Small cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum L. Maton), belongs to the Zingiberaceae family. Cardamom is a herbaceous perennial plant with an underground rhizome that is propagated by vegetative division of rhizomes, and from grows 2-5m in height. 

By Amina, Athar Mahmood, Maria Naqve


Elettaria cardamomum (L.) Maton is commonly known as small cardamom or green cardamom and is grown in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Tanzania. The botanical name of cardamom, Elettaria cardamomum, originated from the Tamil word “Elettari” which refers to the seeds of cardamom. In general, the cardamoms are the capsules of dried fruits. Cardamom is recognized as the “queen of spices” for its nice aroma and taste. Cardamom is the third most expensive spice after saffron and vanilla in the world.

Chemical constituents and their uses:

For centuries, cardamom capsules are being used for gastronomic and traditional medicine applications including controlling asthma, dental infections, digestive and kidney disorders, cataracts, nausea, diarrhea and cardiac disorders. The essential oil and other bioactive metabolites accumulated in cardamom capsules contribute to their characteristic aroma and utility as a functional food, pharmaceutical and nutraceutical. The essential oil (EO) content of cardamom capsules varies from 6 to 14% depending upon the type and processing methods. EO of cardamom capsules possess predominantly monoterpene constituents, such as 1,8- cineole, α-pinene, α-terpineol, linalool, linalyl acetate and nerolidol and the ester constituent α-terpinyl acetate, all of which have therapeutic benefits including antioxidant, anticancer, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antiviral and gastroprotective activities. 

Antioxidant activity:

Oxidative stress is a chief factor for induction of several chronic and degenerative diseases such as diabetes, cancer, immune dysfunction and Parkinson’s. For prevention of free radical formation through scavenging and suppression of chronic and degenerative diseases antioxidants are natural or synthetic compounds that can be used. Cardamom capsules and seeds are rich sources of antioxidant substances that neutralize free radicals by preventing oxidation of other components. Cardamom capsules have a moderate level of natural antioxidant properties owing to the presence of phenol compounds such as quercetin, kaempferol and luteolins. Phytonutrients and vitamins, EO of cardamom acts as an antioxidant scavenging free radicals, thus reducing cellular ageing.

Anticancer activity:

The essential oil of cardamom capsules in in vitro studies showed anticarcinogenic effects by inhibiting damage to adult DNA by aflatoxin B1. This might be due to bioactive components present in the essential oil that have potential anticancer roles. Cardamom oil increased the glutathione transferase and acid-soluble sulfhydryl activities and arbitrates the oxidation and detoxification of xenobiotics. The constituents of phytochemicals of CEOs such as 1, 8-cineole and limonene demonstrated a protective role against cancer development. Further they said aqueous cardamom extract could improve the activity of the detoxifying enzyme glutathione S-transferase and reduce lipid peroxidation.

Cytotoxic activity:

Cardamom capsule extracts considerably enhanced the cytotoxic effects of natural killer cells and indicated their anticancer potential. Cardamom CEO is an immune stimulant agent for chemotherapy. Even though the safety of cardamom extracts and CEO is indicated, the use of cell lines based only on in vitro assays limits the pharmacological relevance of this outcome.

Antimicrobial and antibacterial activity:

The EO of cardamom has robust antibacterial effects against various food-borne microorganisms. CEO antibacterial activity against S. aureus, E. coli, S. typhi, Streptococcus mutans and C. albicans, Bacillus pulmilus and Listeria monocytogenes. Hence, CEO could play a vital role in developing safe and novel antibiotics in modern medicine. CEO has potential broad-spectrum antibacterial and antifungal activities that could be used to prevent damage from food-borne pathogens and food spoilage organisms.

Insecticidal activity:

The development of bioactive constituents that are less persistent will be beneficial to both farmers and the environment. Exploitation of natural products such as EOs are being considered as substitutes to chemical pesticides due to their low toxicity effect on non-target organisms and their lower persistence in the environment. Therefore, EO of cardamom could be used as a stored grain protectant by killing or disturbing various life stages of insect pests (including Sitophilus zeamais and Trilobium castaneum) attacking wheat.

Miscellaneous activity:

Recently, CEO has been extracted and commercially used in the food industry as a flavoring agent in bread, cakes, curry powder and pickles. Capsules and volatile oils of cardamom are being used as flavoring constituents in various types of foods, including alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, frozen desserts, candies, puddings, baked goods, condiments, gravies and meat products. Cardamom oil is also mixed with massage oil, perfumes and lotions, because of its soothing properties. Three CEO components (α- pinene, β- pinene and α- terpineol) had synergistic effects. Hence, addition of CEO in ointments and lotions increased the absorption of medicines through the skin. CEO has antispasmodic action through receptor blockage, in addition to diuretic properties.

Neurological disorders:

 Elettaria cardamom is the one of the formulation in treatment of Alzheimer disease and various neurological disorders like anxiety sleeplessness and irritation. The formulation of Elettaria cardamom as poly herbal combination is very famous among all.

Cigarette deaddiction:

 In a study, it was found out that Elettaria cardamom is useful in smoke addiction. Eating little cardamom can reduce the craving of smoking.

Authors :  Amina, Athar Mahmood, Maria Naqve University of Agriculture Faisalabad

By Amina