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August 2012

Queen Of All Spices!

Panchali Moitra
 
Native to tropical south India and Sri Lanka, cardamom, the ‘Queen of Spices’ is valued globally for its exotic aroma and delectable flavour. Ayurveda holds the tiny black seeds of cardamom or elaichi in high esteem for its therapeutic attributes.
Botanically, the cardamom pods belong to two distinct genera - ‘elettaria’ and ‘amommun’ that stand for green cardamom or chhoti elaichi and black cardamom or badi elaichi respectively. While both variants find favour in Indian cuisine, it is the green cardamom that stands out with superior fragrance quotient and better health benefits.

Green cardamom is often used in sweet dishes and masala tea, while black cardamom is an integral part of the Indian garam masala and biryani recipes. Green cardamom finds a place in Arabic coffee, Moroccan curry spice powder, English muffins and cookies, many liquor varieties and even in perfumes. Chewing cardamom helps to maintain good oral health and alleviates bad breath and gum troubles. Greek folklore associates cardamom with aphrodisiac qualities and Chinese medicine uses cardamom powder as poultice for insect bites and wounds.

  • The essential volatile oils in cardamom show strong antioxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic and antibacterial activity. They are also good as detoxifying agents and free radical scavengers.
  • Cardamom stimulates appetite, improves digestion and is beneficial for people suffering from abdominal gas, irritable bowel syndrome, stomach infections, constipation and acidity. Ground cardamom seeds mixed with powdered cloves, ajwain and ginger, relieves indigestion within minutes. There have been studies that have shown cardamom to be effective in enhancing bile production and reducing the release of gastric acids
  • Ayurveda considers green cardamom to be effective in balancing ‘tri dosha’ (vaata, kapha and pitta). Cardamom seeds and oil are recommended in the treatment of asthma, bronchitis, heart problems, morning sickness, sore throat, convulsions, nausea, headache and general weakness.
  • Cardamom is a good source of minerals such as manganese (for enzymatic activity), magnesium and potassium (for blood pressure control), and calcium (for bone health).
  • As a natural diuretic, cardamom helps in addressing kidney problems and urinary tract infections. Cardamom powder added to amla juice works well for burning urination and scanty urination.
  • Cardamom is considered to be a warm spice and is often found useful for improving blood circulation, treating cold related discomforts and expelling phlegm.
  • Cardamom oil possesses anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Massaging with cardamom oil helps to relax tense muscles, swollen joints and inflamed nerves.
Caution: As with any herb, cardamom too should be consumed in moderation. Over consumption may cause allergic reactions.

Panchali Moitra is Nutrition Expert, Weight Management Consultant, Kolkata.