What is It?
Called the Queen of Spices, cardamom is an herb native to India and other South Asian countries that helps give chai tea its distinct taste. There are three main varieties, but the most common is called green or true cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum). Inside its green pods are tiny black seeds, which are often ground to release their flavor. Cardamom has also been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic practices and Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat a variety of ailments.
Use It For
Cardiovascular health; treating asthma, gastrointestinal distress, urinary tract infections and muscle spasms; cancer prevention
Modern science has a long way to go to catch up with traditional medicine’s love affair with cardamom, but initial studies have been promising (although most of the research has been done on animals). Studies out of India and Bangladesh suggest cardamom has antioxidant properties, reduces blood pressure and may fight asthma. A few studies, including one in the Journal of Medicinal Food, indicate cardamom may have anti-cancer properties.
How to Take It
Cardamom is so nutrient-dense that even using it as a spice in food or tea can have benefits. It is also available in capsules and tinctures, and as an essential oil.
Cardamom’s flavorful pods and seeds are a staple, as you might expect, of cuisine in its native South Asia, as well as in the Middle East. More surprising is its widespread presence in Scandinavian dishes—word has it that the Vikings went cuckoo for cardamom during their 10th century raids on Constantinople.