Cardamom Health Benefits Finally Explained

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There are many spices and herbs on this lush, green earth. In your cabinets you might find paprika, turmeric, black pepper, and more. Everyone’s got their favorites, their classic go-to’s. Some of them are expensive spices, such as saffron, and others are cheaper, such as garlic. Certain spices are more efficient, healthy, and popular than others. This varies based on country, preferred cuisine, and even availability. But lo and behold, cardamom is one spice which is getting more and more popular by the day. It has been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for centuries, and those of us in the West are always in the habit of jumping on board.

Whether or not you’ve heard of cardamom before, you might want to consider giving it a try. This isn’t about promoting some fleeting trend. Mother Nature knew what she was doing when she sprouted these herbs. All hail the Queen of Spices, who got this name because of her many applications in medicine as well as in recipes. It’s a classic Indian spice, but it also has a presence in many other cultures as well. 

What Is Cardamom? Where Does It Come From?

Cardamom plant and seeds.

The plant grows in tropical regions.

Cardamom (aka cardamon or cardamum) is a spice which traces its origins to Nepal and India. Nowadays, you can also find it in many tropical regions in Asia like Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. It is also cultivated in countries such as Guatemala, Tanzania, Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

There are different types of cardamom spice, and the spice is a staple in many classic recipes all over the world due to its great flavoring. It is featured in everything from garam masala to rice dishes. You can even find it in Wrigley’s Eclipse Breeze Exotic Mint gum (it’s included to function as a breath freshener).

Asian cuisine utilizes cardamom in both sweet and savory dishes. And green cardamom powder is used in Middle Eastern sweet dishes as well as in Indian masala chai. Cardamom is also a crucial ingredient in delicacies such as Scandinavian Jule bread, Swedish sweet buns, Finnish sweet bread and southern India’s Tirupati laddu. You can even check out some recipes for cardamom ice cream, cardamom rice pudding, or blackberry cardamom mulled wine! The possibilities are seemingly endless. 

Green or true cardamom is scientifically known as Elettaria cardamomum. It is a herbaceous, perennial plant from the family Zingiberaceae, the ginger family. The plant produces small seed pods which contain black seeds. The seeds and pod give off a nice scent. This is why Eastern cuisine often uses it as a flavor additive in a wide range of dishes. You might have also heard of white cardamom, which is actually Siam cardamom. 

Light green cardamom pods (Elettaria pods) are small, while dark brown cardamom pods (Amomum pods) are larger than the green pods.

While we’ve just covered a lot of the culinary amazingness of cardamom, we’ll also soon get to some of its other benefits.

Cardamom Seeds Explained

A pile of cardamom seeds.

The seeds do not last long outside of their pod.

Let’s talk for a moment about those seeds that are inside the cardamom pod. Even though the whole pods can also be used, the seeds are what many are interested in. Each pod typically contains between 8-16 seeds, and the seeds are used for manufacturing the spice.

Seeds out of the pod will not last nearly as long as whole cardamom pods. So, if you are using seeds, take into account that exposure to air is detrimental to its quality and flavor. If you plan on grinding the seeds, that is doubly true. Once ground, the seeds lose their quality and flavor with even greater speed. Therefore, ideally, ground seeds need to be consumed or otherwise used immediately.

If you’re looking to make your own ground cardamom, grinding a large quantity of cardamom seeds calls for a food processor or coffee grinder to do the trick. Yet you can also use an old-fashioned mortar and pestle to get ground cardamom. And when in doubt, you can even use a rolling pin or wine bottle to get the job done. For any of these methods, squeeze the pods to release the seeds in order to crush them. Or, you can even opt to buy just the plain seeds to make your life a bit easier.

Top 5 Health Benefits of Cardamom Explained

Nice teeth and mouth.

The spice helps to combat infections in the mouth and throat.

1. Digestion

In Ayurvedic medicine, the cardamom plays a role as an aid to proper digestion. In cases of bloating and gas, it has the ability to provide relief. If you suffer from heartburn, acidity issues, or constipation -- whether the root is physical or mental -- this spice may come to your aid. It seems that until now, this has been a totally underrated tool in dealing with stomach issues!

