Cardamom (scientific name Elettaria cardamomum) is a perennial herb akin to reeds and is usually found growing in the wild. This herb is also widely cultivated in India and Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon).
Cardamom belongs to the ginger family and its oil is obtained by steam distilling the seeds that have already undergone a prolonged (about three months) drying process. Cardamom seeds that have been dried for a long period yield oils that enclose the best possible levels of chemicals. While cardamom essential oil can be acquired from various regions of the world, currently Guatemala is said to have the most favourable conditions to produce the best quality and most powerful oil. The aroma of cardamom essential oil is sweet and spicy.
Cardamom trees usually grow up to a height of 4 meters (13 feet) and produce long, green glossy leaves. The flowers of cardamom are small and yellowish having a violet tip. Cardamom plants have a large, plump rhizome, akin to that of ginger. After the blossoming, the plants bear oblong-shaped grey hued fruits, each of which encloses numerous seeds.
Even in the ancient times, people were familiar with cardamom as well as its various therapeutic properties. For instance, the ancient Egyptians used cardamom essential oil in incense and perfumes. They also chewed cardamom seeds with a view to make their teeth whiter. On the other hand, the Romans used cardamom for treating stomach disorders whenever they over-indulged.
The early Arabs also pounded cardamom and used the powder in their coffee, while it has traditionally been a vital ingredient in Asian culinary. German physician and botanist Valerius Cordus was the first to steam cardamom to extract its essential oil in 1544 after the Portuguese explorations discovered the East.
Cardamom essential oil is extracted from the seeds of the herb's fruit by a process known as steam distillation. The fruits are collected immediately before they mature. Usually, the yield of the essential oil varies between 1% and 5%.
Chinese as well as Indians have been using cardamom in their traditional medical practices for over 3,000 years now. This herb was used widely in Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medicine system. Even the early Greek physicians adopted this herb in the 4th century B.C. Hippocrates, who is regarded as the father of medicine in the West, was among the ancient Greek physicians who used this herb extensively. Currently, people widely use cardamom as a spice owing to its composition. Medicinally, the essential oil of cardamom is valued for its ability to heal gastro-intestinal (GI) problems. Traditionally, people have been using cardamom essential oil in the form of a tonic for the digestive, pulmonary as well as urinary systems, and also for reducing fever. In addition, this oil has also been employed by people for several centuries as an ingredient of several sensual aphrodisiac blends.
Several scientific researches have been undertaken to explore the therapeutic attributes of cardamom essential oil and it is generally employed for treating problems related to digestive and respiratory problems. In addition, this oil may also have the potential for supporting the health of the muscles. Cardamom essential oil is also said to possess uplifting, stimulating and stress-relieving properties (similar to any other essential oil). This oil also stimulates the mind and brings in clarity.
It is important to emphasize that compared to other essential oils, cardamom is safer as well as gentler for children. In fact, use of a number of essential respiratory and digestive oils like peppermint or eucalyptus is generally avoided for children and it is often difficult to find a suitable alternative solution. On the other hand, cardamom essential oil can prove to be a wonderful substitute for several digestive as well as respiratory requirements.
From the emotional and spiritual point of view, cardamom essential oil is frequently employed for issues related to anger and frustration. In fact, this oil can be used to successfully treat issues like frustration, outbursts, rage, blame, judging others and more. Use of cardamom essential oil is known to assist one in stepping back from any unfavourable situation and assess it from a different perspective, where one is not as attached. This oil may also assist one to bring in changes that necessitate him/ her to be sincere with them and acknowledge the liability for things that they may have been responsible for. Cardamom essential oil also helps one to possess the power to usher in changes in them.
The essential oil of cardamom is known to be very useful for treating muscular as well as respiratory spasms, and, in this way, helps to alleviate asthma, whopping cough, muscle cramps, and muscle pulls.
It is worth mentioning here that the essential oil of cardamom possesses extremely potent antiseptic as well as anti-microbial attributes. This oil is also safe for use by most people, including children. When cardamom essential oil is employed in the form of a mouth wash by adding some drops of it to water, it helps to make the oral cavity germ-free and also gets rid of foul breath. You can also add a few drops of this oil to drinking water to eliminate the germs in it. In addition, people also use cardamom essential oil in foods in the form of a flavoring agent as well as to protect foods form being spoilt due to microbial assault. You may also add a few drops of cardamom essential oil to your bath water, as this will help to make your skin and hair germ-free.
Cardamom essential oil is an excellent digestive agent. Consuming this oil improves digestion by invigorating the entire digestive system. This oil also possesses stomachic properties - in other words, use of cardamom essential oil aids in sustaining the heath of the stomach and ensure its proper functioning. It also aids in ensuring the correct secretion of digestive fluids, including bile, acids and enzymes, into the stomach. Cardamom oil also works to protect the stomach from being infected.
The essential oil of cardamom helps to invigorate all the systems in our body. As a result of this stimulating or tonic effect, it uplifts the spirits, especially when one is suffering from fatigue or depression. Use of this oil also helps to stimulate secretion of various hormones and enzymes, circulation, peristaltic motion as well as excretion, thereby ensuring appropriate metabolic actions all over the body.
Use of cardamom essential oil has a relaxing or warming effect. In other words, this oil heats up the body, encourages perspiration, aids in clearing coughs and congestion of airways. At the same time, the essential oil of cardamom works to get rid of symptoms related to common cold. This oil also helps to alleviate headaches caused by ailments. You can also use cardamom oil to treat diarrhea due to severe cold.
The essential oil of cardamom also encourages urination, thereby reducing high blood pressure, and helps in losing weight, freeing the kidneys from calcium as well as urea deposits, and eliminating toxins.
Last, but not the least important, the essential oil of cardamom also possesses aphrodisiac properties and, hence, is effective in treating sexual weakness, impotence, erectile dysfunctions in males, frigidity and loss of libido.
Cardamom essential oil is considered to be safe for most people, as there are no reports of toxic side effects following the consumption of this oil. Nevertheless, using this oil in excessive amounts may often lead to an overdose. When there is an overdose of cardamom essential oil, it will result in symptoms like uneasiness and too much heating up of the body as well as the digestive system. This may often cause irritation and loose bowels. As the warming effect or irritation caused by excessive use of cardamom essential oil may be detrimental for the baby, it is advisable that pregnant women as well as nursing mothers should stay away from this oil.