Queen of the Spices; Cardamom Health Benefits

What Is Cardamom?

Scientific Name: Elettaria cardamomum

Other Names: Amomum cardamomum, Bai Dou Kou, Black Cardamom, Cardamome de Malabar, Cardamome Noire, , Cardamome Verte, Cardamomo, Cardomom, Cardomomi Fructus, Ela, Elettaria cardamomum, Green Cardamom, Huile Essentielle de Cardamome, Indian Cardamom.

Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) is a plant that is native to India, Bhutan and Nepal in the ginger family Zingiberaceae, which is highly valued as an expensive culinary spice next only to saffron and vanilla. Cardamom fruits or seeds are primarily used as a flavoring for drinks, baked goods, and confection. Cardamom is also valued for its traditional use in herbal medicine, providing health benefits for those suffering from stomach problems, liver, and gallbladder ailments, and as a stimulant. Other species that are closely related to genus Amomum in the ginger family are likewise called cardamom. These cardamom species have larger and darker fruits and have a somewhat coarser taste and aroma.


Plant Description

Cardamom (Elletaria cardamomum) is a herbaceous perennial plant usually found in the wild in India and Sri Lanka but has since been cultivated in other tropical areas. Cardamom is a clumping plant of up to 20 leafy shoots arising from the rhizome. The shoots are composed of overlapping leaf sheaths, lanceolate in shape with dark green color. The clump of leaves can reach up to 6 meters in height. Some shoots produce flowers on a drooping pinnacle. The flowers are both male and female and are pale green in color. The cardamom fruits are pale green to yellow in color but turn into brown when dried and contain 15 to 20 small aromatic seeds about 3 mm in length which are highly valued as a flavoring.

Cardamom, Nutrient value per 100 g.
(Source: USDA National Nutrient Database)
Proximates NV %RDA
Energy 311 Kcal 15.5%
Carbohydrates 68.47 g 52.5%
Protein 10.76 g 19%
Total Fat 6.7 g 23%
Dietary Fiber 28 g 70%

Niacin 1.102 mg 7%
Pyridoxine 0.230 mg 18%
Riboflavin 0.182 mg 14%
Thiamin 0.198 mg 16.5%
Vitamin A 0 IU 0%
Vitamin C 21 mg 35%

Calcium 383 mg 38%
Iron 14.0 mg 78%
Magnesium 229 mg 57%
Phosphorus 178 mg 32%
Sodium 18 mg 1%
Zinc 7.5 mg 50%
Copper 0.4 mg 19%
Percent daily values are based on 2000 Kcal diets. 

Traditional Health Benefits Of Cardamom

Cardamom being native to South India and Sri Lanka, it has a long history of use in Ayurveda medicine. When the Chinese discovered this spice, it was brought to China and likewise applied in traditional Chinese medicine.

Cardamom has long been used as an effective herbal remedy for digestion problems including intestinal spasms, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, liver and gallbladder complaints.

Other traditional uses and health benefits of Cardamon include the treatment of;

Gallbladder problems
Intestinal spasms
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Liver problems
Loss of appetite
Preventing infections
Sore mouth and throat
Urinary problems

In recent years, claimed health benefits of Cardamom include its strong antioxidant property and an effective body detoxification agent,

Cardamom is rich in minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium maintains cell and body fluids that help control heart rate and blood pressure. It also contains copper and iron that is important in the production of red blood cells.

Cardamom is also rich in vitamins including riboflavin, niacin and vitamin C and contains essential oils that improve overall health.

Cardamom promotes urination that improves kidney function by eliminating excess calcium, urea, and other toxins. It is also used in the treatment of genital and urinary infections. Cardamom is also believed to improve sexual performance.

Other health benefits of cardamom are its use in the treatment of gum problems and in preventing bad breath. It is also used as an antiseptic and antimicrobial.

