What is Cardamom?
The cardamom plant blade-like reed leaves. They are long and silky, and the herb grows to about 13 feet with shoots that can grow to over 20 feet. The yellow flowers feature purple tips with white lips which are approximately two inches in diameter.
Cardamom fruits are three-sided capsules that hold 15-20 hard seeds that are brownish-red in color. These are picked right before maturity and either dried in the sun or in drying chambers. 
The seeds and pods as well as the entire plant is fragrant and often grown for its bouquet as much as its beautiful foliage. Cardamom originated in the tropics of Asia and is distilled primarily in Europe, Guatemala, India, and Sri Lanka. 
We get the fragrant pale yellow essential oil from the dried seed pods through steam distillation.
Cardamom essential oil blends well with spice oils like black pepper (Piper nigrum), cinnamon leaf (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), and coriander seed (Coriandrum sativum). Other oils to use it with are some woody oil and citrus oils like bergamot (Citrus bergamia).
Although cardamom is non-sensitizing and should be able to be used by most individuals, those with gallstones should not use it more than it would be found in typical food servings, as it can cause gallstone colic. The same advice applies to pregnant and nursing women. 
Cardamom Essential Oil Uses
The cardamom plant has a long medicinal history dating back two thousand years to the ancient cultures of Asia. It was also used extensively during this time as a spice, and both of these uses persist to this day in China, India, and some countries in the Middle East. 
The plant and its oils are used in the flavoring industry, too. Their potent and unique fragrance is also taken advantage of to scent perfumes, soaps, lotions, and other body care products as well.
The uses of cardamom essential oil resemble that of caraway seed (Carum carvi), and there are numerous ways to use it at home.
In the Kitchen
Cardamom is from the ginger family, and the seeds have been used in their native form as well as dried and ground in many dishes. It is not cheap; the only spices that beat its priciness are saffron and vanilla. 
Essential oils that come from plants you typically relate to the kitchen and cooking can generally be used in recipes, but special care and common sense must be used.
Since the volatile oils of plants are highly concentrated, they are not to be used in the same manner as one would use ground spices, dried herbs, or liquid extracts. Most of the time, a drop or two is plenty to impart flavor.
With its mix of minty and smoky citrus undertones, cardamom goes well in curries, Middle Eastern and Asian dishes, basmati rice, Scandinavian desserts, and more. Saudi Arabians enjoy cardamom coffee, and it is an ingredient in traditional Chai tea.
Valerie Worwood has a special section in her book dedicated to cooking with essential oils and recommends trying a drop of cardamom to flavor buttercream frosting or party punches.
Essential oils aren't just great for the skin; they can be a lovely addition to your hair care regimen. As cardamom is stimulating, you can use it in blends meant to stimulate the hair follicles and 'wake them up,' so to speak. Try the following revitalizing hair oil blend:
- 5 drops Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
- 4 drops Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
- 3 drops Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum)
- 2 drops Clove bud (Syzygium aromaticum)
- 2 drops Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi)
Mix these oils together. To use, add one drop of the blend to a teaspoon of argan (Argania spinosa) oil and massage into the scalp.
One of the biggest issues with traveling is that things invariably go wrong. Often, this is caused by eating foreign foods or drinking local water. Cardamom has an affinity with the digestive system so can calm tummy troubles ranging from digestive upset to constipation.
The oil also has many other benefits such as being antibacterial, analgesic, and antispasmodic, so it can help with skin issues and muscular aches as well, among other things. It is definitely one for the travel bag!
Cardamom seed oil is one of the ones safe enough to use on your canine friends and horses. The oil is a key ingredient in many natural breath fresheners. If your pooch's kisses are enough to knock you off your feet, try the following toothpaste:
- 2 tablespoons Baking soda
- ½ teaspoon Sweet Almond (Prunus amygdalus var dulcis)
- 1 drop Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum)
Mix the ingredients well and store in a small container. To use, dampen a wool cloth or very soft toothbrush into the mix and wipe on the teeth. Do this gently to avoid damage to the pup's gums.
For Men and Women Alike
This oil has benefits that help both the sexes. For women, it can ease the pain of menstrual cramps. Men can enjoy improved sexual vigor when cardamom is added to blends made to enhance it.
Cardamom Essential Oil Benefits
There are many health benefits of cardamom essential oil. According to Carol Schiller in 'The Aromatherapy Encyclopedia,' cardamom was used in early Ayurvedic medicine to reduce body fat and ease urinary problems.
It is analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antispasmodic, so is great for the integumentary and muscular systems. It is also a potent stomachic so is useful for digestive problems, and it is a nervine that helps you destress.
The herb and its oils have been used by various cultures to treat fevers, headaches, hemorrhoids, nausea, and more.
Eases Digestive Troubles
The affinity that cardamom has with the digestive system has long been recognized, way before the plant was distilled for its oils the first time in 16th century Europe. The Romans used to eat cardamom seeds to help with digestion.
Cardamom essential oil is a critical oil for anyone that has chronic digestive issues like Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), colitis, and dyspepsia.
You can use it to calm many common issues like stomach upset, diarrhea, constipation, and flatulence.
Calms Nervous Strain
Emotional issues plague us all from time to time. Cardamom oil is an adaptogen, meaning it is calming yet stimulating.
The oil can be of assistance when focus is needed, exhaustion sets in, or assertiveness would be helpful. It is uplifting to moods, improves mental clarity and acumen, and calming to the nervous system.
For these issues, you can use the oil in a myriad of ways. Add it to your diffuser or personal inhaler, a massage oil blend, or to blends meant for the shower or bath.
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Cardamom Essential Oil Research, Facts, and Studies
While cardamom is not one of the more widely studied oils available, there is some research nonetheless.
One of the more common digestive complaints is gastroenteritis, which is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines. It often results in vomiting and diarrhea. It is caused by viral infections and bacterial toxins, most notably Campylobacter spp..
In a study in Sweden in 2017, researchers found that cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), along with cumin (Cuminum cyminum), and dill weed (Anethum graveolens), were all highly efficient in impairing the cell membranes of this bacteria. 
The effects of plants on diabetes have long been studied, especially for their antioxidative and antidiabetic qualities. A study published in the Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences confirmed that the plant has definitive qualities that justify the folkloric claims. 
Valerie Worwood also lists it among the oils to use in full-body massages for Type 1 or juvenile diabetes, along with cypress (Cupressus sempervirens), ginger (Zingiber officinale), black pepper (Piper nigrum), coriander seed (Coriandrum sativum), and more. 
Promising Preliminary Results
Cardamom has shown to be promising for high blood pressure patients that are not yet being treated and just discovered they have it. It may also reduce the need for anti-nausea medication after surgery. However, more research needs to be performed in both instances. 
Cardamom is one of the great ancient herbs that has enjoyed popularity as both a culinary treat and effective medicine.
This is an oil that should be in your travel kit for its wide array of benefits for the skin, muscles, digestive system, and nervous system alike.
- Lawless, Julia; "The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils," pg 62
- Worwood, Valerie; "The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy," pgs 574-575
- Worwood, Valerie; "The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy," pg 180