cardamom

What Is Cardamom?

Do ancient spices have healing properties? Cardamom might. Perhaps that’s why it’s one of the more expensive spices. 

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 and their seeds have a different taste and smell.

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In the Kitchen

Greek coffee

These aromatic seeds have been used in cooking and medicine for many years. In Turkey and the Middle East, cardamom is often infused in Greek coffee. 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 commonly found in Indian cooking. It’s typically an ingredient in spice mixes such as curries and garam masalas. You can buy cardamom for cooking as a whole seed, powder, or as part of an already mixed spice blend. Powders can lose their taste and smell more quickly, so it’s recommended to buy cardamom as a seed or pod and then grind it yourself when you want to use it.

As an Antioxidant

Antioxidant

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 to prevent heart disease and cancer. Antioxidants help the body’s cells fight back against daily damage done by 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 showed that cardamom shows promise as a way to prevent skin cancer. Cardamom powder also has the potential to lower blood pressure.

Cardamom is believed to have 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 yet.

Helping Digestion

Digestion

The digestive benefits in green cardamom might come from its fiber content. One tablespoon of the spice contains almost two grams of fiber, which is 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 of cardamom for various medical conditions. How much you take will likely depend on why you’re using the spice. Most supplements have dosing instructions on the label. 

In manufacturing, cardamom is used to add scent and flavor to foods, perfumes, and even pharmaceuticals.

Are Supplements Safe?

Cardamom is generally considered safe, although researchers haven’t yet discovered what the  side effects may be of taking larger doses. As a food and ingredient in manufactured items, the spice is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, dietary supplements are not regulated, which means there is a possibility they could be contaminated with other substances or marketed under false claims.