Cardamom – The Aromatic Spice Full of Health BenefitsFayyaz Alam
Let’s talk about another spice which is known as one of the oldest spices of the world. Historians believe that humans started using this spice around 4000 years ago. Cardamom, cardamon or often called cardamum is a native of South India. The seeds from the small pods are used as a spice. It is a flavorful spice that makes it so dear to anyone. Today we will find out its secret and how it found a place on our spice rack.
Highlights of the article
- Cardamom is one of the oldest spices of the world.
- Its original home was in the Western Ghats of India.
- Cardamom became an integral part of Asian cuisine with cardamom tea being very popular.
- It can fight depression, decrease blood pressure, and prevent mouth ulcers.
- It can be used to treat asthma.
- You can include it in marinades for meat dishes or add it to your tea to reap the benefits.
- It is safe and doesn’t cause any side effects.
Cardamom – a short history
It is an herb that originally grew in three varieties. It belongs to the family of Zingiberaceae. The two more popular varieties are Elettaria or green cardamom which is grown widely in India and the other one, Amomum, which is known by many names like brown, black, Java, Bengal, Siamese or red cardamom.
The Western Ghats of India is the original home of this spice for which they are also known as Cardamom Hills. Apart from India, cardamom is grown extensively in Guatemala which is the largest exporter of this spice. It has a strong taste, which is often described as a combination of ginger and cinnamon. Some love its minty taste with a hint of lemon. However, the strong aroma of cardamom makes it a unique spice.
As we mentioned earlier, the use of cardamom can be traced back as early as 4000 years. From India, it traveled to Egypt, Rome, and Scandinavia. Ancient Egyptians used it for its medicinal properties. It became a part of their rituals. They used it to keep their breath fresh.
The Greeks and Romans loved cardamom due to its aroma and used it in their perfumes. While in India it became a part of every kitchen, it added flavor to curries, gravies, and even desserts. The Indians also exploited the medicinal value of the spice by putting it in their tea and also using it as a medicine. Cardamom tea is a traditional drink in Asia.
Today, it has become an integral part of Indian and middle eastern cuisine.
Why is cardamom good for us?
It is an aromatic spice popular for its strong, pungent, sweet, and minty taste. The spice is low in calories and carbohydrates. It is a storehouse of several minerals and vitamins like calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus.
One tablespoon of ground cardamom contains 0.4 gm of fat, 18 calories, 1.6 gm fiber, 0.6 gm protein, and 4.0 gm carbohydrate.
Our ancestors used cardamom for its diuretic effects. It improves digestion, keeps the heart healthy and is good for our lungs. No wonder, Indians put it in tea and many dishes to reap its benefits. Still today, many ayurvedic medicines contain cardamom to treat cough, sneezing, and other cold symptoms.
What does cardamom contain?
It contains volatile oil 2%-8% whose active element is cineole. The aromatic components present in it are terpinyl acetate, borneole, teripineole, and terpinene. Further, the presence of antioxidants makes it so healthy and good for us.
Several studies have been conducted to check the its health benefits and most of these studies have confirmed what our ancestors believed. So, here is a detailed account of the benefits of this wonderful spice.
Benefits of cardamom
We know that it is high in antioxidants for which it is good for lowering blood pressure. In a study, people with high blood pressure were given 3 grams of cardamom powder for 12 weeks and at the end of the study their blood pressure came down to normal level.
Cardamom has a diuretic effect which increases urination, thereby reducing water retention in the body and around the heart also. This explains why it brings down blood pressure.
It has anti-inflammatory properties. In a study conducted on 80 pre-diabetic subjects, it was found to improve inflammatory markers and oxidative stress.
It is generally linked to digestion, as people have been using it to heal digestive problems. Studies show that apart from treating nausea and stomach discomfort, it can effectively cure stomach ulcers. Its extract, for example from essential oils, works wonder to bring relief from ulcers. In particular, the study was done on aspirin induced stomach ulcers and lesions. While the study was conducted in rats, nevertheless, it comes as great news for people who are on a daily aspirin regimen.
Chewing cardamom pods after meals is an ancient custom in many parts of India. It is believed that cardamom along with fennel seeds freshens up the breath and also treats cavities.
Today researches back this claim through the findings. Cardamom can fight mouth bacteria very well. One study proved that it is effective against five different bacteria that cause cavities in the teeth. So, consuming It improves oral health.
Cardamom helps in treating asthma. The compounds present in this spice increase airflow to the lungs and improve breathing. It also helps the lungs to use more oxygen which in turn aids in treating asthma.
A study comprising 30 college students was conducted and cardamom aromatherapy via essential oil was concluded to improve exercise performance and aerobic fitness.
A health report points out in vitro, that cardamom can help in fighting depression. This is indeed good news as it is easy to use daily.
Cardamom being rich in manganese is good for diabetic people. It can lower the blood sugar level and allow people to lead a normal life.
It’s stimulates our appetite. Having it daily will boost our metabolism and also help in losing weight.
Cardamom in your diet – recipes you can try
The best thing about cardamom is it is easy to incorporate in your daily diet. You can put the seeds in your tea and make cardamom tea. The smell of it will blow your mind. This tea is rich in antioxidants and hence good for your health. You can powder the seeds and put them in soups, smoothies, and desserts.
Most South Asian dishes use a blend of spice in which cardamom is included due to its aroma. You can also use it in marinades for your meat preps.
Furthermore, Its essential oil and its use as an oral mouth rinse would be a worthwhile natural treatment.
Side effects of cardamom
There are no known risks or side effects of consuming cardamom. Food and meals are the best way to increase your daily intake that would provide natural optimal dosage. The easiest way to consume would be through herbal teas and aromatherapy through essentials oil. Moderation is always advised, however, consult your physician when introducing it as a supplement with pre-existing medical condition.
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