Cardamom [Elettaria Cardamomum Maton] is an aromatic spice in the ginger family. Deemed the “Queen of Spices”, it’s one of the most highly prized and exotic spices in the world.
Historical Use of Cardamom
Cardamom has been used in both Indian and Chinese Medicine for over 4,000 years for the treatment of respiratory and digestive problems, urinary infections, and fever. Ancient Egyptians used it as a perfume and in Ancient Greece, people used it to treat coughs and stomach problems. It traveled the spice routes to reach the Western world.
Cardamom also earns a mention in several historical texts for its medicinal uses, including the Vedic medicinal texts, and those of Hippocrates and Dioscorides. The Indians believed that cardamom was an aphrodisiac; it was also used in many Eastern culinary dishes, and has been used as domestic spice for thousands of years. The Hindu name for cardamom is derivative for the botanical name for cardamom, Elettaria.
This aromatic spice originated along the Western Ghats in South India and the region is still known as Cardamom Hills. It traveled the spice routes to China, Egypt and Greece and in 1914, a German coffee planter, Oscar Majus Klöffer, transported cardamom to Guatemala. Today this country is the top exporter, with India coming a close second.
Why is it so expensive?
Cardamom is the third most expensive spice, after saffron and vanilla. All three of these plants are high maintenance, difficult to grow and are still hand harvested, which is why they are so expensive.
Cardamom is a delicate crop, and the quality of the spice can vary significantly depending on the variety of plant, growing conditions and the methods used to harvest and process the spice. Like many essential oils, the scent varies widely depending on the source.
Sri Lanka is known for its high-quality, organic cardamom, which is grown in the central highlands of the country. This is where we source our cardamom essential oil.
Botanical Profile of Cardamom
Cardamom is a member of the Zingiberaceae plant family and is sometimes known as cardamon. Cardamom is a perennial herb which is native to tropical Asia, although cardamom essential oil is now produced commercially in Sri Lanka, India, and Guatemala. The plant can grow up to 13 feet with tall stalks and lance-shaped leaves. The beautiful flowers are white-yellow and eventually produce seed pods which contain the essential oil.
Farmers hand harvest the ripe seed pods, dry them and then craft the essential oil by steam distillation. The pale oil has a deliciously warm, sweet, spicy aroma with woody undertones. It’s one of my favorite aromas and I find it intoxicating.
Traditional uses of cardamom essential oil
Cardamom essential oil has been traditionally used as an antiseptic, digestive, diuretic, carminative, expectorant, stimulant and a tonic. It is said by some to be useful in addressing symptoms of flatulence, nausea, diarrhea, heartburn, indigestion, colic, nervous and mental stress, coughs and respiratory problems.
Cardamom is widely used as a perfume and fragrance ingredient in cosmetics, soaps and perfumes, in pharmaceutical preparations and as a flavor ingredient in culinary recipes for curry and spice dishes.
How does cardamom benefit our skin?
- Skin Cleansing: We use cardamom essential oil in our Rose & Cardamom Cleanser to clean the pores of dirt, oils and impurities.
- Complexion Clearing: Cardamom contains photochemicals that support the skin’s ability to heal from blemishes, giving you a clearer and more even complexion.
- Rich in antioxidants, cardamom helps reverse years of sun and other environmental damage, leaving skin luminous and radiant.
- Calming: The photochemicals in cardamom calm upset skin and the reduce redness and irritation associated with blemishes and rosacea.
- Aromatherapy: Cardamom is stimulating, aphrodisiac, warming and grounding all at once. It’s perfect for the colder, darker months because it’s a powerful mood lifter. We celebrate the intoxicating aroma every autumn and through the winter, making our deliciously scented Cardamom Vanilla body care collection each fall.
If you’re new to exploring cardamom, I highly encourage you to dive in. I love to toss a pod into my coffee in the morning, a few pods into the rice steamer and it really enhances a batch of fresh almond milk, along with a bit of vanilla.