If you like oriental cooking you will be familiar with cardamom. It is frequently used in curries where a stray pod may surprise you with a burst of freshness, but you will also find its sweet uplifting taste in desserts such as kulfi, rasmalai and gulab jamun.
Although safe and effective for a number of conditions cardamom essential oil is relatively little known and used. Here are the main actions:
- Support for all types of smooth muscle spasm (asthma, bronchitis, stomach cramp, uterine cramp)
- Loss of appetite / nausea
- Pain management
- Detoxification, especially urinary tract and kidneys
- Revitalising, stimulating, strengthening and tonifying
Smelling the oil for the first time leaves an instant impression, and in fact it’s a bit of a conundrum. Coming from the same family as ginger, it has a burst of spicyness, yet it’s sweeter, softer, and surprisingly mild. So at the same time it is spicy and sweet, stimulating and mild, fresh and relaxing. It can be used safely with children and the elderly, so if you haven’t yet incorporated it into your aromatherapy experience then cardamom is definitely one to try.
Cardamom has carminative and anti-spasmodic properties of great benefit to the digestive system. It blends well with other digestive oils such as ginger, black pepper and peppermint for a soothing abdominal massage (this can also be helpful during menstruation). However it can be used alone or with milder oils for sensitive people who may find these assertive oils too stimulating.
Ingrid Martin describes cardamom as particularly effective against nausea and loss of appetite, where it gently stimulates the digestive system. Its mild nature is particularly suited to the hospice environment where it provides comfort and ease.
Cardamom’s effect on smooth muscle is also beneficial for the respiratory system where it can help to soothe irritation following illness. And it has a relatively high content of 1,8 cineol (eucalyptol) which promotes free and easy breathing. Cardamom blends well with other cineol-rich oils such as eucalyptus, niaouli and myrtle to dispel congestion but can also be blended more subtly with atlas cedar, frankincense, fragonia, lemon or anise for gentle respiratory support. The seeds are often chewed to freshen the breath, and the oil is similarly effective when used as an appropriately diluted mouthwash.
Psychologically cardamom is stimulating and uplifting, clearing away heaviness and bringing clarity and joy. According to Malte Hozzel it may well act as an anti-depressant due to its ability to remove weakness and stagnation.
Cardamom is said to have aphrodisiac effects, however Gabriel Mojay describes these as a more subtle ‘appetite for life’. In this respect cardamom is ideal for people who feel weighed down or deprived of opportunity.
The cardamom plant is a perennial herb with a reed-like appearance which can grow up to 3m in height. It has small, yellowish-pink flowers which grow relatively low to the ground, later forming bright green pods.
The essential oil is produced from the whole pods including the seeds which are gathered just before they are fully ripe to make sure that the precious essential oil is not lost as the pods are dried. Native to Southern India and Sri Lanka, the majority of the commercial crop is produced in Guatemala by smallholders, many of which are women-led.
Click to read more about Cardamom Essential Oil.
Downloadable oil summary