Cardamom: The Queen of Spices ~ Its Ayurvedic Uses & Western Uses

Cardamom: The Queen of Spices ~ Its Ayurvedic Uses & Western Uses


Cardamom, often called the "Queen of Spices," is second to black pepper, (Piper nigrum, called the "King of Spices"), as the most important spice crop in the world! It is also the third most expensive spice, behind saffron and vanilla.

Cardamom has such a unique and pleasant taste, it has become a highly treasured spice and medicinal herb used at least as far back as Vedic times (3,000 years ago). 


Green cardamom pods (image source linked to photo)
There are actually two types of cardamom: green cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), and black cardamom (Amomum subulatum). Green cardamom is commonly known as "true cardamom" or "small cardamom," and is the most widely used form of cardamom. It has a sweet, floral flavor, and is predominately grown in southern India, but it is native to the Indonesian and Indian subcontinent, Pakistan, Burma, Bangladesh, and tropical and subtropical Asia.
Black cardamom, also known as "false cardamom" or "large cardamom", is native to Nepal, Sikkim, Bengal, and southeastern Asian countries. It has a smoky, earthy flavor, and is often used in savory dishes, particularly in Indian cuisine.  
While both black and green cardamom belong to the Zingiberaceae family, they come from different genera and species, resulting in distinct flavor profiles and culinary uses. Black cardamom is classified under the genus Amomum and the species subulatum. Green cardamom, on the other hand, belongs to the genus Elettaria and the species cardamomum.  


Green cardamom is mostly grown as an under crop, beneath the forest trees at 2,600 ft- 5,000 ft  in the southern states of Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu in southern India. This method of cultivation, known as "shade-grown" or "forest-grown," not only supports the growth of green cardamom but also helps maintain biodiversity and ecological balance in the region. The traditional practices of cultivating cardamom in harmony with the natural environment contribute to the unique qualities of the spice produced in these areas.
Green cardamom growing under canopy of tree (image source linked to photo)
Guatemala is one of the largest growers and exporters of cardamom globally, as well as the biggest competitor to the Indian cardamom in the world market. Although, Guatemala does focus on growing black cardamom more so than the green cardamom commonly grown in India. Cardamom was introduced to Guatemala in 1920, most likely from India or Sri Lanka, by a New York broker. The Guatemalan natives don't typically like the taste of cardamom, and so the entirety of their crop is exported.   


Steeped in the tapestry of history, cardamom has enriched Ayurveda, enchanted the courts of medieval Europe, and traversed spice routes with Arabian traders.
In Sanskrit (ancient Indian language), cardamom was referred to as Ela. (Ancient Indian Ayurvedic texts, such as the Charaka Samhita and Susrutha Samhita, mention Ela, but it is unclear whether they were referring to the Indian variety or the large Nepalese variety). 
In ancient Hindu culture, cardamom was mentioned as an ingredient within the offering to the sacrificial fire in order to solemnize a Hindu marriage.
Assyrians and Babylonians also used cardamom. It was mentioned that the ancient king of Babylon, Merodach-Baladan II (721-702 BC), grew cardamom in his garden.
While the historical details may not be well-documented, it is plausible that aromatic spices, including cardamom, could have been part of the rich tradition of perfumery and sensuality (aphrodisiacs) in ancient civilizations, including those of Greece and Rome.
Cardamom was widely used to aid digestion, and that was key reason both the Greeks and Romans imported cardamom in large quantities from India. Thusly, it became one of the most popular oriental spices in Greek and Roman cuisine.
On the whole, references to cardamom in ancient and early centuries of the Christian era are not as frequent as references to black pepper.  During the era of European exploration and colonization, pepper, ginger, and other spices were in high demand, and played a significant part in the spice trade routes established by European powers. Green cardamom, (Elettaria cardamomum), was a sought-after spice, although its prominence might have varied in different trade routes and markets.
The establishment of cardamom plantations, particularly in the Western Ghats of India, gained momentum in the early nineteenth century. The interplanting of cardamom with coffee was a common practice during this period, and it contributed to the development of mixed cropping systems in the region.
The earliest written evidence of cardamom growing in India was from the British East India Company officers.
Green cardamom pods growing (image source linked to photo)

Uses in Ayurveda:

In Ayurveda, cardamom, known as Elaichi, is celebrated for its tridoshic nature, harmonizing the body's energies and promoting digestive vitality. Its warming properties and ability to pacify Vata and Kapha imbalances make it a staple in herbal formulations aimed at restoring equilibrium.
In Ayurveda, cardamom is classified based on its taste (rasa), post-digestive effect (vipaka), and heating or cooling energy (virya).
Here are the Ayurvedic qualities of cardamom:
  1. Rasa (Taste): Cardamom is primarily associated with the sweet (madhura) and pungent (katu) tastes. The sweet taste is believed to nourish and calm the body, while the pungent taste stimulates digestion and metabolism.               
  2. Virya (Energy): Cardamom is considered to have a warming or heating energy. This property is believed to stimulate and invigorate the body, promoting circulation and warmth.                                                                      
  3. Vipaka (Post-digestive Effect): The post-digestive effect of cardamom is sweet (madhura), meaning that after digestion, it has a sweet effect on the tissues of the body.                                                                                                   
  4. Guna (Quality): In terms of guna, cardamom is often classified as light (laghu) and oily (snigdha). Light qualities help in promoting digestion and preventing stagnation, while oily qualities can be nourishing.                                       
  5. Dosha Affinities: Cardamom is generally considered balancing for all three doshas—Vata, Pitta, and Kapha—making it a tridoshic spice. Although it also has a particular affinity for balancing excess Vata and Kapha.                                 
  6. Ama Pachana (Toxin Digestion): Cardamom is known for its ama pachana properties, meaning it helps in digesting and eliminating toxins (ama) from the body.

