Cardamom is a spice that originated in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. Today, it is available in most tropical places in Asia, including India, China, Bhutan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Korea, and Japan. 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.
It is believed that the cultivation of cardamom began in the tropical and humid climate in India. In botanical terms, it belongs to the family of Zingiberaceae and its scientific name is Elettaria cardamomum. There are two main types or subspecies of cardamom. Their scientific names are Elettaria, a green or true cardamom, and Amomum, which stands for black, white, or red 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.
It is found in the form of a small pod with black seeds inside. Both the seeds and the pod give a pleasant aroma and flavor. Therefore, they are used as flavoring agents 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 very famous beverage, along with ginger tea, in India.
In India, cardamom was traditionally considered as an herb and was one of the ingredients in Ayurveda (the ancient Indian science of medicine and lifestyle) and traditional Chinese medicine. It was believed to be a remedy for teeth and gum infections, throat problems, congestion of the lungs, pulmonary tuberculosis, inflammation of the eyelids, gastrointestinal disorders, disintegrating kidneys, and gallbladder stones, and was also used as an antidote for poisons and venoms.
Health Benefits Of Cardamom
Cardamom is an ideal spice with many health benefits. The most popular health benefits are listed below.
Prevents Colorectal Cancer
Cancer, particularly colorectal 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. Studies conducted by Sengupta et al. at Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute in Kolkata have shown that dietary cardamom had a positive result in counteracting colorectal cancer to an extent of 48%.
Protects Heart Health
Studies conducted at the Department of Pharmacology and Pharmaceuticals at the College of Pharmacy of King Saud University, Saudi Arabia showed that cardamom administration for cardiovascular conditions resulted in a lower heartbeat or controlled rhythm, and control of hypertension. The micronutrients found in it can counteract the surge of lipids in the body. In experiments conducted at the Pharmacology and Toxicology Division at Hindustan Antibiotics Limited in Pune, India by Dhuley, the hepatic and cardiac antioxidant enzymes from cardamom were administered to mice, which were fed a high-fat diet. The antioxidant enzymes had an influence on the cholesterol levels and helped in significantly controlling them.
Cardamom is also believed to possess anti-depressant properties. Its essential oil is one of the major oils used in aromatherapy. It can be used not only for depression but also as a cure for various other diseases ranging from stomach disorders to pulmonary diseases.
Prevents Gastrointestinal Diseases
Cardamom has been traditionally used in Ayurveda, Chinese medicine and the Unani system as a remedy for gastrointestinal disorders. The methanolic extract from cardamom is the component that helps in controlling gastrointestinal disorders such as acidity, flatulence, and stomach cramps. A study conducted by Jamal et al. at the Department of Chemistry, Jamia Hamdard, in New Delhi, India has concluded that the extracted volatile oils from cardamom have shown positive effects on gastrointestinal disorders.
For many millennia, cardamom was thought to possess infection-fighting properties. For modern science, it means that cardamom contains antimicrobial properties. This theory was tested at the Van Yüzüncü Yil University by Ağ Aoğlu et al. Experiments were conducted on its volatile extracts. It was observed that the oils from cardamom were able to inhibit the growth and spread of some of the very dangerous microbes that regularly cause food poisoning.
Anti-spasmodic & Anti-inflammatory Properties
According to Ayurveda, cardamom is good for muscle and joint pain. Muscle spasms are often reported by older people. A sudden contraction of the muscles causes these spasms. When the muscles contract, it can result in a sudden emergence of pain. Researchers Al-Zuhair et al. at the King Saud University in Saudi Arabia performed animal-based research and concluded that cardamom can be used as a controlling measure for muscle spasms. Recent experimental evidence suggests that cardamom possesses anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties as well.
Cardamom can also be used as a remedy for asthma and other respiratory issues. One study has shown that the crude extracts from cardamom were effective enough in opening up constricted windpipes in lab animals. They were also effective in causing relaxation to the tracheal tissues. This preliminary study has been positive and warrants further investigation.
Detoxifies the Body
The metabolic processes in our body release toxins and free radicals that have to be nullified and flushed out to remain healthy. Otherwise, these accumulated toxins can cause several diseases, including cancer and premature aging. Cardamom is known to act as a detoxifying agent. The essential oils and biochemicals present in cardamom provide detoxifying effects. A study conducted by Das et al. showed that cardamom was effective against cancer cells.
Improves Blood Circulation
In traditional therapies like aromatherapy, cardamom has been used to cure symptoms of asthma and bronchitis by improving blood circulation to the lungs. The essential oil extracted from cardamom has been tested in groups of individuals with stress and it was found that cardamom is effective in promoting blood circulation in the body. The research was undertaken at the Nitte University in Mangalore, India.
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