Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), popularly called ‘The Queen of Spices’ consists of whole or ground dried fruit, or seeds of a herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family. The seeds have a warm, slightly pungent, and highly aromatic flavour somewhat reminiscent of camphor. Originally from the rain forests of India, they are prized for centuries for their beautifully fragrant flavour, aroma as well as for their therapeutic effects. Today in the West they are still highly valued for their ability to relieve tension and anxiety, to dispel lethargy and nervous exhaustion, to lift the spirits and to improve memory and concentration.
A cardamom enriched tea/coffee gives an instant relief from indigestion induced headaches or tension headaches, which are very common in the modern era. Not only can cardamoms protect against the over-stimulating and other harmful effects of caffeine but also they can be positively beneficial for the nervous system. In Ayurvedic medicine they have long been esteemed for their ability to lift the spirits, reduce pain, restore vitality and induce a calm, meditative state of mind. Studies show that the essential oil has anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties. Cardamom is highly effective as an antispasmodic, relieving muscle pain and spasm throughout the body.
Added to foods and drinks, cardamom seeds have a warming and invigorating effect throughout the body. By stimulating the secretion of digestive juices they stimulate appetite, enhance digestion and absorption of food, and with their relaxing effect on smooth muscle in the digestive tract they can settle the stomach, especially when it is affected by stress. In modern Ayurvedic medicine cardamoms are a popular remedy for nervous digestive upsets in children, and are often combined with fennel. When simmered in water for a few minutes and taken as a hot tea, they will relieve colic, flatulence and indigestion, and helps combat nausea and vomiting.
The seeds can be chewed after a meal to aid digestion and sweeten the breath. In India it is common practice to offer cardamoms at the end of a meal as a digestive and breath freshener. They have a mild laxative effect and are especially good for relieving that uncomfortable feeling from overeating. Their warming and stimulating effects are recommended for those feeling rundown and tired, especially in the winter. Added to milk products and puddings they can actually counteract the mucus-forming properties of milk. Their stimulating expectorant action helps to clear phlegm from the nose and sinuses as well as the chest, making them a good remedy for colds, coughs, asthma and chest infections.
Cardamom is known to be helpful in balancing all three ‘doshas’ in the human body. A dosha is one of three bodily humors that make up one’s constitution according to Ayurveda. Hence it is termed as “tridoshic”. A little quantity of cardamom is especially beneficial in balancing kapha. It can be used for balancing vata and pitta also. Along with some other medicines, it can be used for treating mouth ulcers. Ayurveda practitioners advise its use for treating urinary tract infections.