By: Nutrition Expert- Vidula Kozarekar, Mumbai.
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Cardamom is known as the “Queen of Spices”. It is one of the most highly priced and exotic spices in the world. It is indigenously grown in the evergreen forests of the Western Ghats in South India. It is a perennial herb and grown under mixed forest tree in Eastern Himalayas. In India, it was used as early as the 6th century BC in Ayurvedic preparations, as mentioned by Susruta (1)
Cardamom is well known as a spice used in Indian cooking, and is one of the primary constituents of Garam Masala. What many people don’t realize is that cardamom is also medicinal, and helps relieve digestive problems induced by garlic and onion, making it more than merely an aromatic addition to the stomach-challenging cuisine it accompanies. Cardamom is considered one of the most valuable spices in the world due to its rich aroma and therapeutic properties (2).
Many varieties of cardamom exist, but there are two genera which include cardamom plants. The first, known scientifically as Ellataria and commonly referred to as green or true cardamom, is found mainly in India.
Cardamom grown in Asia is part of the genus Amomum, and goes by an assortment of common names, such as brown cardamom, Java cardamom, Bengal cardamom, Kravan, white cardamom, Siamese cardamom, and red cardamom.
Both Ellataria and Amomum are part if the Ginger family (Zingiberaceae) (2).
Cardamom has been used to relieve the following medical problems: (3), (4), (5)
- Bad Breath
Cardamom is one of the most effective remedies against halitosis. Simply chewing on the seeds eliminates bad odours. Cardamom is even used in some chewing gums because of its effectiveness, billed as a sure fire cure to the most offensive breath.
- Tooth, Gum, and Oral Disorders
Cardamom is widely used in South Asia to fight tooth and gum decay and disease. It can also be used to help soothe a sore throat and relieve hoarseness of voice.
The volatile oil in cardamom has been proven to soothe the stomach and intestines, making cardamom an ideal solution for a host of digestive problems, such as constipation, dysentery, and indigestion. Cardamom can be used aromatically to increase or encourage appetite, and also assists in soothing gas and heartburn. Generally, cardamom relieves most upset stomachs. To use cardamom for digestive problems, consume seeds alone, serve ground seed with food, or serve as a tea.
- Urinary problems
South Asians use cardamom’s relieving properties to help with the discomfort of passing gall and kidney stones. Cardamom, combined with banana leaf and alma juice, can act as a diuretic, soothing a variety of kidney, bladder, and urinary problems like nephritis, burning or painful urination, and frequent urges to urinate. The relief from uncomfortable symptoms provided through cardamom should not be considered a cure to underlying diseases and disorders.
- Depression and Aromatherapy
Cardamom oils can be added to baths as a form of aromatherapy that fights depression and reduces stress. Ground cardamom seeds can be made into a tea for similar benefits.
- Cancer Prevention
Cardamom contains IC3 (indole-3-carbinol) and DIM (diindolylmethane). These phytochemicals are well-known cancer fighters, helping to specifically ward off hormone responding cancers like breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer. Early research suggests that consuming cardamom regularly may help with preventing these forms of cancer.
In addition to these specific medicinal uses, cardamom contains an abundance of antioxidants, which protect the body against aging and stress, and fight common sicknesses and bodily strife.
Often referred to as the queen of spice, cardamom is as captivating in flavour and aroma as it’s medicinal potential in number of illnesses. The fragrant smell separates cardamom from the rest of the power spices.
Along with all extensive health benefits, cardamom has been extensively used for centuries and has been proven safe to consume. Cardamom is an important factor in many traditional homeopathic medicines used by many cultures all over the world. Cardamom’s unique and delicious flavour is an easy and tasteful addition to almost any food or beverage, making it a true superfood.