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The Health Potential of Cardamom

cardamom

What is cardamom?

Cardamom is a spice made from plant seeds. Grown in India, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and Guatemala, cardamom comes from a plant similar to ginger. Each small, green pod on the plant contains about 15 to 20 seeds. There are two different types: black cardamom (elaichi) and green cardamom (elettaria). Black cardamom pods are larger than green cardamom pods. Their seeds have a different taste and smell.

It's possible that cardamom has healing properties. The spice is popular in many cultures, and is one of the more expensive spices. 

How is cardamom used?

Cooking

These aromatic seeds have been used in cooking and medicine for many years. In Turkey and the Middle East, coffee is often infused with cardamom. Historically, people have also chewed the seeds to freshen breath. You may also find cardamom as an ingredient in certain teas.

Used around the world, cardamom is particularly popular in Indian cooking. It’s typically an ingredient in spice mixes, such as curries and garam masalas. You can use cardamom as a whole seed, powder, or as part of an already mixed spice blend. Powders can lose their taste and smell more quickly, so you should buy cardamom as a seed or pod and then grind it yourself when you want to use it.

Antioxidant and antimicrobial

Green cardamom has a sweeter taste and is believed to have antioxidants and antimicrobial properties, as well as the ability to help with digestive issues. As an antioxidant, it may help prevent heart disease and cancer. Antioxidants help the body’s cells fight back against daily damage due to free radicals. Free radicals can damage our DNA, causing disease. One study found that cardamom and black pepper may have a role in protecting the immune system. Other research notes that cardamom shows promise as a way to prevent skin cancer. And another study reports that cardamom powder has the potential to lower blood pressure.

Cardamom has antimicrobial properties, meaning it can fight off certain bacteria and fungus. It’s possible that eating the spice may help ward off food poisoning. However, this hasn’t been well-studied.

Digestive

The digestive benefits of green cardamom might come from its fiber content. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 1 tablespoon of the spice contains almost 2 grams of fiber, which is a good amount for a spice. Dietary fiber is important to help the body’s digestive system run smoothly. Fiber can also help prevent high cholesterol, heart disease, and weight gain. 

Studies on cardamom are still in the early stages, so there are no standard recommended doses for medical conditions. How much you consume will likely depend on why you’re using the spice. Most supplements have dosing instructions on the label. 

What are the potential health risks of cardamom?

Cardamom is generally considered safe. However, researchers don’t know the side effects of larger doses. The United States Food and Drug Administration regulates cardamom when it’s used as a food and ingredient in manufactured items. However, no agency regulates dietary supplements. This means there’s a possibility that dietary supplements are contaminated or are being marketed under false claims.

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