From Digestion to Lowering BP: Top Health Benefits of Cardamom
Any sweet dish in India, especially one which contains milk, can be identified by an unmistakable aroma – an intense but pleasing smell of the cardamom spice. A popular part of Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine, cardamom is the star of milky desserts and fragrant rice dishes.
Cardamom’s botanical name is Elettaria cardamomum, and it is also known as elaichi in Hindi, elakki in Kannada, elakkai in Malayalam, yelakulu in Telugu and photta in Sindhi.
Did you know that Guatemala is the largest producer of cardamom in the world, although it’s not considered a native? India trails close behind as the second largest producer.
I’m one of those lucky ones who has access to freshly plucked cardamoms from the farm that are sent to me almost immediately, thanks to a friend who has a farm that grows cardamom.
The cardamom we use is actually a seed pod. Each seed pod consists of a husky, dry outer cover with small coarse seeds inside, dark brown to black in color. The seeds are the main source of the cardamom’s aroma. There are two main varieties of cardamom – green and black.
After saffron and vanilla, cardamom is the world's most expensive spice, with the green ones being slightly more expensive than the black. Besides cooking, cardamoms are also used in making personal care products like creams, soaps and perfumes. The essential oil extracted from cardamom seeds are used to make medicines that are used in traditional medicine like Ayurveda as well as Korean and Chinese medicine.
Health Benefits of Cardamom (Elaichi)
1. Aids Digestion
One of the most well-known health benefits of cardamom is that it helps with digestion. The aroma itself is strong enough to activate our salivary glands, triggering the digestive enzymes. Besides cardamom contains chemicals that help push food through the digestive tract, boosting metabolism and aiding weight loss.
2. Relieves Nausea & Stomach Trouble
Besides improving a sluggish digestion, cardamom can also help with other stomach troubles like nausea and ulcers. A mix of spices including cardamom has been found to reduce medication-related nausea in patients to a significant extent. Cardamom extract has also been found to heal stomach ulcers, even better than medicines.
3. Prevents Bad Breath
Cardamoms don’t just smell great on their own, they also help with halitosis. Cardamom contains cineole, a compound with antimicrobial properties that fight the bacteria causing bad breath. Due to this, cardamom is often used in making sweet paan, a betel leaf preparation used as a digestive. Even Wrigley, the world famous chewing gum company, has used cardamom in its products.
4. Improves Dental Health
It’s not just bad breath that cardamom can tackle – it can also improve overall dental health. The antimicrobial property helps keep the mouth clean by fighting bacteria responsible for cavities. Studies have shown that cardamom extract can lower mouth bacteria by as much as 54%.
5. Lowers Blood Pressure
Thanks to its ability to control blood pressure, cardamom is known as a heart-healthy spice. Studies have shown that consuming just 1.5 grams of powdered cardamom a day can show significant benefits for patients with high blood pressure. The antioxidants present in cardamom are believed to be responsible for this benefit.
6. Fights Inflammation
Chronic inflammation can have many adverse effects on the body especially when accompanied by ageing. Cardamom contains compounds that can help fight inflammation by protecting cells from damage.
Home Remedies with Cardamoms
1. No More Hiccups
2. Natural De-congestant
3. Soothes Inflammations
This was something recommended to me when pain refused to subside despite popping in those pain relief Tylenols. And if you are an insomniac like I am, add half a tsp of grated nutmeg to this concoction and drink this only at night before you sleep. Worked like a charm for me when I was an expectant mom.
Note: Cardamom is widely available in most supermarkets as whole or in powdered form. Opt for the whole variant as powdered cardamom tends to lose its potency quickly. You can always grind the whole cardamom when required. The shelf life of cardamoms are approximately four years when they are stored in a cool, dark place away from direct heat.
(Pratibha spent her childhood in idyllic places only fauji kids would have heard of. When she's not rooting for eco-living or whipping up some DIY recipes to share with her readers, Pratibha is creating magic with social media. You can view her blog at www.pratsmusings.com or reach to her on Twitter at @myepica.)