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Definition: cardamom from Philip's Encyclopedia

Pungent spice made from seeds of a plant of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae), often mixed with turmeric to make a type of curry. Species Elettaria cardamomum.

Summary Article: CARDAMOM
From Leung's Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients: Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics

Source: Elettaria cardamomum (L.) Maton var. cardamomum (syn. E. cardamomum var. miniscula Burkill) (Family Zingibe-raceae).

Common/vernacular names: Cardamom, cardamom seed.


Perennial reed-like plant with lance-shaped leaves borne on long sheathing stems, up to about 4 m high; native to tropical Asia; now cultivated extensively in tropical regions, particularly India (Malabar coast), Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Laos, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Parts used are the dried, nearly ripe fruits with seeds from which an essential oil is obtained by steam distillation. The long wild native cardamon of Sri Lanka is obtained from E. cardamomum var. major Thwaites (syn. E. cardamomum var. miniscula Burkill), which has comparatively more elongated fruits (up to approximately 4 cm) than var. cardamomom, and dark brown pericarps with coarse striations, the oil of the which is used as a natural flavoring in liqueurs.


Contains 2.8-6.2% volatile oil, approximately 10% protein, 1-10% fixed oil, up to 50% starch, manganese, and iron, among others (list and horhammer; marsh; wichtl). The volatile oil is composed mainly of α-terpinyl acetate and 1, 8-cineole, each of which may be present at concentrations of up to 50% or more; lesser components include limonene, sabinene, linalool, linalyl acetate, α-pinene, α-terpineol, camphene, myrcene, 1, 4-cineole, borneol, and others (MASADA).1–4 Acid constituents of the oil include acetic, butyric, decanoic, dodecanoic, citronellic, geranic, hexanoic, heptanoic, nerylic, and perillic acids.3,4 The fixed oil mainly consists of waxes containing n-alkanes and sterols, including β-sitostenone, stigmasterol, and β-sitosterol.5

Compositions of oils vary, depending on types (e.g., Mysore and Malabar). Oils containing a low content of cineole but high content of terpinyl acetate are considered to be of superior quality for flavor applications.6


Cardamom is considered to have carminative, stimulant, and stomachic properties.

Cardamom oil has shown in vitro antispas-modic activity on isolated mouse7 and rabbit intestine.8 Various constituents of the essential oil show antimicrobial activity in vitro. Against 14 different species, 1, 8-cineole was only active against Propionibacterium acnes.9 Alcohol and aqueous extracts of various plant parts of E. cardamomum inhibited the in vitro growth of a human pathogenic strain of Salmonella typhi.10

An aqueous extract of the seeds increases trypsin activity in buffer solution.11


Available data indicate cardamom oil to be nontoxic.12 No mutagenic activity was found from cardamom in the Ames test.13


Medicinal, Pharmaceutical, and Cosmetic. Cardamom is used in some carminative, stomachic, and laxative preparations. The seed oil is mainly used as a flavor ingredient in Compound Cardamom Spirit to flavor pharmaceuticals; also used as a fragrance component in soaps, detergents, creams, lotions, and perfumes, with maximum use level of 0.4% reported in perfumes.12

Food. Cardamom is used extensively as a domestic spice in curries, breads, and cakes; also in coffee, especially in India, Britain, Germany, Scandinavia, the Middle East, and Latin America. Both cardamom seed and its oil are widely used as flavor components in most categories of foodproducts, including alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, frozen desserts, candy, baked goods, gelatins and puddings, meat and meat products, condiments and relishes, and gravies, among others. Highest average maximum use level reported for the seed is 0.5% in gravies and about 0.01% (117 ppm) for the oil in alcoholic beverages.

Dietary Supplements/Health Foods. Whole or ground cardamom used as a flavoring ingredient in India-inspired popular tea known as chai.

Traditional Medicine. Cardamom has been used in medicine for centuries in India and China as a carminative, stimulant, and to treat urinary problems, among other conditions.

The cardamom used in China for these purposes is the fruit of Amomum cardamomum L., which is considered in Chinese medicine to be superior to that of Elettaria cardamomum (JIANGSU). Amomum cardamoms are from Java and Siam (WICHTL).


Seed and oil; official in N.F. and F.C.C.

Regulatory Status. Use of the seed as a spice, natural flavoring, and natural seasoning (§182.10), and the essential, natural extractive, andsolvent-free oleoresins of the seedare GRAS (§182.20). Fruits subject of a German therapeutic monograph in medium daily dose of 1.5 g for treatment of dyspeptic disorders (BLUMENTHAL 1).



  • 1. Miyazawa, M. and Kameoka, H., Yukagaku, 24, 22 (1975).
  • 2. Chou, J. S. T., Koryo, 106, 55 (1974).
  • 3. Lawrence, B. M., Perfum. Flav., 14, 87 (1989).
  • 4. Lawrence, B. M., Perfum. Flav., 16, 39 (1991).
  • 5. Gopalakishnan, M. et al., J. Agric. Food Chem., 38, 2133 (1990).
  • 6. Lewis, Y. S. et al., 6th International Congress of Essential Oils (Pap.), 1974, p. 65.
  • 7. Haginiwa, J. et al., Yakugaku Zasshi, 83, 624 (1963).
  • 8. al-Zuhair, H. et al., Pharmacol. Res., 34, 79 (1996).
  • 9. Kubo, I. et al., J. Agric. Food Chem., 39, 1984 (1991).
  • 10. Daswani, L. and Bohra, A., Adv. Plant Sci., 16, 87 (2003).
  • 11. Kato, Y., Koryo, 113, 17 (1975).
  • 12. Opdyke, D. L. J., Food Cosmet. Toxicol., 12(Suppl.), 837 (1974).
  • 13. Al-Bataina, B. A. et al., J. Trace Elem. Med. Biol., 17, 85 (2003).
Copyright © 2010 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved.

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