Whether you're looking for a spice to complement your sweet or savory foods, you might reach for cardamom on your next grocery run. Experts agree that the health benefits of cardamom are something you don’t want to miss out on.
“Cardamom is a wonderful spice that has a warming, aromatic taste and can be used in a variety of ways,” says Amy Gorin, RDN, a registered dietitian and owner of Plant-Based Eats in Stamford, Connecticut. It’s especially popular in South Asian dishes like curries, as well as in Scandinavian pastries, according to a 2014 study in Chinese Medicine. Cardamom is made up of whole or dried fruits or seeds from the Elettaria cardamomum plant, which is part of the ginger plant family, according to Chinese Medicine. Originating from India, it’s also most often cultivated in Sri Lanka and Guatemala.
Most recipes will probably use a few teaspoons of the herby spice for flavor — meaning, not enough to have a huge impact on your health right off the bat. Still, read on for just a few of cardamom's health benefits to feel even better about your next chai latte.
Cardamom May Improve Cholesterol Levels in People With Diabetes
In a 2014 study by The Review of Diabetic Studies, people with type 2 diabetes received glasses of black tea with either cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, or saffron for two months versus plain tea with nothing added. The subjects consuming the spices noticed improvements on their total LDL “bad” cholesterol, and HDL “good” cholesterol levels, Gorin explains. This is important because high cholesterol is linked to increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Cardamom May Help to Lower Blood Pressure, Prevent Cancer
“Cardamom is a great spice to add in to your routine if you have high stress levels and to lower your risk of heart disease — both things that elevate blood pressure,” says Brigitte Zeitlin, a registered dietitian and owner of BZ Nutrition in New York City.
In a 2009 study in the Indian Journal of Biochemistry and Biophysics, 20 adults with a new high blood pressure diagnosis consumed 3 grams of cardamom powder every day for 12 weeks. Their blood pressure levels saw a significant decrease all the way down to the normal range by the end of the study, something the researchers thought may be tied to the high antioxidant content in cardamom. Antioxidants are compounds that protect your cells from free radicals, which can be tied to harmful conditions like heart disease and cancer. In fact, a 2015 study in Proteomics showed that a particular compound, γ-Bisabolene, in cardamom may help to prevent oral cancer cells from multiplying. But since this was a test tube study, more research is needed on humans.
Zeitlin says another way cardamom may also help lower your blood pressure is because it’s been shown to work as a diuretic in animal studies, meaning it helps push out excess fluids, which can help decrease blood pressure levels.
Cardamom May Help to Prevent Bad Breath
If you’ve noticed that cardamom has a minty flavor, you may be on to something. In fact, in Indian cultures, it’s common to munch on whole cardamom pods after a meal to keep your breath fresh, according to a 2012 article in Dental Research Journal. And though it won't replace your toothpaste, “[Cardamom extract may] also fight off five different bacteria in the mouth that cause bad breath and cavities,” Zeitlin adds. More research in human subjects, however, is needed to back this effect up.
How To Add Cardamom To Your Daily Routine
As with most spices, there is a bunch of ways you can use cardamom to spice and flavor up your favorite foods and drinks.
“You can use cardamom in everything from curry to pastries to spicy beverages and beyond,” Gorin says. “Add a sprinkle of it to black tea or a chai latte, or it to flavor rice or even a fruit salad.”
“You can also add cardamom to your stews, stir-fries, as well as winter beverages like teas, lattes, and hot ciders,” add Zeitlin. “It also pairs really nicely with cinnamon, so feel free to add the two to your banana bread recipes.”
Studies Referenced:Wu M. (2014). Identification of seven Zingiberaceous species based on comparative anatomy of microscopic characteristics of seeds, Chinese Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3975278/pdf/1749-8546-9-10.pdf.
Azimi P. (2014). Effects of Cinnamon, Cardamom, Saffron, and Ginger Consumption on Markers of Glycemic Control, Lipid Profile, Oxidative Stress, and Inflammation in Type 2 Diabetes Patients, The Review of Diabetic Studies, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26177486/.Verna SK. (2009). Blood pressure lowering, fibrinolysis enhancing and antioxidant activities of cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), Indian Journal of Biochemistry and Biophysics, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20361714/.Jou Y. (2015). Quantitative phosphoproteomic analysis reveals γ-bisabolene inducing p53-mediated apoptosis of human oral squamous cell carcinoma via HDAC2 inhibition and ERK1/2 activation, Proteomics, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26194454/.
Gilani AH. (2008). Gut modulatory, blood pressure lowering, diuretic and sedative activities of cardamom, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18037596/.
Aneja KR. (2009). Antimicrobial Activity of Amomum subulatum and Elettaria cardamomum Against Dental Caries Causing Microorganisms, ResearchGate, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/50874100_Antimicrobial_Activity_of_Amomum_subulatum_and_Elettaria_cardamomum_Against_Dental_Caries_Causing_Microorganisms
Sharma R. (2012).Cardamom comfort, Dental Research Journal (Isfahan), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3353705/
Brigitte Zeitlin, a registered dietitian and owner of BZ Nutrition in New York City.