Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) is a delicious, aromatic, mildly warming spice. It is a great addition to teas, desserts, and baked goods. Anyone who has enjoyed a cup of classical masala chai is familiar with the aromatic, delightful taste of cardamom. In addition to tasting great, Ayurveda prizes cardamom for its herbal usages and health benefits.
Cardamom Health Benefits-Ayurveda
Cardamom seeds (the part that is eaten) contain a number of compounds that are known to help ward off inflammation. In small amounts, inflammation can be beneficial, encouraging your body to direct healing resources to an affected area.
In the case of chronic inflammation, however, the body is essentially attacking an area that doesn’t need to be touched. Cardamom contains a number of anti-inflammatory phytochemicals. Chronic inflammation is linked to a number of diseases and health issues. Therefore, managing inflammation is an important part of building and maintaining optimal health.
Regulating Blood Sugar
Furthermore, cardamom is also helpful in regulating blood sugar levels. Studies have mostly been done on rats, but it was shown that cardamom can help to prevent blood sugar from remaining elevated.
Also, have a sweet tooth? Try sucking on a couple of cardamom seed pods to quell your sweet cravings! This is a great trick among Ayurvedic practitioners. Cardamom also helps freshen the breath, so chewing on a few seeds after your meal can boost your digestion, refresh your mouth, and satisfy your sweet tooth! Plus, cardamom helps you digest heavy foods such as milk and ice cream. Its warming, digestion-boosting properties help balance foods that are cool, damp, and mucus-forming.
Many studies have indicated that cardamom seeds may help fight cancer. It can do this in a number of ways: by encouraging the body to produce cancer-fighting enzymes, enhancing the ability of natural cells to kill cancer, and discouraging tumor growth.
Furthermore, in Ayurveda, cardamom is believed to help eliminate the buildup of ama, or toxic material, in the body. In doing this, it can help to reduce the onset of sickness.
Essential Facts about Wild Cardamom
- Botanical: Elettaria cardamomum
- Sanskrit: Ela
- Hindi: Elaichi
- English: Wild Cardamom
- Other: Queen of Spices
- Rasa (taste): Pungent, sweet
- Guna (qualities): Light, dry
- Virya (action): Cooling
- Vipaka (post-digestive effects): Pungent
- Dosha (constitution): Cardamom is considered tridoshic. This means that it balances, and does not aggravate, all three doshas. However, cardamom can aggravate Pitta dosha if used in excess. This is because the spice is slightly warming. In addition, cardamom can reduce the influence of Kapha in the stomach, which is useful in cases of sluggish or slow digestion. Furthermore, cardamom is carminative, meaning that it helps to dispel gas in the GI tract. For this reason, Vata types, who are prone to bloating and gas, will likely benefit from adding cardamom to their food and beverages on a regular basis.
Wild cardamom is native to India and is widely found in Western Ghats of Southern India. The spice is widely cultivated in India, Tanzania, and Guatemala. Sustainability concerns around cardamom cultivation are a reality in some places, as it is often linked to deforestation. However, PIOR Living uses wild cardamom seed in its Chyawanprash, which is obtained from sustainable sources.
Wild cardamom is a perennial plant in the ginger family. It grows 2-4 m high. The leaves are dark green and sword-shaped and the flowers are white or pale violet. The fruits are yellow-green pods filled with black and brown seeds.
Seeds of this herb are rich in mycrene, limonene, y-tirpinene, p-cymene, terpinole, geraneol, trans-nerodiol, hepatene, linalool, camphor, citral, farsneol and sitosterol.
In the case of cardamom, delicious flavor doesn’t come cheap! Cardamom is one of the priciest spices on the planet; it is typically the third most expensive spice, with saffron and vanilla taking the lead.
Cardamom Usage and Dosage
Incoporate cardamom into teas, use the ground powder in foods and herbal compunds, or even diffuse as en essential oil. You can also combine cardamom with other herbs and spices to amplify its benefits. Chyawanprash, for example, uses wild cardamom in combination with alma fruit, shatavari root, bacopa leaf, ginger, turmeric, holy basil and other beneficial herbs and spices. Talk to a local herbalist or Ayurvedic practitioner to figure out how to best to use this tasty spice for your health and wellness.
Delight Your Taste Buds, Clear Your Mind
It is clear that there are many Ayurveda health benefits to consuming cardamom. Make this aromatic spice a staple in your spice cupboard. It isn’t the cheapest spice, but just a pinch goes a long way. Incorporate cardamom into masala chai, sprinkle on porridge, or top on ice cream or rice pudding for a special treat! Also, cardamom refreshes the mind and is considered to be a sattvic (purifying, refreshing) spice. Cardamom will delight your taste buds, tummy, and mind!
Reviewed by Dr. Jayant Lokhande, MD (Botanical Drugs), MBA (Biotechnology)