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Cardamom – the Sattvic Herb

In Ayurvedic medicine, cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum, Zingiberaceae) is considered pungent, sweet, and heating, complimenting all doshas – Vata (air), Kapha (earth), and Pitta (fire).1 The spice benefits the nervous, respiratory, circulatory, and digestive systems, being one of the most effective and safest digestive stimulants. It is added to milk to neutralize the mucus effects and to coffee to tone down the acidic properties and caffeine. It is thought to open and soothe the flow of prana (breath, life force) throughout the body. Ayurvedic practitioners have used it for indigestion, poor absorption of nutrients, cough, colds, asthma, hoarse voice, and loss of taste. It can enliven the spleen, stimulate agni (digestive fire), ameliorate excess Kapha from the lungs and stomach, and engages samana vayu (“balanced air”; thought to exist in the abdomen with the navel as its energy base, the vayu oversees the digestion of everything from food to thoughts).

Cardamom may also have therapeutic actions regarding food allergies and sensitivities, nausea, motion sickness, vomiting, fluid retention, muscle spasms, and cramps.2 With over 25 volatile oils, including the antioxidant cineole, cardamom has been shown to be both anti-inflammatory and antispasmotic.3,4 Cineole has been shown to lower blood pressure, prevent blood clots, shorten sinus infections, prevent bad breath, and curtail the development of ulcers. In India, the spice is used as a toothpaste and is thought to be able to remove garlic from the breath. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is thought to strengthen the spleen-pancreas. When deficient, spleen chi can result in lethargy and lack of appetite. The pungent spice can also increase the chi to the lungs, especially where digestive weakness has led to lung mucus.

The essential oil is distilled from the seed, and therapeutic actions include analgesic, antiseptic, aphrodisiac, calmative, carminative, cephalic, decongestant, diuretic, nervine, stimulant, stomachic, and liver tonic.5,6 Along with the spice’s uses, the essential oil has been used for gastric migraine, colitis, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and constipation.6

Lori Glenn
HerbClip™ Managing Editor


1Frawley D, Lad V. The Yoga of Herbs – An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press; 1986.

2Holmes P. Aromatica – A Clinical Guide to Essential Oil Applications Vol 2: Applications and Profiles. London, UK: Singing Dragon; 2019.

3Aggarwal BB. Healing Spices – How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease. New York: Sterling Publishing Company; 2011.

4Mojay G. Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit. New York: Henry Holt and Company; 1996.

5Lawless J. The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils. San Francisco: Conari Press; 2013.

6Worwood VA. The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy. Novato, CA: New World Library; 2016.