11 Evidence-Based Benefits of Cardamom

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated - Medically reviewed by Ossie Sharon (MS, RD)

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The health benefits of cardamom include gastrointestinal protection, cholesterol control, anti-cancer properties, relief from cardiovascular issues, and improvement of blood circulation in the body. It is useful for curing digestive problems, dental diseases, and urinary tract infections such as cystitis, nephritis, and gonorrhea. Cardamom possesses aphrodisiac properties and is also used as a cure for impotence, erectile dysfunction, and premature ejaculation.

What is Cardamom?

Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) is a spice found in the form of a small pod with black seeds inside. The spice has an intensely sweet and savory taste. Both the seeds and the pod have a rich aroma and are often used in desserts, hot and spicy dishes, as well as aromatic beverages, coffees, and teas. It is regarded as the queen of spices and is one of the most expensive spices, ranking third, the first and second being saffron and vanilla, respectively.

The cultivation of cardamom originated in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. In India, cardamom was traditionally considered as a therapeutic herb and was one of those applied in Ayurveda (the ancient Indian science of medicine and lifestyle). It is also used in traditional Chinese medicine. It was believed to be a remedy for constipation, colic, diarrhea, dyspepsia, vomiting, headache, hypertension (high blood pressure), epilepsy, and cardiovascular diseases, including poor circulation.

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Nutrition Facts

Spices, cardamom
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]8.28
Energy [kcal]311
Energy [kJ]1303
Protein [g]10.76
Total lipid (fat) [g]6.7
Ash [g]5.78
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]68.47
Fiber, total dietary [g]28
Calcium, Ca [mg]383
Iron, Fe [mg]13.97
Magnesium, Mg [mg]229
Phosphorus, P [mg]178
Potassium, K [mg]1119
Sodium, Na [mg]18
Zinc, Zn [mg]7.47
Copper, Cu [mg]0.38
Manganese, Mn [mg]28
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]21
Thiamin [mg]0.2
Riboflavin [mg]0.18
Niacin [mg]1.1
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.23
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.68
14:0 [g]0.03
16:0 [g]0.57
18:0 [g]0.06
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.87
16:1 [g]0.02
18:1 [g]0.85
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.43
18:2 [g]0.31
18:3 [g]0.12
Phytosterols [mg]46
Sources include : USDA

Cardamom Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA Food Data Central, cardamom is a notable source of minerals such as iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc, and particularly manganese. Other nutrients present at lower levels include calcium, potassium, the B-vitamin pyridoxine, and vitamin C. Cardamom also contains small amounts of protein, dietary fiber, and key fatty acids. Most impressive of all, cardamom contains natural compounds with antioxidant properties, the latter being important in disease prevention and management.

Health Benefits of Cardamom

Cardamom has been promoted in traditional medicine and suggested in medical research to have several powerful health benefits. The most popular are listed below.

Anticancer Potential

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death around the world. The rising cost of conventional cancer therapy and the subsequent side effects have encouraged researchers to look for alternatives that are sustainable. The anticancer potential has long been attributed to cardamom and its active components and corroborated by laboratory and animal research. According to a 2013 research paper published in the EXCLI Journal, a combination of cardamom and cinnamon was found to be helpful in reducing the risk of colorectal cancer by 48%, in large part by enhancing antioxidant activity in the body.

Green cardamom pods on a wooden spoon

Green cardamom pods Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Heart and Metabolic Health

Cardamom was observed to be protective against heart inflammation due to viral infection and heart attack due to medication overdose in animal tests. According to a study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, when male albino rats were administered with 100-200 mg of cardamom extract, there was a significant improvement witnessed in their cardiac and left ventricular functions. The potential benefit for blood pressure was observed in studies on animals and humans with hypertension.

In an animal experiment published in the International Journal of Experimental Biology, antioxidant enzymes from cardamom were found to protect the heart from oxidation and to control cholesterol levels despite diets high fat or cholesterol. In obesity due to a high-carbohydrate diet, cardamom was found to reduce weight gain and associated metabolic damage to the body, as stated in the 2017 study published in the Lipids in Health and Disease Journal.

Blood Sugar Balance

Laboratory studies have found cardamom to contribute to anti-diabetic effects and regulation of glucose and insulin metabolism. These findings followed earlier research that identified compounds in cardamom that may promote healthy glucose and insulin metabolism.

According to a 2017 research, cardamom could improve “inflammation and oxidative stress in hyperlipidemic, overweight, and obese pre‐diabetic women”.

Mind and Relaxation

Cardamom is believed to possess anti-depressant properties. Its essential oil is one of the major oils used in anti-stress aromatherapy and has been suggested in human research to be an effective choice for handling stressful conditions. Also, a 2016 research published by a team of Iranian scientists has found cardamom extract to lessen PTSD-like anxiety symptoms in test animals. One study published in the Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences found that when cardamom was consumed by mice during pregnancy, their offsprings showed enhanced learning, memory, and behavior. However, more research is required to ascertain the benefits of cardamom on other kinds of behavior.

