb, high-fat diet turned obese. They were then given cardamom powder as a supplement. As a result, there was a reduction in total cholesterol level and fat deposition. By increasing the natural antioxidant levels in the body, cardamom could also lower the oxidation triggered by the high-carb, high-fat diet.14 Black cardamom is more potent in improving metabolism and reducing obesity than the green variety.15
9. Protects The Heart
In ayurveda, cardamom is also used as a diuretic, which helps lower blood pressure and prevents heart failure.16 Modern science finds that cardamom can indeed help your heart and not just with its diuretic effect. In a study, rats fed on black cardamom suffered less heart damage after a heart attack. This was found to be due to the antioxidants in cardamom.17
[pullquote]The standard dose for cardamom powder in most heart-related studies was 3 g daily. This is twice the amount we usually consume in a day. So consult your doctor before you start increasing your cardamom intake.[/pullquote]
Lowers Blood Pressure And Reduces Blood Clotting
When patients of primary hypertension stage 1 (systolic blood pressure lower than 140 and diastolic lower than 100) were given 3 g green cardamom powder in 2 divided doses daily for 12 weeks, systolic and diastolic blood pressure came down significantly and the antioxidant status improved by 90%. Moreover, there was a decrease in blood clotting. This is an important factor in preventing heart attacks since blood clots often end up blocking the arteries and leading to heart attacks.18
The same group of researchers also found that a similar dose of black cardamom lowered the total cholesterol level by nearly 11% and the bad LDL cholesterol level by 14%, reduced blood clotting, and enhanced the antioxidant levels in patients of ischemia. This finding is of importance because in people already at risk of heart attacks, lowering the total cholesterol level to HDL ratio is vital.19
What these studies point out is that cardamom can be an effective way to prevent heart attacks in the at-risk population, and black cardamom may be more effective than green cardamom.20
10. Boosts Immunity
The strength of your immunity depends on natural antioxidants in your body. Antioxidants fight free radicals generated by external toxins as well as by internal processes and protect your cells from oxidative damage. Cardamom antioxidants can add to your immune power. Have it alongside other anti-inflammatory antioxidants like berries, leafy greens, nuts, and herbs.21 Cardamom has antiseptic properties, which prevent infections.22 Both green and black cardamom have also been found to slow down the growth of fungus and their essential oil was found to inhibit a number of disease-causing bacteria.23 24 Having cardamom regularly in your meals or as tea can both prevent and fight infections.
11. Has A Relaxing Effect
Cardamom has calming and sedative properties as well. An animal study found that green cardamom could induce sleep as effectively as diazepam, an anti-anxiety medicine. The researchers also suggested that cardamom has potential to treat epilepsy.25 Some experts also claim that drinking a glass of warm milk mixed with cardamom oil can help reduce insomnia and ensure a good night’s sleep.
12. Prevents Muscle Spasms
Studies state that cardamom has antispasmodic properties and might hence be used to fight hiccups as well as stomach and intestinal cramps. Other studies state that incorporating cardamom into the diets of epileptic patients might prevent involuntary muscle spasms. However, further research is required to fully understand this benefit.26 27
13. Can Prevent Cancer
Thanks to its antioxidants, green cardamom might have the potential to protect your skin from non-melanoma cancer.28 In an animal study, mice suffering from a form of tumor similar to non-melanoma cancer in human beings were fed cardamom. Cardamom helped reduce both the size and the number of tumors on the mice’s skin by elevating the levels of natural antioxidants in the body that help in detoxification and decreasing the levels of inflammation-causing chemicals. While cardamom has still not been used in human studies, researchers suggest that it has potential in preventing tumor formation and skin cancer.29
[pullquote]Consuming a variety of spices and herbs is a good way to prevent against cancer. Keep adding a pinch of cardamom powder to your teas and meals to get the anti-cancer benefits.[/pullquote]
Preliminary research indicates that cardamom can also help prevent colon cancer. In one study, it reduced the number of pre-tumor lesions in the colon of mice injected with a carcinogen and prevented the lesions from becoming cancerous. Cardamom suppressed cell proliferation, induced cell death, and reduced the levels of chemicals responsible for inflammation and pain.30 Cardamom can also raise the levels of GST, an antioxidant required for detoxification.31
14. Keeps The Skin And Hair Healthy
Cardamom seeds contains about 62% oleic acid, a fatty acid that gives olive oil its beauty benefits.32 The oil extracted from the seeds can moisturize your skin and scalp well, reducing dryness and wrinkling as well as dandruff. Moreover, owing to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, cardamom can effectively treat pimples, acne, and skin warts.