Cardamom is Ayurveda's most powerful mucus destroyer! 

Cardamom improves intelligence and learning skills, as it helps facilitate acetylcholine activity, which is essential for attention, learning, and memory. 

In Ayurveda, cardamom is one of the herbs used for tachycardia (irregular heartbeats).

It provides relief from frequent urination that occurs due to kidney infections, overactive bladder syndrome, diabetes, interstitial cystitis, nephritis, and urinary incontinence.

Cardamom has some anti-spasmodic qualities which can help relieve hiccups through relaxing the diaphragm. 

Cardamom seeds can be mixed with honey to help relieve excessive thirst. 

Black cardamom pods (image source linked to photo)

Medicinal Uses:

Cardamom and its pharmacologically effective substances have shown broad-spectrum actions including: antihypertensive, anti-oxidant, lipid-modifying, anti-inflammatory, anti-atherosclerotic, anti-thrombotic, hepatoprotective, hypocholesterolemic, anti-obesity, and antidiabetic effects.
Elettaria cardamomum has been used in traditional medicine applications to help control: asthma, teeth and gum infections, cataracts, nausea, diarrhea, as well as cardiac, digestive and kidney disorders. 
Here are some other medicinal uses of cardamom:
  1. Digestive Health: Cardamom is known for its digestive properties. It helps in relieving indigestion, bloating, and gas by promoting the secretion of digestive enzymes. It is often used to alleviate symptoms of nausea and vomiting.

  2. Anti-inflammatory Properties: Cardamom contains compounds with anti-inflammatory effects, which may help reduce inflammation in the body.

  3. Antioxidant Effects: The spice is rich in antioxidants, which can help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. This may contribute to overall health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

  4. Oral Health: Cardamom has antimicrobial properties that can be beneficial for oral health. It may help fight bacteria in the mouth, leading to fresher breath and improved oral hygiene.

  5. Respiratory Health: In traditional medicine, cardamom is used to help respiratory conditions like asthma and bronchitis. It may help in improving breathing and promoting overall respiratory health.

  6. Heart Health: Some studies suggest that cardamom may have positive effects on heart health by helping to lower blood pressure and improve lipid profiles.

  7. Diabetes Management: There is some evidence to suggest that cardamom may have a positive impact on blood sugar levels, potentially aiding in diabetes management. 

  8. Anti-cancer Properties: Certain compounds in cardamom, such as cineole and limonene, have demonstrated anti-cancer properties in lab studies. However, more research is needed to fully understand the extent of these effects in humans.

  9. Weight Loss: Some studies suggest that cardamom may help with weight loss by boosting metabolism and improving fat metabolism. However, more research is needed in this area. The anti-obesity effects of cardamom and its active constituents have been stated in numerous studies (See Table 2). 

  10. Mood Enhancement: The aroma of cardamom is believed to have mood-enhancing properties. It is sometimes used in aromatherapy to alleviate stress and uplift the mood.


Cardamom cultivation (image source linked to photo)

Western Herbal Energetics & Uses:

In Western herbal tradition, the energetic qualities of herbs often refer to their effects on the body and mind, including whether they are warming or cooling, stimulating or relaxing. While the Western herbal system may not use the same terminology as Ayurveda, it recognizes certain qualities that align with the effects of herbs on the body.

Here are some energetic qualities associated with cardamom in the Western herbal tradition:

  1. Warming Nature: Cardamom is generally considered to have warming qualities. Warming herbs are thought to increase circulation, promote digestion, and provide a sense of warmth to the body. This can be beneficial for individuals who tend to feel cold, or have conditions associated with coldness.

  2. Carminative Action: Cardamom is known for its carminative properties, meaning it helps to relieve gas and bloating. This aligns with its traditional use in Western herbalism to support digestive health.

  3. Stimulating Digestion: Similar to its use in Ayurvedic medicine, cardamom is believed to stimulate digestion in the Western herbal tradition. It may help with the breakdown of food and the absorption of nutrients.

  4. Aromatic Qualities: Cardamom is aromatic, meaning it has a strong and pleasant fragrance. Aromatic herbs are often used to add flavor to culinary dishes, and are thought to have a positive impact on the digestive system.

  5. Mood Uplifting: The aromatic nature of cardamom may also contribute to its mood-enhancing qualities. Aromatics are sometimes used in Western herbalism to uplift the spirits and promote a sense of well-being.

  6. Antioxidant Properties: Cardamom's antioxidant properties are recognized in Western herbalism, aligning with the broader understanding of the importance of antioxidants in promoting overall health and preventing oxidative stress.



Black cardamom growing (image source linked to photo)


A versatile spice native to the Indian subcontinent, cardamom offers a wide variety of medicinal benefits, as well as use in the kitchen. A prized ingredient in cuisines worldwide, cardamom imparts a unique aroma and taste, elevating dishes ranging from desserts and chai teas to curries and stews. Used in Ayurveda, cardamom is recognized for promoting digestive health, alleviating respiratory conditions, and is great for balancing all three doshas. In the Western world, cardamom touts its antioxidant properties, digestive prowess, and general warming nature. It is a wonderful, super unique spice with amazing medicinal benefits. 


Check out our Cardamom Spagyric Tincture in our apothecary! 

*We are not making ANY medical claims about our Cardamom Spagyric Tincture or anything that we sell in our apothecary. As always, please consult with a licensed health care provider if you are considering adding cardamom to your routine. 


 Written by Norianna Diesel


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