Scientific Studies Of Cardamom Health Benefits

Blood pressure-lowering, fibrinolysis enhancing and antioxidant activities of cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum). The Indigenous Drug Research Center, RNT Medical College, Udaipur, India conducted a study on  Elettaria cardamomum  (Small cardamom) fruit powder to evaluate its antihypertensive potential and its effect on some of the cardiovascular risk factors in individuals with stage 1 hypertension.
Results have shown that administration of 3 g of cardamom powder to patients with primary hypertension of stage 1 for a period of 12 weeks demonstrated a significantly (p<0.001) decreased systolic, diastolic and mean blood pressure and significantly (p<0.05) increased fibrinolytic activity at the end of 12th week. The total antioxidant status was also significantly (p<0.05) increased by 90% at the end of 3 months.
Additionally, all study subjects experienced a feeling of well-being without any side-effects. Thus, the present study demonstrates that small cardamom effectively reduces blood pressure, enhances fibrinolysis and improves antioxidant status, without significantly altering blood lipids and fibrinogen levels in stage 1 hypertensive individuals. (Indian Journal of Biochemistry and Biophysics. December 2009).
Protective effect of Eleteria cardamomum (L.) Maton against Pan masala induced damage in the lung of male Swiss mice. In a study conducted in Ranchi University India, the potential ameliorating properties of cardamom Elettaria cardamomum (E. cardamomum) L. Maton against pan masala induced damage in the lung of male Swiss mice was investigated.  Results have shown that the lungs of the pan masala treated group showed adenocarcinoma, edema, and inflammation with increased activity of acid phosphatase, alkaline phosphatase, and lactate dehydrogenase. While the deleterious effects were seen to be less in the cardamom treated group and the enzymatic activity also decreased significantly (P<0.05) in the ameliorating group. This study suggests that cardamom supplementation may decrease the damage to the lungs of pan masala treated subjects. (Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine, July 2013)
Chemopreventive effects of cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum L.) on chemically induced skin carcinogenesis in Swiss albino mice. 

The potential of cardamom as a chemopreventive agent was investigated in a study done in the College of Health Sciences, University of Hail, Saudi Arabia. The study was done on mice treated orally with 0.5 mg of cardamom powder in suspension continuously at pre-, peri-, and post-initiation stages of papilloma genesis compared with the control group. It was observed that the treatment of cardamom suspension by oral gavage for 15 days resulted in a significant decrease in the lipid peroxidation level of the liver (P < .01). In addition, the reduced glutathione level was significantly elevated in comparison with the control group (P < .05) following cardamom suspension treatment. These findings indicate the potential of cardamom as a chemopreventive agent against two-stage skin cancer (Journal of Medicinal Food, June 2012).

Antioxidative effects of the spice cardamom against non-melanoma skin cancer by modulating nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor 2 and NF-κB signaling pathways.

Cardamom,  a dietary phytoproduct, has been commonly used in cuisines for flavor and has numerous health benefits, such as improving digestion and stimulating metabolism and having antitumorigenic effects.  A study done in Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute, Kolkata, India, investigated the efficacy of dietary cardamom against 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA)-induced skin papilloma to genesis in Swiss albino mice that closely resembles human NMSC. Results from the oral administration of cardamom to DMBA-treated mice up-regulated the phase II detoxification enzymes, such as glutathione-S-transferase and glutathione peroxidase, probably via activation of nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor 2 transcription factor in ‘DMBA+CARD’ mice. Furthermore, reduced glutathione, glutathione reductase, superoxide dismutase and catalase were also up-regulated by cardamom in the same ‘DMBA+CARD’ group of mice compared with DMBA-treated mice. Cardamom ingestion in DMBA-treated mice blocked NF-κB activation and down-regulated cyclooxygenase-2 expression. As a consequence, both the size and the number of skin papillomas generated on the skin due to the DMBA treatment were reduced in the ‘DMBA+CARD’ group. Thus, the results of the study suggest that cardamom has the potential to become a pivotal chemopreventive agent to prevent papilloma genesis on the skin (British Journal of Nutrition, Sept 2012)

Gut modulatory, blood pressure-lowering, diuretic and sedative activities of cardamom.

Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) is traditionally used in various gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and neuronal disorders.
A study was done in the Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan have using Cardamom crude extract in guinea-pig, mice and rabbits suggested that cardamom exhibits gut excitatory and inhibitory effects mediated through cholinergic and Ca++ antagonist mechanisms respectively and lower BP via a combination of both pathways. The diuretic and sedative effects may offer added value in its use in hypertension and epilepsy. (Journal of Ethnopharmacology, February 2008).

Cardamom extract as an inhibitor of human platelet aggregation.

The Department of Biochemistry and Nutrition, Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore, India, investigated the protective effects of cardamom extract against platelet aggregation and lipid peroxidation.  In the study, a sample from the blood of healthy volunteers was taken and the platelets were subjected to stimulation with a variety of agonists including ADP, epinephrine, collagen, calcium ionophore and ristocetin.  Results have shown that the inhibitory effects of cardamom against lipid peroxidation and platelet aggregation were dose-dependent and time-dependent and an increase in the concentration of the aqueous extract of cardamom results to significantly decreased MDA formation. (Phytotheraphy Research, May 2005)

Allergic contact dermatitis from cardamom.

Cardamom is a popular traditional flavoring agent for baked goods and confectionery.  A case is presented of a confectioner with a chronic hand dermatitis and positive patch test reactions to cardamom and certain terpenoid compounds present in the dried ripe seeds of cardamom. Dermatitis from skin exposure to cardamom has to the best of our knowledge not been reported.

Cardamom Side Effects And Warnings

Cardamom may be considered safe for most people in food amounts and there were no reported side effects from its consumption.

Cardamom is considered safe for use by pregnant and breastfeeding mothers if taken in food amounts. But caution should be taken if to be taken in large doses as there are no sufficient studies that determine its full effects.

Large doses of cardamom have been found to trigger gallstone colic that causes spasmodic pain.

Cardamom may trigger an allergic reaction for sensitive people. Severe side effects include difficulty in breathing, hive, swelling of skin and heaviness of chest.

Cardamom Availability And Preparation

Where To Buy Cardamom

Cardamom comes in several forms depending upon how the cardamom seed pods are treated. Cardamom is usually available in most grocery stores along with the other spices;

Green cardamom pods are the preferred form of this spice in its native country, India. This fancier cardamom has been picked while still immature and sun-dried to preserve its bright green color. Green cardamom pods are harder to find and more expensive than the other forms of cardamom in part because of their superior ability to retain aroma and flavor longer. This premium form of cardamom is all connoisseurs will use in any recipe which calls for cardamom.

Cardamom seed has had the outer pod, or cardamom fruit, removed so that only the pure seeds remain. This form of cardamom spice is sometimes called cardamom-decort, which simply means the seeds have been removed from the pods or hulled. The seeds are crushed or ground prior to use, which provides plenty of cardamom flavor at a more economical price, substitute 12 seeds for every whole pod called for in a recipe.

Black cardamom is the seed pods of closely related species that also are aromatic and have an appearance similar to that of true cardamom. Although, black cardamom is not a suitable substitute for recipes that call for cardamom. Its flavor is much earthier with sweetness and a flowery accent that is different from that of true cardamoms. It is an ingredient used in some African cooking and abroad to add a bacon-like flavor to some vegetarian dishes.

Ground cardamom is convenient to have for baking and other applications where the spice needs to be ground. Freshness and thus flavor are of course compromised when cardamom is pre-ground because it loses flavor soon after grinding. To appreciate cardamom’s true flavor we suggest grinding it before use in a spice mill, electric coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle.

White cardamom that was commonly available in North America and Europe had been bleached to achieve its color or lack of it. It is used in baking and some desserts because its color helps keep light-colored batters, sauces, and confections speck-free. The bleaching process also destroyed much of the cardamom’s flavor leading to white cardamom’s decline in popularity.


