The plant called the cardamom is a very famous spice. This herb is one of the oldest known spices in the world. The ancient Egyptians made extensive use of the cardamom in the manufacture of perfumes and cosmetics. However, the use of the cardamom as an herbal medicine is not as well known as its use in culinary and cosmetic preparations. In the Indian system of medication known as Ayurvedic medicine, cardamom is utilized in the preparations of many remedies. The cardamom has been used for thousands of years in India as a medicine mainly employed as an excellent remedy for the treatment of many different digestive problems, particularly to help soothe indigestion and excess abdominal gas. The pungent and aromatic taste of the cardamom ensures that it combines well with other useful herbs in the preparation of herbal medicine.
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Cardamom is a spicy scented herb-like plant that grows perennially and up to a height of anything between 2 meters and 4 meters. The leaves of this herbaceous plant appear alternately in two levels, are straight and lance-shaped, growing up to 40 cm to 60 cm in length and having elongated sharp tips. The color of cardamom blooms vary from white to lilac or light violent and they appear on loose spikes that are about 30 cm to 60 cm in length. Cardamom fruits are three-sided pods that measure about 1 cm to 2 cm in length. These pods have a yellowish-green hue and each of them encloses many black seeds.
The seeds of the cardamom plant, which is indigenous to Southeast Asia, especially India, are used to make a spice. The cardamom plant is a member of the Zingiberaceae family and genuine cardamom is grouped as Elettaria cardamomum. The seeds are used to make a spice that is heady as well as aromatic and people in Europe have been using this spice since roughly 1214 A.D., while people in India have been using it since a very long time. Currently, cardamom is grown in several parts of the world, including India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand, Central America, Mexico and Guatemala. Besides adding essence to foods, cardamom is also used to prepare traditional medicines.
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The typical firm cardamom seeds that are used in the form of a spice are sold in their pods, after removing the seeds from the pods or most commonly after pounding the seeds to make a powder. The texture of the cardamom seed pods are akin to that of a rough paper and can be bought split or as a whole. Ideally, you should buy the whole pods, because when bought otherwise, the spice may give up its essence very quickly. Cardamom is a very well liked herb in India, where the plants grow naturally in the forests and are available in two major types - malabar and mysore, both names of well-know cities in south India. The mysore variety encloses additional limeonene as well as cineol, which makes this type of cardamom extremely fragrant.
Since cardamom is an extremely aromatic spice, it is preferred by chefs for preparing baked items, especially used in sweet breads. Its flavor is so strong that cardamom may also be used to add essence to teas and coffees. Occasionally, people in south Asia use cardamom to give flavor to entrees, counting a number of biryani varieties and also pilau rice. In addition to its culinary use, cardamom is also used in an assortment of traditional medications all over Asia and is known to be excellent for promoting digestion, keeping the teeth clean and also counteracting certain varieties of poison.
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In present times, cardamom is primarily used in food preparation and medicines, but this is definitely an ancient herb having several historical utilities. In ancient times, it is said that the Egyptians chewed cardamom with a view to cleanse their teeth, while the Romans and Greeks used this herb in the form of a perfumed substance. Interestingly, the Vikings came to know about this herb when they first visited Constantinople approximately 1000 years back and they later took the herb to Scandinavia, where it continues to be popular even today.
It is worth mentioning here that cardamom is among the most costly spices anywhere across the globe. In addition to cardamom, only vanilla and saffron are sold regularly at elevated prices. Usually, it is difficult to find genuine cardamom, as unscrupulous traders adulterate this spice by mixing other substances. A number of low quality substances, which are sold as genuine cardamom, including Siam, Nepal as well as winged Java cardamom, have flooded the market.
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The cardamom was one of the most valued spices of the ancient world and it was one of the principal items of trade. The ancient Greeks around the 4th century B.C. highly valued the cardamom as a culinary spice and as a base for herbal medicines. Trade in cardamom was an important part of the trade links between the India and the Mediterranean region.
In the ancient world, remedies made from the cardamom were used to bring relief from digestive problems, the historical uses of the cardamom in this respect include its use particularly in the treatment of problems such as indigestion, excess abdominal gas, and to bring relief from muscular cramps. Many other herbal digestive remedies were flavoured using the cardamom, as the herb possesses a very pleasant taste and aroma, the delicate and nice flavour aids in suppressing the bad taste of less palatable but effective herbal remedies. In the ancient world, it was an additive to many medications.