15. Improves Dental Health
[pullquote]Craving a cigarette after you quit smoking? Chew on a cardamom pod.[/pullquote]
While cardamom is often used as a mouth freshener, its role in dental hygiene is not as well known. Cardamom possesses antimicrobial agents that eliminate pathogenic oral bacteria and prevent the formation and growth of cavities. It can also kill the odor-causing bacteria in the mouth and improve bad breath.33 Chew a pod or a few seeds after a meal to get the benefits.
How To Consume Cardamom
Cardamom is a versatile spice that lends itself to myriad dishes. Use the green “queen of spice” to flavor your desserts and the black, stronger variety for stews and curries. Remove the seeds from the pod and crush it into a fine powder. You may add this powder directly into batter or sprinkle it on your food. In savory dishes, you may choose to use the entire pod.
When it comes to health benefits, use green cardamom for cough and cold and the black one for digestion. You may also steep the seed powder in hot water to prepare a cardamom tea. The daily dosage is 1.5 g of the powdered seed or a little less than 1 teaspoon. You may buy cardamom supplements as well, but always stick to the recommended dosage.
Side Effects Of Cardamom
- Cardamom allergy: If you are sensitive to cardamom, eating it can result in skin rashes and temporary respiratory issues like difficulty in breathing and tightness in the chest.
- Gallstone: Eating excess cardamom can lead to gallstones. Additionally, if you are affected by gallstones, it’s best to avoid cardamom.34
- Drug interactions: If you’re on medication for a particular illness or infection, consult your doctor before increasing your intake of cardamom.
|↑1, ↑22||Sharma, Ratika. “Cardamom comfort.” Dental research journal 9, no. 2 (2012).|
|↑2||Basic Report: 02006, Spices, cardamom. USDA.|
|↑3||USDA Database for the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods, Release 2. USDA|
|↑4||A quick guide to Indian spices. Le Cordon Bleu.|
|↑5||ullah Khan, Arif, Qaiser Jabeen Khan, and Anwar Hassan Gilani. “Pharmacological basis for the medicinal use of cardamom in asthma.” Bangladesh Journal of Pharmacology 6, no. 1 (2011): 34-37.|
|↑6||The Ayurvedic Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Bronchial Asthma (Svasa Roga). The Gerson Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine.|
|↑7||Jafri, M. A., Kalim Javed, and Surender Singh. “Evaluation of the gastric antiulcerogenic effect of large cardamom (fruits of Amomum subulatum Roxb).” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 75, no. 2 (2001): 89-94.|
|↑8||Agnihotri, Supriya, and S. Wakode. “Antimicrobial activity of essential oil and various extracts of fruits of greater cardamom.” Indian journal of pharmaceutical sciences 72, no. 5 (2010): 657.|
|↑9, ↑10||Frawley, David. Ayurvedic healing: a comprehensive guide. Lotus Press, 2000.|
|↑11||Aboubakr, Mohamed, and Abdelazem Mohamed Abdelazem. “Hepatoprotective effect of aqueous extract cardamom against gentamicin induced hepatic damage in rats.” International Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences 5, no. 1 (2016): 1.|
|↑12||Kumari, Sweety, Abhijit Dutta, Saabiya Farooqui, Musarrat Naaz, Swati Soren, Sunita Dutta, Abha Prasad, Neeta Lal, and Anjali Smita. “Nephrotoxicity induced by Pan masala in Swiss mice and its Protection By Elettaria Cardamomum (L.) Maton.” Int J. of Pharm and Biol. Sciences 3, no. 1 (2013): 231-238.|
|↑13||Pole, Sebastian. Ayurvedic medicine: the principles of traditional practice. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2006.|
