When you hear the word cardamom, probably you envision cardamom shortbread, cardamom tea, or curry. Sure, cardamom is used in all of the above and more recipes, but did you know that that cardamom has valuable medicinal benefits making it a huge part of everyday home remedies in many parts of the world. It is the world’s third most expensive spice after saffron and vanilla.
Cardamom belongs to the genus Elettaria in the Ginger family, Zingiberaceae. It is intensely fragrant, sweet, and complex in flavor. Extensively used in India, the Middle East, and Scandinavia in cooking, cardamom is valued for its seed pods that hold the magical properties. It is called Elaichi in India, Kardamom in German, Cardamone in Italian, and Cardamome in French.
Types of Cardamom
The three common varieties of cardamom are:
- Green cardamom – It’s the finest and most aromatic variety, typically used in sweet and savory Indian dishes.
- White cardamom – Often used in baking.
- Black cardamom – The pods are larger than green and white cardamom with a distinctly smoky aroma and used in dishes like curry.
Medicinal Properties of Cardamom
- Cardamom is an antispasmodic and carminative in nature. The volatile oils present in cardamom soothe the digestive system and bring relief to a host of digestive problems like heartburn, diarrhea, vomiting, and indigestion. It reduces inflammation of the stomach lining and soothes mucous membranes. It relieves stomach acidity by increasing the amount of saliva secreted in the mouth. The essential oils present in cardamom impart a cooling sensation and reduces stomach acidity.
- It is effective against halitosis or bad breath due to its antibacterial properties, strong flavor, and pleasant aroma. It can be used as a mouth freshener to eliminate foul odor. Chewing a few seeds freshens the mouth and breath. It is used to fight gum disease and sore throat.
- Cardamom can be combined with other herbal juices to act as a diuretic to relieve urinary problems.
- Cardamom helps alleviate respiratory problems by increasing blood circulation within the lungs and relieves symptoms of asthma, cold, and cough. According to Ayurveda, cardamom is a warm spice and heats the body internally helping with expulsion of phlegm and chest congestion.
- Cardamom is loaded with antioxidants that protect the body against stress and sickness. It contains indole-3-carbinol, a phytochemical, which is a well-known cancer fighter.
- Cardamom contains iron and manganese that aid in cellular metabolism by scavenging and destroying free radicals. It contains minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Cardamom is rich in vitamins including riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin C that are essential for optimum health and well being.
Culinary Uses of Cardamom
Due to its strong aroma and unique taste, cardamom is used extensively in cooking both sweet and savory dishes. It is a common ingredient in Indian cooking and used in both savory dishes like pilafs, curries, and sweet puddings and cakes. In the Middle East, cardamom is a traditional flavor in tea and coffee. In Scandinavia, cardamom is used extensively in baking quick breads and desserts.
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