Cardamom {Elettaria cardamomum}

Also, Known As:

  • Bastard Cardamom
  • Cardamom
  • Cardamom Seeds
  • Cardamon
  • Ela
  • Elaci
  • Malabar Cardamom
  • Sha-ren

Queen of the Spices.

The plant is one of the oldest known spices in the world. The ancient Egyptians made extensive use of the cardamom in the manufacture of perfumes and cosmetics. However, the use of cardamom as herbal medicine is not as well known for its use in culinary and cosmetic preparations. In the Indian system of medication known as Ayurveda medicine, cardamom is utilized in the preparations of many remedies. The cardamom has been used for thousands of years in India as a medicine mainly employed as an excellent remedy for the treatment of many different digestive problems, particularly to help soothe indigestion and excess abdominal gas. The pungent and aromatic taste of the cardamom ensures that it combines well with other useful herbs in the preparation of herbal medicine.

Cardamom is a spice-scented herb-like plant that grows perennially and up to a height of anything between 2 meters and 4 meters. The leaves of this herbaceous plant appear alternately in two levels, are straight and lance-shaped, growing up to 40 cm to 60 cm in length and having elongated sharp tips. The color of cardamom blooms varies from white to lilac or light violet and they appear on loose spikes that are about 30 cm to 60 cm in length. Cardamom fruits are three-sided pods that measure about 1 cm to 2 cm in length. These pods have a yellowish-green hue and each of them encloses many black seeds.

The seeds of the cardamom plant, which is indigenous to Southeast Asia, especially India, are used to make a spice. The cardamom plant is a member of the Zingiberaceae family and genuine cardamom is grouped as Elettaria cardamomum. The seeds are used to make a spice that is heady, as well as aromatic and people in Europe, have been using this spice since roughly 1214 A.D. while people in India have been using it for a very long time. Currently, cardamom is grown in several parts of the world, including India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand, Central America, Mexico, and Guatemala. Besides adding essence to foods, cardamom is also used to prepare traditional medicines.


The typical firm cardamom seeds that are used in the form of spice are sold in their pods, after removing the seeds from the pods or most commonly after pounding the seeds to make a powder. The texture of the cardamom seed pods are akin to that of a rough paper and can be bought a split or as a whole. Ideally, you should buy the whole pods because when bought otherwise, the spice may give up its essence very quickly. Cardamom is a very well-liked herb in India, where the plants grow naturally in the forests and are available in two major types – Malabar and Mysore, both names of well-known cities in south India. The Mysore variety encloses additional limonene as well as cineol, which makes this type of cardamom extremely fragrant.


Since cardamom is an extremely aromatic spice, it is preferred by chefs for preparing baked items, especially used in sweet bread. Its flavor is so strong that cardamom may also be used to add essence to teas and coffees. Occasionally, people in South Asia use cardamom to give flavor to entrees, counting a number of biryani varieties and also pilaf rice. In addition to its culinary use, cardamom is also used in an assortment of traditional medications all over Asia and is known to be excellent for promoting digestion, keeping the teeth clean and also counteracting certain varieties of poison.

In present times, cardamom is primarily used in food preparation and medicines, but this is definitely an ancient herb having several historical utilities. In ancient times, it is said that the Egyptians chewed cardamom with a view to cleansing their teeth while the Romans and Greeks used this herb in the form of a perfumed substance. Interestingly, the Vikings came to know about this herb when they first visited Constantinople approximately 1000 years back and they later took the herb to Scandinavia, where it continues to be popular even today.

It is worth mentioning here that cardamom is among the most costly spices anywhere across the globe. In addition to cardamom, only vanilla and saffron are sold regularly at elevated prices. Usually, it is difficult to find genuine cardamom, as unscrupulous traders adulterate this spice by mixing other substances. A number of low-quality substances, which are sold as genuine cardamom, including Siam, Nepal as well as winged Java cardamom, have flooded the market.


