Cardamom is a peppery, citrusy spice that is native to the evergreen forests of India and is commonly used in Indian cuisine, but it has also made its way into Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for mouth ulcers, digestive problems, and even depression.
According to various studies, cardamom also contains cancer-fighting compounds with the potential to kill cancer cells as well as stunt new cancer cell growth. In India, Cardamom was known as the “Queen of spices” to black pepper’s title as the “King of spices”. Also in India, during the 11th century, it was listed as one of the ingredients in the “Five fragrance betel chew” in the Book of Splendour.
Historically, spices have shaped many events throughout the world. Many voyagers, including the legendary Christopher Columbus, explored the seas in search of treasured spices. These valued commodities contribute not only flavours but also serve as colorants and preservatives in a wide variety of cultures.
In Ayurveda (the ancient Indian science of medicine and lifestyle) and Traditional Chinese Medicine, cardamom 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 kidney, and gall bladder stones, and was also used as an antidote for poisons and venoms.
Today, spices are increasingly revered not only for their culinary properties but also for their potential health benefits. Although the health attributes associated with spice use may arise from their antioxidant properties, their biological effects may arise from their ability to induce changes in a number of cellular processes, including those involved with drug metabolism, cell division, apoptosis, differentiation, and immune-competence.
There is little doubt that nutrition and health are intimately linked (Kennedy 2008). For generations, people have alleged that foods provide greater benefits than simply supplying energy. Beliefs in the medicinal properties of foods have surfaced in many early writings of man.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food – Hippocrates”
Epidemiological, preclinical, and clinical studies continue to provide fundamental insights into the dynamic relationships between nutrients and health. Three types of biomarkers— exposure, effect, and susceptibility—are needed to evaluate the effects of spices in cancer prevention and therapy. Spices may be a key to determining the balance between pro- and anticancer factors that regulate risk and tumour behaviour.
The ability of cardamom to inhibit chemical carcinogenesis was shown by Banerjee et al. (1994), who observed cardamom oil feeding caused a significant decrease in liver CYP content in Swiss albino mice. Observations suggest that intake of cardamom oil affects the enzymes associated with xenobiotic metabolism and may therefore have benefits as a deterrent to cancer
Like many other spices, cardamom has powerful, health-promoting effects on the body. Here are a few scientifically-backed reasons you should consider adding it into your spice arsenal:
- Halitosis: The simple act of chewing on a few cardamom seeds can help to eliminate unpleasant mouth odors, due in part to the antimicrobial qualities inherent to cardamom. Additionally, cineole, a major component of cardamom oil, is powerfully antiseptic with the power to kill bad breath bacteria.
- Digestive Benefits: Cardomom is often used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat stomach ailments like stomachaches; in fact it is uniquely powerful when it comes to assisting digestion and promoting digestive balance. What’s interesting is that cardamom is actually a member of the ginger family—another digestive powerhouse.
- Blood Pressure: According to a published study, cardamom can offer a significant reduction in mean, systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
- Diabetes: Cardamom has an incredibly high level of manganese, making it a smart choice for anyone worried about their blood sugar levels. Pairing it with cinnamon, a hugely diabetic-friendly spice, in an unsweetened chai tea is practically a healthy blood sugar tonic.
- Cancer Research: Cardamom has exhibited the potential to treat cancer in various studies:
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food showed cardamom to be a potential chemo-preventive agent against Stage II Skin Cancer.
Cardamom is massively anti-inflammatory and has been shown to act as a deterrent to cancer by encouraging a healthy immune response in numerous studies.
Nutritionally, no other vitamin or mineral ingredient in cardamom comes close to the manganese content, which is 80 percent of the recommended value in a single tablespoon. You’ll also find smaller amounts of fiber and iron, as well as plenty of vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium, pyridoxine, riboflavin, thiamine, vitamin A, and zinc.