2. Oral Health

Cardamom can be used to combat issues in the oral cavity. It can come in handy to treat infections of the mouth and throat. This is because it acts as an effective antimicrobial agent, which helps to take out bacteria of all kinds. Also, it is a powerful antiseptic to be used to freshen one’s breath. Something to consider before your next date…

3. Mood

Cardamom can help to elevate your mood. In Indian traditions, it is used to treat depression and stress. Because it also aids with digestion, it has the ability to clear out toxins which affect your body and your mind. Pretty cool!

4. Blood Pressure

Consuming ground cardamom seeds has been cited as one way to get your blood pressure down. High blood pressure acts as a catalyst for many cardiovascular diseases, and lowering it back down is paramount, especially for those with a relevant history. If this problem speaks to you, you can check with a health care professional to see if you should be adding ground cardamom to your diet.

5. Respiratory System

For conditions which affect your respiratory system, cardamom acts as a way to counter the flu and cold symptoms which accompany those types of illnesses. It also acts as a decongestant, helping to clear out phlegm and mucus.

Are There Substitutes For Cardamom?

Pile of cinnamon powder.

Cinnamon can be a good substitute.

Cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger have all been said to be adequate substitutes for cardamom. Obviously, nothing will be able to replace a certain spice with 100% accuracy. However, in a pinch, in a recipe, and in other cases, you can use and mix those three ingredients in such a way which emulates the flavor and its healthy attributes. Those three aforementioned ingredients are wonderful on their own merits. But if you need a way to substitute cardamom, they can be used for that as well.

Mix and match, since it is a question of trial and error. Also, it really does depend on which activity you are engaging in.

Cardamom Tea Recipe

Cup of cardamom tea.

Cardamom tea.

Tea has its benefits, for sure. Whether it is green, black, white, or any other color you may fancy. A good, strong cup of tea is one of the best things for you, and you don’t have to be English to appreciate it. It can warm you up on a cold winter day or make you feel better when you’re sick. Combined with some other ingredients, like honey and ginger, cardamom tea becomes a powerhouse of potency.

Drinking a cardamom tea of your choice once a day (it doesn’t have to be homemade, though) is said to regulate digestion. This can help you schedule your meals better and navigate the seemingly impossible seas of weight loss and proper nutrition. It may seem presumptuous to claim that a cup of tea can have such power, but this is all about balance, consistency, and persistence.

So -- tea time. This is the easiest and probably the most popular recipe, as the recipe calls for just a couple of very basic ingredients and steps. All you need to do is:

  • Boil water in a small pot or saucepan.
  • Add your tea leaves, cardamom pods, honey, and ginger. Then bring the mixture to a boil. 
  • Simmer for 5 minutes, then add milk.
  • Simmer for another minute, then remove from the stove.
  • Strain it.
  • Serve, sit back, relax and enjoy.

Cardamom Essential Oil Explained

Cardamom essential oil is the product of the seeds from the pods. In many ways, the seeds are similar to those of ginger. They even belong to the same family of plants, as you may remember reading above.

The two kinds of cardamom used to produce the oil are green and black cardamom. The two species grow in different locations, and the essential oil can be derived from both types of seeds.

The oil already exists within the seeds, and cardamom essential oils act as a concentrated form of that oil. As such, it is more efficient and it contains more phytochemicals and more nutrients than the seeds do as a standalone product.

Cardamom essential oil contains limonene, linalool, geraniol, alpha-pinene, and borneol (among other nutrients). It also contains minerals like calcium, sulfur, and phosphate. Our immune system rely on these types of minerals and nutrients, as they encourage the healthy growth of our cells and tissue.

Health, wellness, and beauty products use cardamom essential oil as an active ingredient. This is because of its ability to heal and remedy. Many mainstream and less-mainstream companies and individuals seek out the best and highest quality cardamom oils, and they use them in medicine and in wellness products alike.

Conclusion

If you weren’t too familiar with cardamom until now, I’m glad that problem has been solved. It is, without a doubt, one of the most intriguing plants out there. Whether you are cooking with it, healing with it, or just enjoying its captivating scent, the cardamom plant, its pods, and its seeds are all high on the list of beneficial vegetation.

Whether you enjoy the flavor or you’re looking for something to aid in digestion, oral health, your mood, blood pressure or your respiratory system, cardamom has promising potential to help you.

There is a reason why it has such a long history in traditional medicine and wellness, after all. Its widespread use is a testament to its many amazing properties. So if you don’t already have it in your spice rack, what are you waiting for?

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