Cardamom: 6 effects + 2 uses of the spice

Cardamom is not only an aromatic spice, but also a medicinal plant that has been used for centuries. The spice, which comes from Asia, not only helps with indigestion, headaches and colds. You can find out what else cardamom does here.

We know cardamom mainly from the Christmas season, whether in speculoos, mulled wine or biscuits. But the spice from Asia is much more than just a taste enrichment. Here you can find out everything you need to know about the medicinal plant.

Interesting facts about cardamom

Botanically, cardamom (lat. Elettaria cardamomum) belongs to the ginger family . The spice is obtained from the so-called capsules of the cardamom tree. They contain tiny, sticky seeds that are ground up into the spice we know from the trade.

The perennials of the plant can grow up to five meters high. There are approximately 20 seeds in each capsule . Cardamom pods are always harvested when they are unripe, because once they are ripe, the pods open and the seeds fall out. To avoid this, the yellowish-green capsules are laboriously harvested by hand from the perennials and then dried. That’s why cardamom is one of the most expensive and exclusive spices in the world – only vanilla and saffron are even more expensive.

The popular spice originally comes from the region around India and Sri Lanka . It is now cultivated in Southeast Asia as well as in Nepal and even South America. Incidentally, in the countries where it is cultivated, it is not uncommon to also eat the leaves of the plant . Its sweet, spicy note tastes particularly good in tea or in desserts.

Even the Romans valued cardamom because of its digestive effect, especially at big festivals and after sumptuous meals. The Babylonians also recorded the healing spice on clay tablets several thousand years ago.

The cardamom tastes slightly spicy and yet sweet at the same time and is reminiscent of eucalyptus . It is not for nothing that it is considered the “queen of spices” in India : on the one hand, there are its positive effects on health and, at the same time, the spice is simply a delicious ingredient in sweet and savory dishes. Cardamom is an integral part of our pre-Christmas cuisine. You can enjoy it in cookies, gingerbread and mulled wine.

Green versus black cardamom

Cardamom comes in two different varieties. A distinction is made between green and black cardamom , both of which are used differently. The green cardamom comes mainly from southern India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Iraq. In the meantime, however, this variety is also partly cultivated in South America. It is sweeter and lighter than the dark variant. Therefore, the green cardamom is more likely to be used in sweet dishes and drinks – our Christmas cookies are also based exclusively on the green variety.

Black cardamom comes mainly from China and Nepal, where it is also mostly cultivated. It owes its bitter and smoky taste to the special process used to dry it over an open fire. The smoky aroma of black cardamom goes best with hearty and hearty dishes, such as meat and fish dishes. This variety is much rarer than its green relative.

Components of cardamom

A look at the ingredients of the super spice and it becomes clear where its healing powers come from: up to nine percent of the medicinal plant is based on essential oils . The main components are cineol, terpineol and limonene . They have an anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and pain-relieving effect. At the same time, they are said to have an antibacterial and antifungal effect – they fight both bacterial and fungal infections .

The main components of cardamom are 20 to 40 percent starch and 10 percent protein . The health-promoting spice also contains various oils such as oleic acid, linolenic acid and palmitic acid. But the considerable amount of iron and manganese should not be left out either. There are 100 milligrams of iron per 100 grams of cardamom – making the spice one of the vegetable frontrunners when it comes to iron content.

Health benefits of the spice

Most of the Indian spice’s health benefits are due to its essential oils. Therefore, the spice should never be heated too high and is better added to the food at the end. Cardamom is an important and indispensable remedy, especially in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine . It is used here, among other things, for prostate problems, impotence and bad breath. But that’s not all. The spice is also said to have a health-promoting effect on cystitis, cramps and colds.

For digestive problems

One of the best-known medicinal benefits of cardamom is that of indigestion and problems with the gastrointestinal tract . It is not without reason that the ancient Romans consumed the spice centuries ago after particularly rich meals.

Its beneficial effects on the stomach and intestines are probably due to the essential oils. Cardamom has a digestive and at the same time calming effect. In addition, the spice stimulates both bile and salivary glands to increase secretion production . On the one hand, this prevents feelings of fullness and, on the other hand, makes it easier to digest heavy meals. In addition, the spice is said to stimulate the appetite and relieve stomach cramps. For the full effect, it is worth preparing a tea from the seeds of the medicinal plant .

Against bad breath

The strong, spicy aroma of cardamom also masks unpleasant bad breath. Whether you want to get rid of the garlic smell or the smell of alcohol, chew on the seeds of the spice for a few minutes and the smell will go away.