Plant Part Used:


Herbal Remedy Using Cardamom:

The cardamom was one of the most valued spices in the ancient world and it was one of the principal items of trade. The ancient Greeks around the 4th century B.C. highly valued the cardamom as a culinary spice and as a base for herbal medicines. Trade-in cardamom was an important part of the trade links between India and the Mediterranean region.
In the ancient world, remedies made from the cardamom were used to bring relief from digestive problems, the historical uses of the cardamom in this respect include its use particularly in the treatment of problems such as indigestion, excess abdominal gas, and to bring relief from muscular cramps. Many other herbal digestive remedies were flavored using the cardamom, as the herb possesses a very pleasant taste and aroma, the delicate and nice flavor aids in suppressing the bad taste of less palatable but effective herbal remedies. In the ancient world, it was an additive to many medications.
The Indians have used the cardamom in herbal medications since ancient times for treating various conditions, these problems include disorders such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, problems like kidney stones, disorders such as anorexia, debility, and a weakened Vata. Indians also use the cardamom extensively as a spice; it is used as a flavoring in many delicious Indian foods. The ancient medical system of China also included the cardamom in its herbal repertoire, in traditional Chinese medicine, the cardamom is used in the treatment of urinary incontinence and as a general herbal tonic.
One very effective use of the cardamom is its effective alleviation of bad breath. Cardamom also helps to mask the flavor of herbs such as the garlic, helping to suppress the pungent and strong aroma of the garlic. One long-standing reputation of the cardamom herb is its aphrodisiac effect.

Habitat of Cardamom:

The cardamom is an indigenous South Asian plant, growing in southern India and the island of Sri Lanka. In these tropical areas, the cardamom can be found teeming in forests at elevations of 2,500 ft – 5,000 ft – about 800 m – 1,500 m – above mean sea level. These days, cultivation of the cardamom at a commercial level occurs in India, in other tropical South Asian countries like Sri Lanka, in South East Asian countries such as Indonesia, and in tropical areas of Latin America like the country of Guatemala in Central America. The seed of the cardamom is the main method of propagation for this herb in commercial plantations. The seeds are sown in the fall, alternately, the plants are also propagated by root division method in the spring and summer seasons. Cardamom plants require shaded sites to grow well; such sites must have rich and moist soils that must also be well-drained without the risk of waterlogging. Cardamom spice is actually the seedpods of the cardamom plant; these seed pods are harvested just before they begin to open in the dry weather during the fall. Collected seedpods are then dried by spreading them out in full sunlight for several days.


The volatile oil found in the cardamom was found to possess a potent antispasmodic effect during the course of the research conducted on the herb in the 1960s. This result of the clinical research confirmed the effectiveness of the cardamom herb in relieving gas and its use in treating colic and muscular cramps.


Cardamom contains volatile oil (borneol, camphor, pinene, humulene, caryophyllene, carvone, eucalyptol, terpinene, sabinene).

Infusion Of Cardamom:

Cardamom herbal infusion: this infusion can be prepared by using a cup of water to boil, a teaspoonful of the freshly crushed cardamom seeds, the herb must be allowed to infuse into the water for ten to fifteen minutes before it is cooled, strained and used as a remedy. The herbal infusion can be used thrice daily in the treatment of different disorders. The infusion can be used in the treatment of problems such as flatulence or a sudden loss of appetite; the ideal time to drink the infusion is thirty minutes before mealtime.


Possible Side Effects and Precautions:


The use of cardamom hardly results in any undesirable side effects. However, sometimes cardamom seeds are likely to result in a condition known as allergic contact dermatitis. In addition, seeds of cardamom may possibly also activate gallstone colic (simply speaking, spasmodic pain) and it is advisable that people having gallstones should not use cardamom as self-medication. While not much research has been undertaken on this particular aspect of cardamom, the use of this spice may possibly enhance the chances of hemorrhages. Hence, people who are already taking medicines that may augment bleeding risks should use cardamom with great caution.

