Cardamom comes from the seeds of several different plants that belong to the same family as ginger. It has a distinctive flavor that complements both sweet and savory dishes. People may use cardamom seeds and pods in curries, desserts, and meat dishes, as well as in beverages, such as coffee and chai tea.
People may also take cardamom as a supplement for its health benefits. Cardamom contains phytochemicals that have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
People may purchase cardamom as:
- whole seed pods with the seeds inside
- pre-ground cardamom spice powder, which manufacturers produce from seeds
- an essential oil
- an herbal supplement, usually in the form of a capsule
Researchers have conducted several small studies on cardamom, the findings of which suggest that it has some health benefits. Although these studies are promising, large and controlled human studies are necessary before healthcare professionals can recommend cardamom to treat medical problems.
1. Antimicrobial ability
The oil from cardamom seeds may be able to kill bacteria and fungi.
One study found that cardamom essential oil was effective in killing several different types of bacteria and fungi. The researchers suggested that the oil’s antibacterial activity may be due to its ability to damage the cell membrane of certain bacteria.
Cardamom essential oil showed “antimicrobial activity against almost all test microorganisms” in other research, while another study concluded that this oil could be a component in new antimicrobial drugs.
People should not ingest cardamom essential oil, however, and they should always speak to a doctor before using any new herbal remedy. Some products can interact with existing medication or cause side effects.
2. Metabolic syndrome and diabetes
Some studies suggest that cardamom could help with some aspects of metabolic syndrome.
In one animal study, in which the researchers fed rats a diet high in carbohydrate and fat, the rodents that also consumed cardamom powder had a lower weight and better cholesterol than those that did not receive this supplement.
The researchers recruited women who were overweight or had obesity and also had prediabetes and high cholesterol. Their findings showed that the women who took cardamom for 8 weeks had lower levels of C-reactive protein, inflammatory proteins, and other markers that can contribute to health problems.
In another study, researchers gave 83 people with type 2 diabetes either green cardamom or a placebo. Those who took cardamom saw health benefits, including improved hemoglobin A1c and insulin levels, after 10 weeks.
3. Heart health
Some animal research has linked cardamom with boosting heart health, though many more studies are necessary before researchers know how the spice affects human heart health.
The findings of a study in rats suggest that cardamom could help protect against heart attacks. The authors suggest that its antioxidant activities could help improve heart function, but they note the need for studies in humans to confirm these findings.
Another study in rats found that cardamom oil could help improve cholesterol levels in rats. The researchers fed rats a high cholesterol diet for 8 weeks. The rats that received cardamom had significantly lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels at the end of the study.
4. Oral health
Cardamom may help balance pH in the mouth.
A recent study found that cardamom seeds and fruit could help improve oral health due to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The findings showed that the cardamom extract was effective in disrupting bacteria that can lead to gum disease or infections.
In a randomized trial, researchers asked the participants to chew either fennel or cardamom seeds for 5 minutes. The researchers found that chewing either type of seed was effective in balancing the pH in the mouth, which may help prevent the development of cavities.
5. Liver health
In Ayurvedic medicine, people use cardamom for its detoxifying properties. Although there is a lack of scientific evidence to confirm this benefit, cardamom does appear to have some helpful effects on the liver, which plays a crucial role in removing toxins from the body.
One study involved people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease who were overweight or had obesity. The participants who took green cardamom supplements had improvements in markers of liver health compared with those who took a placebo.
In another animal study, scientists fed rats a high fat, high carbohydrate diet and measured certain liver health markers. After 8 weeks, the rats that received cardamom had lower levels of liver stress than the rats that ate an unsupplemented diet. This finding suggests that cardamom could help protect the liver from certain types of damage.
6. Anticancer properties
Cardamom contains natural phytochemicals that may be able to fight diseases such as cancer. It cannot take the place of cancer treatment, but some studies suggest that the spice could have cancer-fighting properties.
For example, one study found that giving mice cardamom supplements for 15 days resulted in a reduction in the size and weight of their skin tumors.
7. Ulcer prevention
Like ginger, its cousin, cardamom could help with digestive ailments. Some people use the spice to make a stomach-soothing tea. It may also be useful in protecting the stomach from ulcers.
In a recent study, researchers induced stomach ulcers in rats by giving them high doses of aspirin. They then gave some of the rats cardamom extract to see how it affected their ulcers. The rats that ate cardamom extract had smaller and fewer ulcers than the rats that did not receive it.
Another study produced similar findings. The researchers discovered that cardamom extract, in combination with turmeric and sembung leaf, helped protect against stomach ulcers in rats. Some of the rats received aspirin alone, while others received the herbal extract and then aspirin. The rats that received the extract had fewer and smaller ulcers than the rats that did not receive the herbs.
Nutritional value of cardamom
According to the Department of Agriculture, one tablespoon of ground cardamom contains the following nutrients:
- calories: 18
- total fat: 0.4 grams (g)
- carbohydrates: 4.0 g
- fiber: 1.6 g
- protein: 0.6 g
It also contains the following quantities of vitamins and minerals:
- potassium: 64.9 milligrams (mg)
- calcium: 22.2 mg
- iron: 0.81 mg
- magnesium: 13.3 mg
- phosphorus: 10.3 mg
Risks and side effects
A person may wish to talk to a doctor before taking any natural supplements.
There are no reported risks of using cardamom in cooking or any known adverse side effects. Using cardamom as a spice and flavor agent is safe for most people.
There is no established dosage for taking cardamom as a supplement. Many cardamom capsules or tablets list a dosage of 400–500 mg of dried herb per pill. Before taking cardamom pills or any other natural supplements, a person should talk to a healthcare professional.
Although many of its health benefits need further study, cardamom is safe for most people to take in moderate amounts.
Cardamom’s natural phytochemicals have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities that could improve health. However, it is too early to say whether this spice can treat any health conditions.