As much as I love cardamom for its flavor alone, I was very intrigued by the ancient wisdom around its health benefits. After all, wouldn’t it be wonderful if flavorful foods were also super foods? If cardamom tasted so darn good but also had REAL health benefits, there was absolutely no reason for me not to use it in my kitchen regularly.
To separate fact from fiction, I dug into modern scientific research that has put to test some of cardamom’s ancient health enhancing benefits. And here’s what I found.
Of the five traditionally claimed benefits, there is decent to good scientific evidence for three, namely cardamom’s anti-bacterial activity, its ability to promote digestive health and its general detoxification capacity. Tied to this last property, there are several studies from independent research groups that show cardamom has potent anti-cancer effects! This was a nice surprise. Another modern scientific addition to ancient wisdom is cardamom’s ability to relieve post-operative nausea through aromatherapy as part of a concoction of essential oils from ginger, spearmint and peppermint. That research group needs to look at this same aromatherapy blend for morning sickness ASAP, which so many of us suffer from needlessly. A whiff of cardamom and poof, no more pregnancy associated nausea! Now that would be magic for sure.
Below are some highlights from the published literature for cardamom’s medicinal properties along with the links to the research studies.
Georgetown University scientists examined cardamom’s effects on a mouse model of non-melanoma skin cancer. Both tumor size and tumor numbers were reduced when mice were given cardamom orally (albeit at a high dose) and specific detoxification enzymes in the body were activated. The researchers suggest that cardamom’s antioxidant effects may help prevent cancer.
Amala Cancer Research scientists in India demonstrated the ability of eugenol, an active ingredient in cardamom and other spices, to reduce the mutagenic capacity of chewed tobacco. The limitation of this study was that it was only conducted in vitro, that’s in a test tube rather than a human or animal. But the results are promising nonetheless.
PROMOTION OF DIGESTIVE HEALTH
Researchers in New Delhi, India explored the benefits of various components within black cardamom for gastrointestinal disorders. They observed reduced gastric lesions in response to ethanol in the presence of a cardamom extract (cardamom martinis anyone?!) and a direct protective effect on the stomach mucosal lining which serves as a barrier against acid production and damage in the gut.
Scientists from the National Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering in Pakistan studied the antibacterial effects of essential oils from cumin, cinnamon, cardamom and clove against a range of antibiotic resistant bacterial strains. Cinnamon was found to be the most potent antibacterial but cardamom also showed good antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus – that’s the bug that causes MRSA in high school gyms and really everywhere these days! This could explain why cardamom has traditionally been used for sore throats and lung infections.
This is one of my favorite cardamom studies. Doctors at Carolinas Medical Center University in Charlotte, North Carolina conducted a randomized aromatherapy trial to look at the effect of a blend of essential oils from ginger, peppermint, spearmint and cardamom on post-operative nausea in 300 patients. Both nausea levels and the need for anti-nausea medications were reduced in a statistically significant manner in the aromatherapy treated group versus controls. Next up should be trials for this aromatherapy blend for morning sickness!
To help kids reap the benefits of this amazing spice, here’s a recipe that can be blended up for a meal for younger babies or served as a wholesome, ultra-nutritious breakfast for toddlers, older kids and yourselves!
CARDAMOM QUINOA PORRIDGE WITH APRICOT AND BANANA
6 months +, Toddlers, Adults
Quinoa is a true superfood containing essential vitamins like Riboflavin (B2) which helps energy production in the brain and muscle cells, important minerals like iron, magnesium and manganese, twice the fiber of most grains and protein. Rare for plant-based protein, quinoa contains ‘complete’ protein encompassing all 9 essential amino acids making it a truly perfect, balanced grain for kids. I use it as a substitute for white rice in several recipes. Combined with dried apricots which are a great source of fiber, vitamins A, C and iron and bananas which have a load of fiber, vitamins and minerals especially potassium, quinoa here makes a delicious, nutty and nutritious breakfast porridge.
Makes 4 baby, 2 toddler/kid or 1 adult serving
1/2 cup quinoa rinsed well
1 1/4 cups water
3 cloves cardamom smashed or seeds from 1 clove removed and ground
3 dried apricots finely chopped
1/2 banana chopped
plash water, formula, breast-milk or cow’s / soy / almond milk
Mix the quinoa, water, cardamom and apricots and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for 15 minutes with lid on until the water is absorbed. Leave to rest for 2 minutes then fluff up with a fork. The quinoa should be fluffy and almost translucent once cooked.
For young babies, add some water, formula or breast milk and the chopped banana and puree to your desired consistency. For the rest of the family, add the banana, a splash of milk and serve for a delicious power breakfast.
Instead of dried apricots, you can use fresh apricots or mangoes which also pair well with cardamom and make for a sweeter blend. Add the fresh fruit after the quinoa is done cooking.
You can also make this same porridge with oatmeal. If using instant oats, add water, the ground cardamom and dried apricots to the oats, microwave as per instructions on the packet, add milk and banana and serve. Cardamom combines well with cinnamon so feel free to really spruce up the porridge with more than one spice.