Ancient Wisdom Part 21: Lowering blood pressure to easing digestion; many benefits of cardamom
Cardamom or elaichi is not just a wonderful flavouring agent but can also help lower blood pressure besides being a superfood for your kidneys.
Note to readers: Ancient Wisdom is a series of guides that shines a light on age-old wisdom that has helped people for generations with time-honoured wellness solutions to everyday fitness problems, persistent health issues and stress management, among others. Through this series, we try to provide contemporary solutions to your health worries with traditional insights.
Many people like to start their day with a warm cup of cardamom tea or Elaichi Chai. The wonderful aroma, taste and digestive properties of cardamom has been finding approval since ancient times when the spice was used to treat indigestion, heartburn, bloating to intestinal parasites and diarrhoea. Cardamom or elaichi can help lower blood pressure and is also a superfood for your kidneys as it promotes urination, removes toxins. It is also used in treatment of various genital and urinary infections. When it comes to oral health, cardamom not only helps get rid of the bad breath but also has an anti-bacterial effects which aids in preventing dental caries.
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In Ayurveda cardamom is known as ela, while its scientific name is Elletaria cardamomum. Around 200 years ago, cardamom plants grown in monsoon forests of Western Ghats in southern India supplied cardamom to most of the world according to a Research Gate study. Cardamom finds mention in many ancient texts such as Charak Samhita, Kautilya's Arthashasthra and Taitirriya Samhita. In Egypt, cardamom-scented candles were popular and were used to perfume spaces. In Chinese medicine, cardamom was used as a diuretic and to control incontinence, Greek healers also used it during childbirth.
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"Cardamom, a fragrant and versatile spice, has been cherished for its unique flavour and a plethora of health benefits for centuries. From ancient times to the modern era, this exotic spice has found its place in culinary, medicinal, and cultural traditions around the world," says Dietitian Vidhi Chawla, the Architect of Fisico Diet and Aesthetic Clinic. (Also read: Ancient Wisdom Part 19: Weight loss to boosting heart health; many benefits of honey)
In this edition of Ancient Wisdom, we will explore many benefits of cardamom, how it was consumed in ancient times, ways to incorporate it into your diet for health benefits, who should be cautious when using it, and some fascinating facts about this spice.
Benefits of cardamom
Cardamom's antibacterial and antioxidant properties protect brain from free radical damage. A study published in Indian Journal of Biochemistry and Biophysics says consuming just ½ teaspoon cardamom a day for three months along with a healthy diet can help stabilise blood pressure and lower risk for stroke.
Cardamom is a treasure trove of health benefits. It is rich in antioxidants and essential nutrients, making it a valuable addition to your diet.
Dietician Vidhi shares some of the benefits
1. Digestive aid: Cardamom can help alleviate digestive issues like bloating, indigestion, and gas. It is often used in traditional medicine to soothe the stomach.
2. Antioxidant properties: Cardamom contains compounds that combat oxidative stress, reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
3. Fresh breath: Chewing on cardamom seeds can help freshen your breath, thanks to its natural antibacterial properties.
4. Anti-inflammatory: The spice may help reduce inflammation in the body, which can be beneficial for conditions like arthritis.
5. Cardiovascular health: Some studies suggest that cardamom may improve heart health by lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of blood clots.
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How was cardamom consumed in ancient times
In ancient times, cardamom was a prized spice used in various cultures and was even referred to as queen of spices. It was consumed in multiple ways as explained by Dietitian Vidhi:
1. Ayurvedic medicine: In India, cardamom was and still is a vital ingredient in Ayurvedic medicine. It was used to treat a wide range of ailments, from digestive issues to respiratory problems.
2. Perfumes and incense: Ancient Egyptians used cardamom in perfumes and incense for its pleasant aroma. It was also a common addition to the embalming process.
3. Culinary delights: The ancient Greeks and Romans used cardamom in cooking and baking, recognizing its unique flavour.
How to add cardamom to your diet
To harness the health benefits of cardamom, consider these methods of incorporating it into your diet, as suggested by Dietitian Vidhi.
1. Spice blends: Add cardamom to homemade spice blends for seasoning meats, vegetables, or grains.
2. Tea: Cardamom tea is a soothing and aromatic beverage. Simply crush a few pods, add them to your tea, and enjoy.
3. Baking: Cardamom adds depth to baked goods like cookies, cakes, and bread.
4. Smoothies: Sprinkle ground cardamom into your morning smoothie for a flavourful twist.
Who should avoid cardamom
"While cardamom is generally safe for most people, individuals with certain conditions or allergies should use it cautiously or avoid it altogether. These include people with allergies to cardamom, gastrointestinal ulcers, or gallstones. If you have any concerns, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional before adding cardamom to your diet," says Chawla.
Interesting facts about cardamom
1. The queen of spices: Cardamom is often referred to as the 'Queen of Spices' due to its unique flavour and versatility.
2. Harvesting process: Cardamom pods are harvested by hand and require a labour-intensive process, making it one of the more expensive spices in the world.
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3. Cultural significance: Cardamom is deeply embedded in various cultural traditions. It is used in rituals, ceremonies, and even as a symbol of hospitality in some cultures.
4. Versatile spice: Cardamom's flavour profile ranges from sweet and floral to citrusy and spicy, allowing it to be used in both savoury and sweet dishes.
Next in series
Hope you enjoyed reading Part 21 of our series on Ancient Wisdom. Part 22 which discusses benefits of saffron will be out on October 31. Stay tuned.