Cardamom: properties and benefits

Cardamom: properties and benefits

Cardamom is a spice with a sweet and decisive flavor, used in cooking but also in herbal medicine for its benefits for digestion and the airways

Index

  • What’s this
  • Properties and benefits
  • Uses
  • Herbal tea
  • Contraindications

What’s this

Cardamom is a spice with a strong and penetrating flavor, widely used in India, the country of origin of the plant from which it is obtained. These are in fact the fruits and seeds of Elettaria cardamomum, a plant that belongs to the Zingiberaceae family that grows wild in southern India and cultivated in other areas of the world. The cardamom plant is a perennial herb that can reach five meters in height by developing erect stems on which alternate and lanceolate leaves grow. The flowers of the cardamom are whitish spikes and give rise to small oval and green fruits that contain ten to twenty seeds. The fruits and seeds are harvested in autumn and are used in the kitchen as flavoring, alone or with other spices, and in herbal medicine and phytotherapy for their therapeutic properties. On the market you can find fruits and seeds of green cardamom, more valuable, and of white cardamom – bleached with sulfur dioxide – readily available in herbalists and spice shops. In herbal medicine you can also buy cardamom essential oil and cardamom mother tincture.

Properties and benefits

Cardamom, in addition to being a spice with an intense and pleasant flavor, boasts numerous beneficial properties for health. In particular, the following properties are attributed to cardamom:

  • anti-inflammatory
  • antioxidants
  • antisettiche
  • digestive
  • carminative
  • expectorants
  • tonic

The regular use of cardamom can therefore help to counteract the damage caused by free radicals and to fight chronic inflammatory states, responsible for the onset of numerous diseases. The high antioxidant content in cardamom seeds also appears to be linked to a reduction in anxiety and other mood disorders. The use of cardamom is also useful for improving the symptoms of respiratory diseases and asthma; the essential oil diffused in the environment seems to be able to improve lung capacity during exercise thus ensuring a greater supply of oxygen to organs and tissues.

Furthermore, cardamom is a natural remedy against slow and difficult digestion, nausea and vomiting, gastric ulcer, gastric infections from Helicobacter pylori and excess gas in the intestine. Consuming cardamom can also help stimulate diuresis, lower high blood pressure, control blood sugar levels, reduce triglycerides and cholesterol, support liver function and promote weight loss on low-calorie diets.

The antibacterial and antifungal action of this spice is also useful for treating infections of the skin and mucous membranes, including those caused by Candida albicans and bacteria of the genus Staphylococcus. Also thanks to the antibacterial action, mouth rinses with cardamom-based infusions also help fight bad breath and prevent dental caries.

Uses

Cardamom seeds can be used in cooking to flavor many dishes. To use cardamom seeds it is necessary to cut the fruits, extract the seeds and crush them in a mortar; after which they can be added to sautéed and broths, salads, vegetable and legume dishes or used to prepare desserts and cheeses.

To take advantage of the therapeutic properties of cardamom, the bruised seeds are used to prepare infusions to be consumed before or after meals for digestive problems or during the day in case of cough, bronchitis, cold and asthma. The infusion can also be used externally, for example for rinsing the mouth and gargling, or used for fumigations useful for clearing the airways. For inhalation you can obviously also use the essential oil, to be diffused in the environment or by adding five drops to a saucepan of boiling water to carry out fumigations. The cardamom seeds can then be chewed throughout the day to freshen the mouth and breath and prevent tooth decay and inflammation.

Cardamom tincture, available in herbal medicine, is taken by diluting 20-30 drops in water to be administered after meals to aid digestion, fight colic and intestinal fermentation or two or three times a day during the day in case of cough, cold and other flu or cold symptoms.

Finally, by adding two or three drops of essential oil to a tablespoon of vegetable oil, a massage oil is obtained that gives relief in case of respiratory diseases, bruises, rheumatism, insect bites and skin infections of a bacterial or fungal nature.

Herbal tea

Cardamom tea is perhaps the simplest way to reap the benefits of cardamom. It can be prepared using a teaspoon of cardamom seeds in a cup of boiling water, to be left to infuse for about ten minutes and then filtered and consumed. However, cardamom can also be used with other spices that work in synergy and enhance their effect. For example, against nausea and vomiting, a piece of ginger root can be added to the infusion, while fennel seeds, coriander, green anise and star anise can be added to increase the digestive and carminative action. In this way, a drink is prepared that can be sipped before, after and during meals, as needed or during the day to combat slow digestion and the accumulation of gas in the intestine. By combining cardamom seeds with a few cloves, black peppercorns and a small piece of cinnamon peel, you get a warming herbal tea useful on cold winter days.

Contraindications

The use of cardamom as a flavoring in the kitchen has no side effects or contraindications and should only be avoided in case of allergies. On the other hand, cardamom tea, tincture and essential oil are not recommended during pregnancy, breastfeeding and children.

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