Gastrointestinal Health

Cardamom has been traditionally used in Ayurveda, Chinese medicine and the Unani system as a remedy for digestive problems. The methanolic extract from cardamom is the component that helps in controlling gastrointestinal discomforts such as acidity, flatulence, and stomach cramps. In an effort to provide scientific backing to traditional use, a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology concluded that the extracted volatile oils from a certain type of cardamom may have a positive influence on gastrointestinal disorders. A similar benefit was observed from another type of cardamom. Cardamom is also found to have potential against Helicobacter pylori, the bacterium linked to stomach ulcers, says a study published in the Phytotherapy Research.

Antimicrobial Properties

In contrast to ancient herbal treatments against harmful bacteria, modern “conventional” antibiotics have been found to produce side effects such as inhibition of important friendly probiotic bacteria living in the intestines. While spices such as cardamom may not be as consistently powerful, they inhibit only infectious microbes, not beneficial probiotics.

For millennia, cardamom was thought to possess infection-fighting properties. This theory was tested in experiments with its extracts. The oils from cardamom were able to inhibit the growth and spread of some of the very dangerous microbes that regularly cause food poisoning. Studies have also suggested the potential benefit of cardamom against antibiotic-resistant infection, the latter being an increasing threat in the modern world.

Anti-spasmodic & Anti-inflammatory Properties

Certain cardamom compounds have been observed in research to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, including those supportive of a healthy immune system, says a 2017 report published in the Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy Journal. Research has found these properties to be protective when inflammation and oxidative stress are a result of unhealthy weight and diet.

Dental Care

Cardamom has been used in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine for dealing with dental problems for many centuries. Research has verified the presence of antimicrobial properties in cardamom targeting common bacteria linked to cavities, says research published in the Ethnobotanical Leaflets. It is also an ingredient in a traditional mouth rinse used to prevent dental plaque.

Respiratory Health

Cardamom has shown positive potential against asthma and other respiratory issues. According to a study published in the Bangladesh Journal of Pharmacology, it was shown to be effective in opening closed windpipes in laboratory animals, as well as protection against inhalation injury in the lungs of mice.

Blood Circulation

In traditional therapies like aromatherapy, cardamom has been said to improve blood circulation to the lungs and was therefore used for symptoms of asthma and bronchitis. Cardamom aromatherapy was also linked to reduced stress in a human study, a benefit attributed to its enhancing blood and therefore oxygen circulation in the body.

The spice extract was found to have components that may protect the blood from clogging vessels and leading to problems such as heart attack and stroke.

Prevents Nausea & Vomiting

Traditionally, cardamom has been used as a remedy for nausea. It may be able to calm sensations of nausea and urge to vomit. Aromatherapy with inhalation of its oils has been shown in research to relieve nausea due to chemotherapy in cancer patients. Additionally, consuming cardamom powder was observed to lessen the severity of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, in a study published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Other Uses and Benefits

Sore Throat

Cardamom steeped in boiling water is recommended as a morning gargling solution to control painful sore throats. This is suggested due to antibacterial and immune-supporting properties.

Aphrodisiac Properties

Cardamom was traditionally believed to possess aphrodisiac properties. Not only that, but it was also used against impotence, likely due to benefits for blood circulation.

Treating Urinary Disorders

In Ayurveda, cardamom has been used as a remedy for urinary tract diseases and kidney disorders such as cystitis, nephritis, and bleeding, as well as gonorrhea.

Hiccups

Hiccups are spasms in the tissue just below the lungs and can occur as a result of laughing, an awkward swallow, or other conditions. Cardamom infusion is recommended as a remedy, made by boiling the spice powder in water for an extended time to concentrate the active components.

Breath Freshener

Cardamom pods and seeds are chewed as a breath freshener, and its essential oil is a popular ingredient in chewing gum.

Liver Health

Elevated cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and liver enzymes can likely be controlled with cardamom extracts. This extract is also likely to reduce the risk of fatty liver disease and prevent liver enlargement.

Types of Cardamom

In botanical terms, cardamom belongs to the family of Zingiberaceae. There are two main types or subspecies of this spice. Their scientific names are Elettaria, green or true cardamom, and Amomum, which represents black, white, or red cardamom.

While cardamom originated in India, today it is available in most tropical places in Asia, including India, Sri Lanka, China, Bhutan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Korea, and Japan, as well as in Guatemala (Central America) and Tanzania (Africa).

Indian Cardamom

The Spices Board of India recognizes three varieties of cardamom, which include the Malabar, Mysore and Vazhukka varieties. There is another variety, named Njallani, which has become very popular along with the three normal varieties. This variety was developed by a small farmer named Sebastian Joseph from the Idukki district in Kerala.

Culinary Uses 

Cardamom is used as a flavoring spice in Indian cuisine. Its use is just not just limited to hot and spicy dishes; the seeds are also added to desserts and beverages to complement the sweet flavor. Cardamom tea is a famous beverage, along with ginger tea, in India. It is often added to coffee in the Middle East.

So go ahead and make sure you keep this aromatic and beneficial spice on hand!

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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