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Bastard Cardamom

  • Elettaria cardamomum L.
  • Zingiberaceae
  • Ginger family

Common Names

herbsBastard cardamom
herbsCardamom seeds
herbsEla (Sanskrit name)
herbsMalabar cardamom
herbsSha-ren (Chinese name)

Parts Usually Used


Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Cardamom is a perennial plant; the simple, erect stems grow to a height of 6-10 feet from a thumb-thick, creeping rootstock. The leaves are lanceolate, dark green and glabrous above, lighter and silky beneath. The small, yellowish flowers grow in loose racemes on prostrate flower stems. The fruit is a three-celled capsule holding up to 18 seeds.

Where Found

Found commonly in southern India but also cultivated in other tropical areas.

Medicinal Properties

Appetizer, carminative, diaphoretic, expectorant, stimulant, stomachic

Biochemical Information

Essential oil including D-borneol, bornylacetate, d-camphor, nerolidol, linalool

Legends, Myths and Stories

A seed pod with an exotic fragrance of the Far East where it is used in curries and many Oriental dishes. Arabians and Persians steep a cardamom pod in their coffee after it has been brewed for its agreeable aroma and flavor. The French use it in their demi-tasse.

Cardamom added to milk neutralizes its mucus forming properties and it detoxifies caffeine in coffee.

Cardamom is an ingredient in Christmas cookies, Danish and Swedish cookies, coffee cakes, pastries, and candies. It adds a delightful essence to applesauce, sliced oranges, grape jelly, fruit salads, spiced wines, and liqueurs.

One lady in 1854 wrote, “ In our young days, we recollect seeing ladies carry cardamoms in their pockets, and eat them as if they were sweetmeats.”

In Europe, the seeds are sometimes seen in fancy dishes in cocktail lounges and bars. The seeds are also used in potpourri, sachets, and sweet-scented mixtures.

A natural perfume of the vegetable kingdom; the seeds were often an ingredient of old-time love potions.

Seeds come from the dried fruit of the cardamom plant, found in India and other tropical areas. Their flavor is slightly gingerish, leaving a medicinal aftertaste. Used in Mexican, Spanish, and East Indian dishes.

A mild stimulant, cardamom is a standard ingredient of curry.

Cardamom is a relative of the ginger family and a native to the Orient. Old-fashioned sweet bags, perfume powders, and incense contained cardamom seeds. Oil of cardamom is used to make Lily-of-the-valley perfume.

It is said the Syrians used 1 or 2 cardamom seeds with coffee.


According to a Chinese Materia Medica, a tea made from cardamom seeds will counteract acidity of the stomach, stimulate digestion because cardamom contains a large amount of volatile oil, and relieves discomfort of flatulence. Treats gastralgia, enuresis (involuntary urination), spermatorrhea, phlegm, colds, cough, bronchitis, asthma, hoarse throat, kidney diseases. In Turkey, 1 or 2 cardamom seeds are chewed to sweeten the breath and to conceal liquor breath.

Seeds are used as a spice in cooking and as a flavoring in other medicines.

Formulas or Dosages

For indigestion, mix 15 pulverized seeds in 1/2 cup hot water. Add 1 oz. of fresh gingerroot and a cinnamon stick. Simmer 15 minutes over low heat. Add 1/2 cup milk and simmer 10 more minutes. Add 2 or 3 drops of vanilla. Sweeten with honey. Drink 1 to 2 cups daily.


Care should be taken if internally ulcers are present. Consult medical supervision.

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