QUEEN OF SPICES!
Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) is a spice found in the form of a small pod with black seeds inside. The spice has an intensely sweet and savoury taste. Both the seeds and the pod have a rich aroma and are often used in desserts, hot and spicy dishes, as well as aromatic beverages, coffees, and teas. It is regarded as the queen of spices.
The cultivation of cardamom originated in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. In India, cardamom was traditionally considered as a therapeutic herb and was used in Ayurveda. It is also used in traditional Chinese medicine. It was believed to be a remedy for constipation, colic, diarrhoea, dyspepsia, vomiting, headache, hypertension (high blood pressure), epilepsy, and cardiovascular diseases, including poor circulation.
The therapeutic properties of cardamom oil have been found application in many traditional medicines as antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, digestive, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant and tonic.
Cardamom Nutrition Facts
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, cardamom is a notable source of minerals such as iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc, and particularly manganese. Other nutrients present at lower levels include calcium, potassium, the B-vitamin pyridoxine, and vitamin C. Cardamom also contains small amounts of protein, dietary fibre, and key fatty acids. Most impressive of all, cardamom contains natural compounds with antioxidant properties, the latter being important in disease prevention and management.
Health Benefits of Cardamom
Cardamom has been promoted in traditional medicine and suggested in medical research to have several powerful health benefits. I have discussed them below.
Cook with cardamom and you’ll reap the health benefits of its fibre content. Your body relies on the fibre from your diet to keep you regular — it softens and loosens your stools, so you’re less likely to develop constipation.
Fibre also aids in weight control by increasing your satisfaction after a meal and can help lower cholesterol. A 2-tablespoon serving of ground cardamom offers 3.2 grams of dietary fibre. This contributes 8 percent toward the daily fibre needs for men and 13 percent for women.
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death around the world. The rising cost of conventional cancer therapy and the subsequent side effects have encouraged researchers to look for alternatives that are sustainable.
Anti-cancer potential has long been attributed to cardamom and its active components and corroborated by laboratory and animal research. A combination of cardamom and cinnamon was found to be helpful in reducing the risk of colorectal cancer by 48%, in large part by enhancing antioxidant activity in the body.
Iron and Manganese
Two tablespoons of cardamom contain 1.62 milligrams of iron and 3.25 milligrams of manganese. These minerals aid in cellular metabolism, so that your tissues can make the fuel they need to function. Manganese also plays a role in bone health, while iron helps provide your tissues with oxygen.
A single serving of cardamom provides your entire daily manganese requirements, and also offers 9 and 20 percent of the daily iron needs for women and men, respectively.
Heart and Metabolic Health
Cardamom was observed to be protective against heart inflammation due to viral infection and heart attack due to medication overdose in animal tests. The potential benefit for blood pressure was observed in studies on animals and humans with hypertension.
Compounds found in cardamom may also counteract increases in harmful blood cholesterol, blood and liver fat, and heart damage in response to poor diet while enhancing levels of “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
Mind and Relaxation
Cardamom is believed to possess anti-depressant properties. Its essential oil is one of the major oils used in anti-stress aromatherapy and has been suggested in human research to be an effective choice for handling stressful conditions. Also, research has found cardamom extract to lessen PTSD-like anxiety symptoms in test animals. One study found that when cardamom was consumed during pregnancy, offspring showed enhanced learning, memory, and behaviour.
Blood Sugar Balance
Studies found cardamom to contribute anti-diabetic effects and regulation of glucose and insulin metabolism. These findings followed earlier research that identified compounds in cardamom that may promote healthy glucose and insulin metabolism.
Research in humans showed that cardamom could improve some of the negative effects of pre-diabetics, suggesting it might be useful in reducing complications.
Cardamom has been traditionally used in Ayurveda, Chinese medicine and the Unani system as a remedy for digestive problems. The methanolic extract from cardamom is the component that helps in controlling gastrointestinal discomforts such as acidity, flatulence, and stomach cramps.
In an effort to provide scientific backing to traditional use, studies concluded that the extracted volatile oils from a certain type of cardamom may have a positive influence on gastrointestinal disorders. Cardamom as also found to have potential against Helicobacter Pylori, the bacterium linked to stomach ulcers and related cancer.
Anti-spasmodic & Anti-inflammatory Properties
Certain cardamom compounds have been observed in research to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, including those supportive of a healthy immune system. Research has found these properties to be protective when inflammation and oxidative stress are a result of unhealthy weight and diet.
Nausea & Vomiting
Traditionally, cardamom has been used as a remedy for nausea. It may be able to calm sensations of nausea and urge to vomit. Aromatherapy with inhalation of its oils has been shown in research to relieve nausea due to chemotherapy in cancer patients with cancer. Consuming its powder was observed to lessen the severity of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy.
Cardamom steeped in boiling water is recommended as a morning gargling solution to control painful sore throats. This is suggested due to antibacterial and immune-supporting properties.
Hiccups are spasms in the tissue just below the lungs and can occur as a result of laughing, an awkward swallow, or other conditions. Cardamom infusion is recommended as a remedy, made by boiling the spice powder in water for an extended time to concentrate the active components.
Cooking with Cardamom
Take advantage of cardamom’s warming aromatic properties to add flavor to vegetables. Light coat cauliflower in a mixture of extra-virgin olive oil and cardamom, then roast it in the oven until tender and slightly browned. Add cardamom to lentil stews and soups, or use a mixture of cardamom and lemon juice as a healthful flavouring for chicken. Alternatively, make your own tea mix by combining black or green tea with cardamom, anise, cinnamon and black peppercorns for a low-calorie and healthy beverage. 🙂
Cardamom Storage Tips
- Always store cardamom pods in an airtight container in a cool, dark and dry place.
- When placed in the refrigerator, cardamom pods retain their freshness for a longer duration.
- Powdered cardamom should always be kept in a tightly sealed container and should be used at the earliest as it tends to lose its flavor quickly.
Harini NB, M.Sc (Clinical Nutrition), RD., Certified Diabetes Educator.