What is healthy? Everyone has a different take on the question. But one thing is certain: what you put in your body matters. The foods you eat, the water you drink, the air you breathe in… it all contributes to making your body more or less healthy. But food, of course, is not only about health: it is about pleasure, community, love, family. Often we tend to oppose what is tasty and what is healthy – but luckily you can have it all: food can be both delicious for your taste buds and make your body strong and healthy. Cardamom is a perfect example of this: its bright and spicy flavor is as delightful as its many health benefits.
Indigenous to South India and Sri Lanka, Cardamom is often referred to as the “Queen of Spices”. Until the 1980s, India was the main producer of cardamom. Today Guatemala has taken its place, producing 90% of the spice consumed worldwide.
Cardamom is considered one of the eldest spices. It has been used for medicinal purposes for over 4000 years. It has most commonly been used to treat bad breath, and help with oral health and digestion. What do current day studies say about the medicinal properties of cardamom?
It is not uncommon in India to chew on some cardamom after a meal. Cardamom is as efficient as a type of chewing gum to clear your mouth of bad breath, without any of the stickiness and potential unhealthiness.
Not only will cardamom make your breath as fresh as a spring breeze, it will also kill off bacteria that cause cavities1. The anti-microbial properties of cardamom can help prevent cavities but also help cure them if you already have some. While this is not an encouragement to avoid the dentist if you have teeth pain, it’s important to remember that there are many natural remedies that can prove incredibly effective. It’s definitely worth giving it a try!
The reason cardamom is commonly chewed on after a meal in certain places in the world does not only concern breath, but also digestion. Indeed, cardamom has traditionally been thought of as a digestive aid, and current day studies confirm this.
Today, studies even show that cardamom has gastroprotective effects. A study on rats showed that the combination of cardamom pods, sembung leaf and turmeric could help protect against aspirin-induced stomach ulcers2. The group of rats that had been given the mix of spices and hot water before the aspirin had considerably fewer ulcers and less damage of their stomach lining than the group of rats that was just given the aspirin.
Maybe you are already familiar with cardamom? Whether you are or not, there are many more health benefits that could be talked about, and looked up if you have a little bit of time. If it’s not already an integral part of your diet, I encourage you to explore and experiment with eating and cooking it. It is delicious in savory dishes such as stews and curries, it’s also a lovely addition to sweet ones such as spiced oats. Whatever your favorite way of eating it is, cardamom has a wonderful flavor and incredible health benefits.
Lisa Darmet is a freelance writer, whose passions include not only eating but also food and cooking and their connections to health, culture and society. She is a graduate of Hampshire College, Amherst, MA, USA & a world traveler.