Cardamom is one of the most valued spices in the world with an intense aromatic flavour used to bring out the best in both savoury and sweet dishes. Its eloquence, culinary magic and healing powers have earned it the title “Queen Of Spices”.
This magical spice enjoys a colourful history dating back thousands of years. Spiritually, the energy of cardamom has the power to cut through the confusion of a busy mind, creating more clarity, whilst helping to lift heavy, depressed feelings. Cardamom encourages us to become more present, in the ‘here-and-now’, as well as helping to open the third-eye to awaken out inner realms of deeper insight.
So, let’s talk cardamom! In this article we’ll look at what cardamom is, how to use it, its health benefits and some delectable, healthy recipes…
True cardamom seeds come in a green pod
True cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) has a green pod – this is the type that I use. You can also buy a black podded cardamom (Amomum costatum and Amomum subulatum), which is a different species that I know little about (other than they have a different, more smokey flavour). If you see white cardamom pods for sale, then they are likely to be green pods that have been bleached or have faded with age.
For vibrancy and taste I recommend green, heads up! You can easily buy cardamom powder in any store that sells herbs and spices – however – I highly suggest that you buy the actual pods rather than the ground stuff. There is a massive difference between the two. Pre-ground cardamom loses it’s culinary magic as the fragrant flavour disappears rapidly. I always peel open the pods, then crush the seeds with a pestle and mortar or by repeatedly chopping over them with a sharp heavy knife. Here’s a short video I made to show you how to crush the seeds… it’s quick and easy once you know how.
Health benefits of Cardamom – an overview
Cardamom is well known in Ayurvedic circles as a powerful digestive aid, considered especially beneficial to reduce bloating and intestinal gas. It is related to ginger (known for digestion support) and is also used against acidity, heartburn and constipation. Cardamom can kick-start the secretion of digestive juices to stimulate appetite, which makes digestion and absorption of food more efficient. Its relaxing effect on smooth muscle in the digestive tract also helps to settle the stomach, especially when related to stress.
Cardamom is a great detoxification aid, which is greatly assisted by its potent diuretic properties. Whilst working against infections, it also stimulates the kidneys to remove uric acid, urea, toxins, excess water and other waste products out of the body. This encourages more balanced health.
This powerful spice, is an excellent alternative for minty-fresh fresh breath. Traditional cultures chew cardamom to freshen their breath. It also has the added benefit of counteracting harmful bacteria in the mouth.
Apart from helping to fresh the breath, cardamom can be beneficial against mouth ulcers and infections of the mouth and throat. Studies show that cardamom has effective antimicrobial effects on oral bacteria, whilst (unlike modern, allopathic antibiotics) supporting the probiotic bacteria (which are necessary for balance and equilibrium within the body’s systems). It has been shown to work powerfully against oral pathogenic bacteria like Streptococcus mutans and Candida albicans. Cineole, the major active component of cardamom oil, is a powerful antiseptic that is known to kill bacteria producing bad breath and other infections.
Cardamom is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine to fight depression. It has a miraculous way of lifting the spirit and calming the nerves.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Human studies clearly show that ground cardamom seeds, administered regularly, have the ability to significantly reduce blood pressure in individuals suffering from hypertension.
Ancient medicine lists cardamom as a powerful aphrodisiac that can help support sexual health, erectile dysfunction and impotence. It is referred to in the Arabian Nights (where it is said to be an aphrodisiac.
Whilst the science of cardamoms cancer preventing properties haven’t yet been fully demystified, scientific studies have shown promising evidence that this spice demonstrates positive action against cancer. One study by Ray Sahelian, M.D showed that cardamom has very powerful antioxidant properties. These studies also revealed that cardamom has complex abilities that can help combat cancer (because of the C9H9NO and 3,3’-diindolylmethane content inherit to cardamom).
Coughs and Chest Infections
Cardamom is said to relieve cold and flu symptoms. It’s also used for bronchitis and coughs. Its stimulating expectorant action helps to clear phlegm from the nose and sinuses as well as the chest, which makes it a good treatment to counteract colds, coughs, asthma and chest infections.
Cardamom has a powerful antioxidant profile. It is well known for mopping up free radicals.
Action Against Pathogens
Various chemical compounds, including volatile oils in cardamom have been shown to act strongly against the growth of viruses, bacteria and fungus with the human body.
Where to get cardamom pods from?
Here in England it’s easy to find cardamom pods in any good independent health food store or even the herbs & spice section in a supermarket. They also are often found in an Asian supermarket. Their availability varies from country to country. I’ve found them easily in Canada & Europe, although I’ve had to scout a little more to locate them in the USA. If all else fails, you can buy them online, for example here (amazon affiliate links):
Delicious Cardamom Inspired Recipes on my Website
Masala Chai Homemade Tea with Cardamom
Delicious Cardamom Recipes in Angelicious
And if you are in need of more inspiration, my latest book Angelicious features a number of absolutely delicious cardamom inspired recipes too.. of course 🙂
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3353705/ (Oral health)
- Aneja KR, Radhika J. Antimicrobial Activity of Amomum subulatum and Elettaria cardamomum Against Dental Caries Causing Microorganisms. Ethnobotanical Lealf. 2009;13:840–9.
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20361714 (Blood pressure)
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23886174 (Anti-tumor action)