The Indians have used the cardamom in herbal medications since ancient times for treating various conditions, these problems include disorders such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, problems like kidney stones, disorders such as anorexia, debility, and a weakened vata. Indians also use the cardamom extensively as a spice; it is used as a flavouring in many delicious Indian foods. The ancient medical system of China also included the cardamom in its herbal repertoire, in traditional Chinese medicine, the cardamom is used in the treatment of urinary incontinence and as a general herbal tonic.
One very effective use of the cardamom is its effective alleviation of bad breath. Cardamom also helps to mask the flavour of herbs such as the garlic, helping to suppress the pungent and strong aroma of the garlic. One long standing reputation of the cardamom herb is its aphrodisiac effect.
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The cardamom is an indigenous south Asian plant, growing in southern India and the island of Sri Lanka. In these tropical areas, the cardamom can be found teeming in forests at elevations of 2,500 ft - 5,000 ft - about 800m - 1,500 m - above mean sea level. These days, cultivation of the cardamom at a commercial level occurs in India, in other tropical South Asian countries like Sri Lanka, in South East Asian countries such as Indonesia, and in tropical areas of Latin America like the country of Guatemala in Central America. The seed of the cardamom is the main method of propagation for this herb in commercial plantations. The seeds are sown in the fall, alternately, the plants are also propagated by root division method in the spring and summer seasons. Cardamom plants require shaded sites to grow well; such sites must have rich and moist soils that must also be well drained without the risk of water logging. Cardamom spice is actually the seedpods of the cardamom plant; these seedpods are harvested just before they begin to open in the dry weather during the fall. Collected seedpods are then dried by spreading them out in full sunlight for several days.
The volatile oil found in the cardamom was found to possess a potent anti-spasmodic effect during the course of research conducted on the herb in the 1960s. This result of the clinical research confirmed the effectiveness of the cardamom herb in relieving gas and its use in treating colic and muscular cramps.
Cardamom herbal infusion: this infusion can be prepared by using a cup of water to boil, a teaspoonful of the freshly crushed cardamom seeds, the herb must be allowed to infuse into the water for ten to fifteen minutes before it is cooled, strained and used as a remedy. The herbal infusion can be used thrice daily in the treatment of different disorders. The infusion can be used in the treatment of problems such as flatulence or a sudden loss of appetite; the ideal time to drink the infusion is thirty minutes before meal time.
In fact, the use of cardamom hardly results in any undesirable side effects. However, sometimes cardamom seeds are likely to result in a condition known as allergic contact dermatitis. In addition, seeds of cardamom may possibly also activate gallstone colic (simply speaking, spasmodic pain) and it is advisable that people having gallstones should not use cardamom as a self-medication. While not much research has been undertaken on this particular aspect of cardamom, use of this spice may possibly enhance the chances of hemorrhages. Hence, people who are already taking medicines that may augment bleeding risks should use cardamom with great caution.
In addition, pregnant women or nursing mothers should also avoid cardamom, as there is an absence of sufficient evidence regarding the safety of using this herb during these conditions. Besides, everyone should be especially careful to keep away from ingesting cardamom in amounts that exceed its normal content in food products.
As mentioned earlier, cardamom has the potential to enhance the chances of bleeding. Theoretically speaking, this hazard may augment further if cardamom is ingested in conjunction with different herbs and/ or supplements that also possess the aptitude to enhance the chances of hemorrhages. There have been several reports of hemorrhages following the use of the herb ginkgo biloba and two specific incidences of bleeding after taking saw palmetto with cardamom. Hypothetically, using several other substances together with cardamom may possibly enhance bleeding risks. However, this hypothesis is yet to be established in majority of the incidents.
Cardamom has the potential to obstruct the manner in which our body processes specific herbs as well as supplements making use of the cytochrome P-450 enzyme secreted by the liver. Consequently, this may temporarily enhance the intensity of these medications in our bloodstream resulting in augmented consequences or possibly a number of grave unfavourable reactions. In addition, in the long-term, it may also lessen the levels of these medications in the bloodstream.
It is likely that using cardamom may result in antispasmodic consequences. Hence, it is advisable that people who are already using herbs and supplements or even muscarinic agents having antispasmodic effects should use cardamom very cautiously.
Cardamom seeds are principally obtained from commercial plantations found in Sri Lanka or in the Southern Indian states. In these areas, the cardamom crop is harvested in the fall, from October to early December. Most of the world's cardamom supplies come from India and Sri Lanka.