What Are the Benefits and Side Effects Of Cardamom?

  • Medical Reviewer: Dany Paul Baby, MD
Medically Reviewed on 7/20/2022

What is cardamom?

Cardamom is a spice that's part of the ginger family. The benefits of cardamom are that it is an anti-inflammatory spice while side effects may include skin rashes, coughing, and other symptoms.
Cardamom is a spice that's part of the ginger family. The benefits of cardamom are that it is an anti-inflammatory spice while side effects may include skin rashes, coughing, and other symptoms.

Cardamom is a spice that’s part of the ginger family. There are two varieties of cardamom pods: green and black. The green pods (Elettaria cardamomum) are what we commonly know as cardamom. They are smaller in size and have a finer flavor than the black pods.

Cardamom is known as the “queen of spices” because it has a lovely smell and versatile flavor. It’s used to flavor many different sweet and savory foods and drinks. Cardamom is the third-most-expensive spice in the world after saffron and vanilla.

Cardamom is also known as:

  • Cardamum
  • Cardamon
  • True cardamom

Cardamom is an especially important spice in South Asian dishes. It’s also been used in Middle Eastern dishes for centuries. Cardamom was first imported to Europe in the 1200s and can be found in sweet treats like Swedish cardamom buns and German cookies.

Health benefits of cardamom

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Inflammation is your body's natural response to infection and injury, but when the inflammation continues for months or even years, this is known as chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is linked to a higher risk of chronic diseases and disorders, like cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Cardamom contains different plant compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. Early studies have found that cardamom may decrease levels of inflammatory markers.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that’s common among women. It’s one of the most common causes of infertility among women. The exact cause of PCOS is still unknown, but experts say that higher than normal androgen hormone levels play a part.

A study of 194 women with PCOS, though, found that taking 3 grams of green cardamom a day and a low-calorie diet for 3 months lowered inflammation and decreased androgen levels.

May Help With Digestive Problems

In some cultures, it’s common to chew on cardamom after a meal to help with digestion.

Research on cardamom’s effects on digestive health has been limited to lab and test-tube studies. Early studies have found that cardamom may have a protective effect against Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria that's a common cause of stomach ulcers and gastritis. More studies are needed, though, to find out how this affects people.

May Help With Bad Breath

In the Middle East and South Asia, people chew on cardamom pods to freshen their breath. Researchers say this function may have to do with cardamom’s ability to fight common mouth bacteria like Candida albicans and Streptococcus mutans.

Tooth decay happens when bacteria in your mouth come into contact with starches and sugars contained in food you eat. This forms an acid that can eat away at your enamel, causing it to lose minerals.

One lab study found that cardamom extract reduced the amount of bacteria in saliva samples by 54.5%. These studies are all test tube-based, though, so more research is needed before the effects on people is known.

May Help Improve Fitness 

Experts say that the invigorating aroma of cardamom stimulates the brain to release a chemical (noradrenaline) that has the same effect as waking up.

Aromatherapy has also been found to make post-exercise recovery faster by uplifting the energy levels of your mind and body, as well as reducing fatigue.

A small study on aromatherapy and exercise found that participants who inhaled cardamom essential oil for 1 minute before walking on a treadmill displayed higher oxygen intake (VO2 Max). This means that they had higher aerobic capacity and better physical fitness when compared to the control group.

Effects on Diabetes 

The effects of cardamom on diabetes have been mixed. Early studies on animals have found that cardamom powder may improve glucose intolerance.

This effect, though, may not affect people in the same way. In a study of 204 people with type 2 diabetes, participants were given black tea with 3 grams of cardamom, cinnamon, or ginger, or with 1 gram of saffron, added. They drank 3 glasses of this tea every day for 8 weeks. Only the group who drank tea with cinnamon were found to have decreased fasting blood sugar levels.

Potential Antibacterial Effects

Lab studies have found that cardamom essential oils are effective at fighting the bacteria Campylobacter, which is one of the most common causes of gastroenteritis (stomach flu). More research, though, is needed.

Side effects of cardamom

The use of cardamom is safe when eaten in typical amounts found in foods, but as cardamom and other spices come from plants, they have the potential to be allergens. Allergies to spices are rare.

Reactions to spices may include:

Experts say that you should be cautious about taking more than 3 grams a day of cardamom, as there is limited long-term research on the effects of higher doses of cardamom on people.

A study of the effects of Arabic coffee (coffee with cardamom) found that participants who drank coffee with cardamom had increased total cholesterol levels when compared to the control group. Those who had a higher dose of cardamom also had higher low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad” cholesterol) levels. Participants drank coffee with cardamom 5 days a week for 4 weeks. 

More research is needed to better understand the effect of cardamom on cholesterol.

How to use cardamom

You can purchase cardamom whole, ground, or as essential oils. 

Whole spices stay fresher for longer. When you grind cardamom as needed, you’ll get a fresher and fuller flavor than pre-ground cardamom. You can grind spices with a mortar and pestle or a spice or coffee grinder.

Store cardamom in a cool, dry, and dark space. Be aware of “best by” dates. If there isn’t a date on your package, a good rule of thumb for whole spices is two years from date of purchase. If you have ground spices, use them up by one year from the date of purchase.

The pods are also used in many different dishes like stews or soups. Crush the whole pods before using them, as the flavor is in the small seeds inside.

One cardamom pod gives you about ? teaspoon of ground cardamom. One teaspoon is equivalent to about 2 grams of powder.

Cardamom is an essential spice in many curries and savory dishes but also adds great flavor to desserts and baked goods. Try sprinkling some cardamom in hot breakfast cereals and smoothies.


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Medically Reviewed on 7/20/2022

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