We all know what green cardamoms are, how they taste, smell and so on. But had you listened about Black cardamom and do you know how they are different from the green ones? Here’s what you need to know about this amazing spice.
Black cardamom, scientifically known as Amomum subulatum is a spice widely popular in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. Unlike green cardamom, they have a strong smoky flavor which makes it a special spice in preparing garam masala, curries, and some delicious pies.
Apart from their culinary usage, Black cardamoms also have wonderful medicinal properties. Since ancient times they had been used in Ayurveda, Unani and Chinese traditional medicine for treating various health ailments.
The spice is reported to fight against infections, relieve from gastric problems and also act as a cardiac stimulant. Its essential oils are known to have anti-microbial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Black Cardamom plant and pods
Black cardamom is a perennial plant native to the sub-Himalayan region. The plant usually measures up to a height of 2.5 meters and does well in well-drained soils that are rich in organic matter.
Black cardamom pods are usually 1 inch long, dark brown, oval-shaped, leathery with deep wrinkles on them. They are well known for their unique taste and aroma. They do well with savory flavors. Each pod contains several grey-brown colored seeds (White in unmatured pods) that gives a pleasant aroma when crushed.
Before complete ripening, the pods are handpicked and dried using the traditional direct heating method by an open fire which goes up to a day. Therefore, the pods taste and smell smoky.
The propagation of the plant is done by seeds or rhizomes.
Health Benefits of Black Cardamom
It may treat Gastric Ulcers
In Unani and Ayurvedic systems, Black Cardamom is used as a medicine for the treatment of several gastrointestinal disorders.
It was revealed in an experiment that black cardamom had significantly inhibited gastric lesions induced by ethanol.
One of its fractions tested had also increased the wall mucus showing a protective sign on the gastric mucosal barrier that plays a vital role in protecting stomach wall against gastric acids and digestive enzymes (1,2).
It may help with Dental Caries
Tooth decay or Dental caries is mainly caused by bacteria. When we eat certain foods, bacteria react with them and produces acids that can damage the teeth surface leading to cavities.
Invitro study had shown that Black cardamom has potential anti-microbial activity against some of the bacterial species that can cause dental caries.
Among different bacterial species tested, Staphylococcus aureus was found to be one of the most susceptible one followed by Streptococcus mutans, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and Candida albicans (3).
Anti Inflammatory Activity
In research conducted, Fruit extracts of black cardamom were orally administered to the rats subjected to carrageenan induced paw edema to know their anti-inflammatory activity.
The results had revealed that both the extracts tested (methanolic and aqueous) had shown significant anti-inflammatory activity in a dose dependent manner and the results obtained were also comparable to the standard drug Ibuprofen (4).
Since ages, Black cardamom is used as a folk medicine to treat various health problems and also as a substance that can relieve pain.
In a study conducted, to know the analgesic activity of black cardamom, it was revealed that methanol and ethyl acetate extracts of the seeds were known to exhibit significant analgesic activity when tested using the hot plate method and writhing method (5).
It can help against Stress
Large cardamom can act as an excellent adaptogen, a substance that can help to counteract the stress related effects on the body.
In an experimental study, guinea pigs were divided into three groups and were subjected to stress by allowing them to swim till exhaustion. On the other hand, they were injected with Adrenaline, a drug that can intensify blood pressure and heart rate (6).
Injecting adrenaline had significantly reduced the swimming time in all three groups. However, when compared with the normal control group, animals that received Black cardamom has less effect (44.77%) than that received Ashwagandha (32.84%).
It may be used to treat Ischemic Heart Disease
Large Cardamom may be useful for patients with ischemic heart disease as it may help to reduce the risk factors associated with it.
Thirty male individuals with this disease were studied by dividing them into two groups with fifteen each for 12 weeks, in which one group was given 3 grams of cardamom powder and the other with a placebo.
Blood samples of the patients of both the groups are collected at 6 weeks and 12 weeks during the study and tested for various factors.
The study found that the administration of black cardamom had significantly reduced the lipids that tend to form deposits in arteries and also enhanced the fibrinolytic activity (the process of stimulation the blood clot dissolution) and serum total antioxidant status that help to reduce the risk associated with the disease.
The placebo group did not show any change in the parameters tested (7).
In Ayurveda and several other traditional systems, Black cardamom is used as a medicine for treating various liver disorders.
Several studies conducted had also revealed that black cardamom seeds possess excellent hepatoprotective properties.
Treatment with black cardamom methanolic extract and silymarin in experimental rats that were subjected to 20% ethanol induced liver damage had shown that the treatment had significantly prevented the various changes caused by ethanol to the liver, indicating that the extract of this plant seeds has excellent hepatoprotective activity.
The study also said this protective nature of black cardamom may be due to its phytochemicals like flavonoids, glycosides, and terpenoids as an individual or by the combined effect (8).
In another study, black cardamom seeds exerted a great hepatoprotective nature when tested on CCL4 induced liver damage by effectively controlling several biochemical parameters like alkaline phosphatase, alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, and total bilirubin (9).
It has Lipid Lowering Activity
A study had found Large cardamom seeds may help in the treatment of hyperlipidemia by showing a significant lipid lowering and antioxidant activity.
To evaluate the hypolipidemic activity of the Black cardamom fraction, Hyperlipidemia was induced in experimental animals by feeding them with an atherogenic diet for 120 days. Which lead to an increase in serum total cholesterol, LDL and VDL, etc., and the good cholesterol HDL was decreased.
Large cardamom administration in those animals had shown a significant reduction in the total cholesterol, LDL, VDL levels also with an increased level of HDL (10).
It has Free Radical Scavenging Nature
An experiment had shown Amomum subulatum fruits reported to possess a significant radical scavenging activity.
It was found that ethyl acetate soluble fraction isolated during the experiment had shown the highest radical scavenging activity against DPPH.
Interestingly, certain compounds isolated from this fraction had also shown a greater activity than natural antioxidants like alpha-tocopherol and L-ascorbic acid. While the activity of other compounds isolated was comparable with these natural antioxidants (11).
Anti Microbial Properties
Large cardamom is well known for its importance to treat various health problems. It holds special importance in folk medicine to treat infections related to skin and stomach ailments.
Several studies had shown essential oils obtained from black cardamom contain some of the important components which can fight against infections caused by bacteria and fungi.
some of the major components of its essential oil are 1,8-Cineol, limonene, and decanal.
Its essential oils are effective against disease causing bacteria and fungi like E. coli, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Candida albicans, and A.flavus (12).