Monday, April 21, 2014
Parts Used: seeds
Meridians/Organs affected: kidneys, spleen, lungs, stomach
Properties: carminative, tonic, stomachic, expectorant, stimulant, diuretic, antiseptic, antispasmodic
Cardamom is a member of the Zingiberaceae family along with ginger and turmeric. There are several varieties of cardamom. It is a native to Sri Lanka and India although it is now grown in Thailand, the Spice Islands, Indo China and Central America as well. Most cardamom is produced in India and used there locally exporting less than five tons annually.
Cardamom has strong rhizomes and stems that stand erect with long lance-like leaves. The flowers appear in May and are generally yellowish with a purple lip. The pods appear around October and contain rows of dark, brownish-red seeds that seem to be a favorite of gourmet lizards which is one of the main hazards for their cultivation. The pods must be gathered before they are ripe; otherwise the seeds burst out of the pods as they dry and lose their essential oil content as well as their fragrance. Cardamom is the third most expensive spice after saffron and vanilla.
Cardamom's history dates back to a thousand years before Christ. The first mention in Chinese medicine was around 721 AD. It was exported along caravan routes and was first introduced in Europe by the Romans. It was a component of 'metopion', an ancient Egyptian ointment used as a perdume in religious ceremonies and as a medicine. It has been used in India for millennia in Ayurvedic medicine under the name of 'Ela'. In these ancient cultures, cardamom often was used for paralysis, epilepsy, spasms and joint pain and stiffness. It was also found to be quite useful as a diuretic. The School of Salerno used it for cardiac issues and for stomach complaints. The Chinese view it as somewhat of a cure-all for intestinal issues. Madame Maury (Austrian biochemist) considered it to be an amazing antiseptic, antispasmodic and a tonic for weak hearts due to emotional issues. Its diuretic qualities make cardamom useful for water retention during menstruation and menopause. The seeds can be used to help with flatulence and digestion-usually in decoction form.
Cardamom has been used as an aid for nausea in wasting diseases and to stimulate the appetite of people with anorexia. The Chinese use it for urinary incontinence and infections. It also has been used for: vomiting, colds, coughs, asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, to counteract mucous congestion, to relax bronchial spasms, and as an expectorant and an anti-inflammatory. What is interesting to note is that cardamom can be used in place of cayenne for chronic pain by those who find cayenne too much for them to tolerate. It can be taken with other herbs or by itself for chronic and acute pain and for prolonged periods without toxicity. It has been found to also be beneficial for spermatorrhea, gastralgia and enuresis as well.
Cardamom is a spic used to flavor cakes, curries, coffee, garam masalas, desserts, chai tea, and breads. It is also used in punches and hot mulled wines. The oil is added to some toothpastes and the seeds are also ground and used in herb pillows and potpourris.
As is customary with my posts I am including some links herein for your perusal. Use them well.