Cardamon, Elachi, Kapulaga, Kravan
Sri Lanka, Southern India
Considered to be one of the world’s oldest spices, Cardamom’s use dates back at least 4,000 years. It was a favourite of the ancient Egyptians who used it for medicinal purposes, in rituals and embalming. They even chewed the pods as a digestive aid and to keep their teeth clean and to freshen breath.
In its native India, Cardamom is often referred to as “The Queen of the Spices” due to its many culinary and medicinal uses. It is considered a warming spice in the ancient Indian healing system of Ayurveda, where it is used to boost digestion, as a diuretic and for sore throats and other respiratory conditions.
The benefits of Cardamom to overall digestive health are many. Firstly, just the delicious smell of this spice activates the taste buds which enables the secretion of digestive enzymes. Additionally, Cardamom is known to support the secretion of bile acid within the stomach which is critical for absorbing fats and fat-soluble vitamins. It also protects the mucus membranes of the gastrointestinal tract which reduces irritation from acid forming foods and liquefies the mucus in heavy, hard to digest mucus forming foods.
Cardamom is classed as a “carminative”, meaning it will help to relieve excess gas and bloating. It also has antispasmodic properties so it will ease cramping in the stomach. Cardamom pods are rich in the plant compound limonene which combats heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux (GERD).
This versatile spice may also offer protection against gastric ulcers. In a study published in the "Journal of Ethnopharmacology", researchers reported that treatment with an extract of Cardamom essential oil proved more effective in treating gastric ulcers than its pharmaceutical counterpart.
Cardamom’s use over the millennia as a natural aid to healthy teeth and gums is now being proven effective, as scientists have discovered it contains many bacteria fighting compounds. Research has shown these compounds are effective against oral bacteria such as Streptococcus mutans and the fungus Candida albicans.
Researchers in India had this to say about Cardamom: “The oil extracted from cardamom seeds is a combination of terpene, esters, flavonoids and other compounds. Cineole, the major active component of cardamom oil, is a potent antiseptic that is known to kill bacteria producing bad breath and other infections.”
To disinfect the teeth and gums and eliminate bad breath, just add a few drops of food grade Cardamom essential oil to fresh spring water to create a natural mouthwash. Alternatively, chewing on the pods is equally effective.
Cardamom essential oil when diluted and massaged into the skin can boost circulation, enhancing blood circulation to the lungs, increasing airflow and improving breathing.
A study showed that inhaling Cardamom essential oil for one minute before exercise enhanced oxygen uptake in the bodies of the participants during exercise. Inhaling this oil is also considered beneficial to asthma sufferers because it relaxes the airways as well as improving oxygen usage.
Healthy blood pressure is essential to a healthy heart. In a study published in the "Indian Journal of Biochemistry & Biophysics", 20 individuals who had just been diagnosed with primary stage one hypertension were given 3 grams of Cardamom powder daily, split into two daily doses for 12 weeks.
The results showed that 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.
In another study, Cardamom was shown to help to protect the heart from free radical damage by maintaining high glutathione levels in rats. Low levels of glutathione are known to increase the risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases.
Cardamom Essential Oil
Especially useful in promoting healthy digestion, Cardamom essential oil can be diluted with a carrier oil and massaged into the abdomen to revive a sluggish digestive system and boost metabolism. It is an excellent digestive stimulant that helps to maintain the secretion of gastric juices, acids and bile in the stomach.
With anti-spasmodic properties, Cardamom oil can be used to soothe cramped, sore muscles and applied to the chest to relieve respiratory spasms.
Crush 1 teaspoon of seeds with a pestle and mortar, pour over 1 cup of boiling water, leave to infuse for 15 minutes.
Cardamom Essential Oil
Cardamom essential oil can be used in the bath, or vaporized in an oil burner. It can be added to a massage oil or cream. Use 6-8 drops per bath and 10 -18 drops per 30ml of carrier oil.
It is believed that the West got its first taste of Cardamom when Alexander the Great brought it back from India, where was used widely in Europe to treat digestive problems.
In Asia and Africa, Cardamom has been used to flavour food for centuries and it has also been used as an aphrodisiac.
One of the most famous uses of Cardamom is in the delicious Indian Chai Tea. It is created by blending with cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, cloves, fennel seeds, liquorice root, and vanilla bean, along with black tea, milk and sugar.
4% volatile oil including terpineol, cineole, limonene, sabinene and pinene.