If you’ve ever sipped on a warm chai or supped on a delicious Indian dinner, that exotic, tantalizing spice you’re tasting could be cardamom. Cardamom has a sweet, pungent flavor with a touch of light, floral, lemony sweetness. It’s often used in Indian seasonings like garam masala and curries. It’s also delicious in chai, or Arabic coffee, breads, pastries and other recipes.
Cardamom is one of those age-old spices that has been used for years to treat health disorders like diarrhea, indigestion, depression, and even as an aphrodisiac.
Like many spices, cardamom is full of powerful phytonutrients and antioxidants.
It contains manganese that helps the body create connective tissue, bones and the sex hormones. It’s also critical for nerve and brain function and helps the body metabolize carbohydrates and fats.
Cardamom contains other phytochemicals, including limonene, pinene, myrcene, alpha phellandrene, alpha terpineol, alpha terpineol acetate, cineol, heptane, phytol and more. These compounds contribute to the medicinal properties of cardamom.
Cardamom has lots of dietary fiber, iron and manganese. It also contains plenty of vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, potassium and zinc.
1. Digestive Health
Cardamom has been used for thousands of years to help with digestion. One study published in the World Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology found cardamom to be active against H.pylori infections, which is responsible for ulcers and some forms of gastric cancer. Another study found that cardamom alone could completely prevent or reduce the size of gastric ulcers by at least 50%.
2. Cavities and Bad Breath
Cardamom is useful for bad breath. In fact, in some countries, cardamom is chewed just for the purpose of fresher breath. A study from Kurukshetra University in India looked at the antimicrobial effects on oral bacteria. It was found that extracts of cardamom can inhibit or kill Streptococcus mutans and Candida albicans, as well as bacteria that cause bad breath.
Cardamom is also effective as a cavity preventative, helping kill the bacteria that cause tooth decay. This study shows that cardamom extract was effective in fighting five different types of bacteria that cause cavities.
3. Blood Pressure
Cardamom may be helpful for people with high blood pressure. This spice has a diuretic effect on the body, increasing urination and helping to decrease blood pressure. In one study, three grams of cardamom powder were given to 20 adults with high blood pressure, and after 12 weeks, blood pressure levels decreased to a normal range.
In addition to working as a diuretic to lower blood pressure, cardamom’s high levels of antioxidants may also be at work as well lowering blood pressure.
4. Blood Sugar
Since cardamom is high in manganese, it helps diabetics and other maintain more stable blood sugar levels. Research shows that people with diabetes tend to have low levels of manganese.
Some studies have shown that manganese deficiency can lead to glucose intolerance, which is what happens in diabetes. In addition, manganese is concentrated in the pancreas, which is also involved in producing insulin to lower blood sugar levels.
Cardamom may contain antioxidants and other compounds that increase the activity of cancer fighting enzymes. In addition, cardamom may stimulate our body’s natural killer cells to fight off cancer and attack tumors.
Cardamom has also been shown to help slow the growth of colon cancer and stop its spread. And additionally, the eugenol it contains can help reduce the risk for tobacco-induced cancers in the lung.
Types of Cardamom
Cardamom can be found in most grocery stores. It comes in three different types: green (most common), black, and Madagascar. The green cardamom is used most often and is easiest to find.
Cardamom comes in pods or already ground but is most flavorful when purchased in the pods. You can add whole pods of it into dishes. These pods contain brown aromatic seeds that can be ground to release a potent flavor.
Be sure to keep in mind that ground cardamom seeds lose their flavor and aroma quickly, so it’s best to grind them just before cooking. Good quality cardamom can be expensive, but it’s potent, so not much is needed.
Add cardamom to your favorite chai tea, or golden milk for an added flavor boost. Or try this delicious warm chai recipe with cardamom.
Cardamom belongs to the same botanical family as turmeric & ginger. Both cardamom and turmeric pair well together in many spice blends and dishes, and they have many health benefits. If you want to give turmeric a whirl, take a look at this….