In addition, pregnant women or nursing mothers should also avoid cardamom as there is an absence of sufficient evidence regarding the safety of using this herb during these conditions. Besides, everyone should be especially careful to keep away from ingesting cardamom in amounts that exceed its normal content in food products.

As mentioned earlier, cardamom has the potential to enhance the chances of bleeding. Theoretically speaking, this hazard may augment further if cardamom is ingested in conjunction with different herbs and/ or supplements that also possess the aptitude to enhance the chances of hemorrhages. There have been several reports of hemorrhages following the use of the herb Ginkgo Biloba and two specific incidences of bleeding after taking saw palmetto with cardamom. Hypothetically, using several other substances together with cardamom may possibly enhance bleeding risks. However, this hypothesis is yet to be established in the majority of the incidents.

Cardamom has the potential to obstruct the manner in which our body processes specific herbs as well as supplements making use of the cytochrome P-450 enzyme secreted by the liver. Consequently, this may temporarily enhance the intensity of these medications in our bloodstream resulting in augmented consequences or possibly a number of grave unfavorable reactions. In addition, in the long-term, it may also lessen the levels of these medications in the bloodstream.

It is likely that using cardamom may result in antispasmodic consequences. Hence, it is advisable that people who are already using herbs and supplements or even muscarinic agents having antispasmodic effects should use cardamom very cautiously.

 Harvesting Cardamom Seeds:

Cardamom seeds are principally obtained from commercial plantations found in Sri Lanka or in the Southern Indian states. In these areas, the cardamom crop is harvested in the fall, from October to early December. Most of the world’s cardamom supplies come from India and Sri Lanka.

Cardamom essential oil is helpful to the respiratory and digestive systems. It can also help relieve a headache. Rub the respiratory blends (below) on the chest, throat, back, and/or sinuses to help open airways and clear coughs. Rub the digestive blends on the abdomen to help reduce flatulence, bloating, belching, hiccups, and heartburn. Cardamom is a safe essential oil to use with children, so it is a great choice over peppermint to open their little airways and support their digestive systems.

Respiratory Support (6+ years):
5 drops eucalyptus
5 drops peppermint
5 drops lemon
3 drops cardamom
2 drops rosemary
2 drops Melaleuca
(20% dilution in a 5 ml roll-on or
10% dilution in a 10 ml roll-on)
Little Lungs Respiratory Support (Children):
1 drop cardamom
1 drop frankincense
(2% dilution in a 5 ml roll-on or
1% dilution in a 10 ml roll-on)
Digestive Support (6+ years):
5 drops cardamom
3 drops ginger
3 drops peppermint
(10% dilution in a 5 ml roll-on or
5% dilution in a 10 ml roll-on)
Tiny Tummies Digestive Support (Children):
1 drop cardamom
1 drop orange
1 drop fennel
(3% dilution in a 5 ml roll-on or
1.5% dilution in a 10 ml roll-on)
4 drops peppermint
3 drops cardamom
3 drops rosemary
(10% dilution in a 5 ml roll-on or
5% dilution in a 10 ml roll-on)

Add oils to a 5 ml roll-on bottle or 10 ml roll-on bottle depending on the desired dilution percentage. Fill the bottle the rest of the way with a carrier oil. Common carrier oils for use in a roll-on bottle include Fractionated Coconut Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, and Jojoba Oil.

3. Use in a Bath or Shower:

Cardamom essential oil is excellent as a bath oil. Combine one of the following oil blends with 1/4–1/2 cup (60–120 g) Epsom salt, and evenly disperse throughout the tub. Alternatively, you can add these essential oil combinations to bath bombs.

Muscle Aches:
2 drops cardamom
1 drop peppermint
1 drop clove
1 drop copaiba
Congestion Bomb:
2 drops eucalyptus
2 drops peppermint
2 drops cardamom
2 drops Douglas fir (or another fir oil)

If you prefer taking showers, try adding the Congestion Bomb blend or cardamom essential oil to shower disks. The steam from the shower and the cardamom essential oil can be beneficial to clearing congestion.