|↑14||Rahman, Md Mizanur, Mohammad Nazmul Alam, Anayt Ulla, Farzana Akther Sumi, Nusrat Subhan, Trisha Khan, Bishwajit Sikder, Hemayet Hossain, Hasan Mahmud Reza, and Md Ashraful Alam. “Cardamom powder supplementation prevents obesity, improves glucose intolerance, inflammation and oxidative stress in liver of high carbohydrate high fat diet induced obese rats.” Lipids in health and disease 16, no. 1 (2017): 151.|
|↑15||Bhaswant, Maharshi, Hemant Poudyal, Michael L. Mathai, Leigh C. Ward, Peter Mouatt, and Lindsay Brown. “Green and black cardamom in a diet-induced rat model of metabolic syndrome.” Nutrients 7, no. 9 (2015): 7691-7707.|
|↑16, ↑25, ↑26||Gilani, Anwarul Hassan, Qaiser Jabeen, Arif-ullah Khan, and Abdul Jabbar Shah. “Gut modulatory, blood pressure lowering, diuretic and sedative activities of cardamom.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 115, no. 3 (2008): 463-472.|
|↑17||Goyal, Sameer N., Charu Sharma, Umesh B. Mahajan, Chandragouda R. Patil, Yogeeta O. Agrawal, Santosh Kumari, Dharamvir Singh Arya, and Shreesh Ojha. “Protective effects of cardamom in isoproterenol-induced myocardial infarction in rats.” International journal of molecular sciences 16, no. 11 (2015): 27457-27469.|
|↑18||Verma, S. K., Vartika Jain, and S. S. Katewa. “Blood pressure lowering, fibrinolysis enhancing and antioxidant activities of cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum).” (2009).|
|↑19, ↑20||Verma, Surendra Kumar, Vartika Jain, and Dharm Pal Singh. “Effect of Greater cardamom (Amomum subulatum Roxb.) on blood lipids, fibrinolysis and total antioxidant status in patients with ischemic heart disease.” Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Disease 2 (2012): S739-S743.|
|↑21||Benzie, I.F. and Wachtel-Galor, S. eds., 2011. Herbal medicine: biomolecular and clinical aspects. CRC Press.|
|↑23||Mutlu-Ingok, Aysegul, and Funda Karbancioglu-Guler. “Cardamom, Cumin, and Dill Weed Essential Oils: Chemical Compositions, Antimicrobial Activities, and Mechanisms of Action against Campylobacter spp.” Molecules 22, no. 7 (2017): 1191.|
|↑24||Vijayalakshmi, Prabhakaran, Sengodan Thenmozhi, and Palaniappan Rajeswari. “The Evaluation of the virulence factors of clinical Candida isolates and the anti-biofilm activity of Elettaria cardamomum against multi-drug resistant Candida albicans.” Current medical mycology 2, no. 2 (2016): 8.|
|↑27||Al-Zuhair, H., B. El-Sayeh, H. A. Ameen, and H. Al-Shoora. “Pharmacological studies of cardamom oil in animals.” Pharmacological research 34, no. 1-2 (1996): 79-82.|
|↑28||Das, Ila, Asha Acharya, Deborah L. Berry, Supti Sen, Elizabeth Williams, Eva Permaul, Archana Sengupta, Sudin Bhattacharya, and Tapas Saha. “Antioxidative effects of the spice cardamom against non-melanoma skin cancer by modulating nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor 2 and NF-κB signalling pathways.” British Journal of Nutrition108, no. 6 (2012): 984-997.|
|↑29||Kaefer, Christine M., and John A. Milner. “17 Herbs and Spices in Cancer Prevention and Treatment.” Lester Packer, Ph. D. (2011): 361.|
|↑30||Sengupta, Archana, Samit Ghosh, and Shamee Bhattacharjee. “Dietary cardamom inhibits the formation of azoxymethane-induced aberrant crypt foci in mice and reduces COX-2 and iNOS expression in the colon.” Asian Pacific journal of cancer prevention: APJCP 6, no. 2 (2005): 118-122.|
|↑31||Bhattacharjee, Shamee, Tapasi Rana, and Archana Sengupta. “Inhibition of lipid peroxidation and enhancement of GST activity by cardamom and cinnamon during chemically induced colon carcinogenesis in Swiss albino mice.” Asian Pac J Cancer Prev 8, no. 4 (2007): 578-582.|
|↑32||Kasturi, T. R., and B. H. Iyer. “FIXED OIL FROM ELETTARIA CARDAMOMUM SEEDS.” Journal of the Indian Institute of Science 37, no. 2 (2013): 106.|
|↑33||Sharma, R., 2012. Cardamom comfort. Dental research journal, 9(2).|
|↑34||Preedy, Victor R., Ronald Ross Watson, and Vinood B. Patel. Nuts and Seeds in Disease Prevention. Academic Press (2011).|