For respiratory diseases and colds

In Ayurvedic medicine, cardamom is often used as a remedy for colds and respiratory problems. The spice is said to have a positive effect on bronchitis, tonsillitis and sore throats. But the medicinal plant is also said to be able to treat asthma and infections of the oral cavity. These effects are probably due to the oil cineole , which is also found in eucalyptus, among other things. Cineol has an expectorant and calming effect . The oil is said to reduce swelling in the mucous membranes and clear the sinuses of mucus. Cardamom can therefore also be used as a supplement for sinusitis or other inflammatory diseases.

For menopausal and menstrual problems

Cardamom is said to be particularly beneficial for women during menopause or menstruation. The healing spice has an antispasmodic and calming effect on the stomach and abdomen . So far, this effect has only been proven in animal experiments. But both experience and scientific evidence suggest that cardamom can actually alleviate these symptoms. But that’s not all: the medicinal plant is also said to brighten the mood and improve the quality of life . Here’s what else you can do to increase your happiness .

Against high blood pressure

Cardamom is not the only spice used in traditional Chinese medicine to lower blood pressure. Ginger – one of its closer relatives – also has a regulating effect on blood pressure . In studies with high blood pressure patients, scientists were able to determine that just a few grams of cardamom per day improved their levels and could increase their quality of life.

But cardamom can also give your circulation a boost: the spice has a ” warming ” effect from the inside and is said to be able to warm cold feet and hands. Presumably, this effect is primarily due to drinking the tea.

As an aphrodisiac

Cardamom has long been known as a natural aphrodisiac in Arabic countries. The consumption of the spice should not only increase the libido, but can also reduce impotence at the same time . The alleged increase in male and female desire is probably also related to the fact that cardamom has a mood-enhancing effect. Cardamom is therefore also often used as an additive in perfumes or bath additives.

Cardamom side effects

The tasty and at the same time healing spice is completely natural and therefore almost free of side effects . In fact, there are none at all – some groups of people would just prefer to avoid the Christmas spice. Those who suffer from gallstones, for example, should rather keep their hands off cardamom. This eventually stimulates bile production and can therefore become painful for those affected.

In addition, pregnant women should also use the Indian spice sparingly. This is due to the contraction-inducing effect attributed to it . Don’t panic, though – munching on a little gingerbread heart or speculaas biscuits won’t hurt you.

buy cardamom

Most people only know cardamom as a powdered spice. The ground variant is so popular because it is the easiest to use. And that, although this option is far from the best.

Besides the powder, you can also buy the spice in its original capsule or seed form . The fresher the cardamom is, the more intense its effect and aroma will be. Unfortunately, the special aroma of cardamom evaporates quite quickly. So to get the best taste out of your food, it is worth buying dried capsules. All you have to do is carefully open the shell and crush the seeds inside with a mortar.

recognize quality

As already mentioned, the quality and healing properties of cardamom are related. You can tell the quality of the products quite quickly by looking at the color of the spice. If the color of the powder is very light , then it is very likely that only the seeds of the cardamom plants were ground up. The darker the powder is colored, the sooner the capsules were processed in the product.


However, it is more worthwhile to buy the cardamom capsules and grind the seeds inside yourself. The larger the capsules, the higher their quality. After purchase, you should store your spice in a cool, dry place to fully preserve its quality. Airtight packaging is also important, otherwise the product could spoil faster.

Cardamom: Spice in the kitchen

Cardamom is incredibly versatile and goes well with sweets, savory and drinks . Green cardamom tastes particularly delicious in combination with apples, pears and oranges. You can use the spice in a compote, for example. The commercially available green variety also goes well with chai, coffee and mulled wine. It is also a popular ingredient in gingerbread and other Christmas cookies.

You can use both the green and the black cardamom for hearty dishes. They taste good with meat and fish dishes, vegetable pans and with rice, millet or quinoa as a side dish. Preferably use the fresh capsules for your dishes, as the seeds that are still enclosed have a very special aroma.

cardamom tea

One thing in particular helps with colds and sore throats: drink a lot. Freshly brewed tea with the Indian spice can help your body regenerate. Since the ingredients of the seeds are water-soluble , a tea with the healing spice can fully unfold its positive effects and relieve headaches and slightly stimulate the circulation. For your tea, first grind one or two seeds of the plant. Pour hot but not boiling water over the powder along with other herbs . Other medicinal herbs such as calendula, chamomile or peppermint are particularly suitable . Now let the tea steep for about five minutesbefore you drink it. If you also want to treat your sore throat, you can also add a teaspoon of honey to your herbal tea.

cardamom coffee

Coffee with cardamom is a popular specialty , especially in Arabic countries . It not only tastes spicy, it also makes the caffeine it contains easier to digest, relieves headaches and stimulates digestion. For the drink you only use the green cardamom. For the preparation you can either add the spice in powder form to the already finished coffee. Alternatively, you can also lightly crush cardamom capsules and then boil them together with the coffee. For the classic Arabic cardamom coffee, all you have to do is add a little sugar and it’s ready.


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