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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

aka Ceylon Cardamom, Kardamomen (Ger), Malabar Cardamom
(Elettaria cardamomum)
image 1 image 2
Also see: Cardamom Substitutes

In tincture form this herb is subject to legal restrictions in some countries.
NOT USED when gallstones are present as they could stimulate an attack.

CONTAINS: Resin, starch, essential oil, fixed oil, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin.
ESSENTIAL OIL = Cineol, sabinene, d-a-terpineol, acetate, borneol, limonene, l-terpenine-4-ol.
FIXED OIL = Glycerides of eleic, linoleic, palmitic, caprylic, and caproic acids

A perennial tropical plant with tall, simple canes or stems (6 to 12 feet) arising from a thick, creeping rhizome and native where rainfall is plentiful; appears in the forests of Indian, Ceylon and Malaysia. It is mainly cultivated in Guatemala and India. Flowers are small, white with blue and yellow lips in long trailing racemes. Leaves are dark green, alternate, lance shaped to 1 foot long. Fruit is a ribbed capsule or pod with 3 cells, each containing 4 to 6 small tan seeds; the pod can be white, green or black.True Cardamom seeds resemble the fragrance of eucalyptus when ground; other seeds which are used as substitutions smell more strongly of camphor.

Long used as a spice, cardamom was first mentioned as a medicinal plant in China about 720 AD.

PROPAGATION: By SEED in autumn; by DIVISION in spring or summer. When purchased as a plant, it might be labeled as Elettaria cardamomum, but could in fact be a species of Aframomum which has fragrant leaves, but rarely flowers or sets seeds. By division. Tender perennial.
NEEDS: Grown as a crop in rich, moist, well-draining soil in part shade. Hardy to 65ºF. Pot grown in the north, requires diffused house light. No direct sun. Best in a greenhouse.
HARVEST: FRUITS during the dry season (dried whole). Seeds (unlikely in potted plants) gathered before they are quite ripe. In actuality this is the fruit with 3 seeds contained within, but the fruit is left whole till seeds are required for use. For oil extraction, or making liquid extracts, tinctures or powders, the seeds are removed from their covers.
PART USED: Dried ripe seeds and oil. In commerce the pods and seeds are found whole, shelled, and ground (green or roasted).


Pungent, warm, aromatic, expectorant, stimulant, tonic, antispasmodic, carminative; effects lung and kidneys.
Has been used internally for indigestion, nausea, vomiting, liver problems, gallbladder problems, sore throat, tendency to infection, bedwetting, chest congestion, colds, coughs, fever, pulmonary diseases and other complaints of the lung. Contains anti-asthma compounds and some seeds added to coffee have been used to prevent an imminent attack. In cases of emphysema 1 tsp of powdered seeds in juice or tea has been used to give relief.
Has been used to improve bile flow from the gall bladder but SHOULD NOT be used in the presence of gall stones as it could precipitate an attack.
Seeds have been chewed to relieve flatulence and indigestion as well as for bad breath.
Has been used as a tea for headaches.
Said to prevent viruses from multiplying.
Has been used as a nervous system stimulant to prevent fainting.
Has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for bronchial and digestive problems.
In Chinese Medicine the small green, unripe seeds [sha ren] are considered best for kidney problems and the large white seeds [bai dou kou] better for lung problems. Used for asthma, stomach problems, hemorrhoids, and bad breath.
Often used as a secondary herb to improve performance of angelica, lemon balm, wood betony, coriander, chickweed, parsley, sarsaparilla, wormwood, and thyme. Also used strictly to improve the taste of bitter herbs.
Has been used for laryngitis and vaginitis.
An uncertain claim ascribes to Cardamom the ability to "detoxify" caffeine and to counteract the mucous-forming quality of dairy products. This claim has never been verified. Has also been used to reduce the gas caused by garlic.
Contains 2 androgenic compounds and is believed by residents of the Middle East to be aphrodisiac, but there is no evidence to support the claim.

!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
GRAINS = 15 to 30
POWDER = 1/4 to 3/4 tsp. For indigestion the following has been used: 15 powdered seeds in 1/2 cup of hot water with 1 oz of fresh ginger root and 1 cinnamon stick added; simmered over low heat for 15 minutes, then 1/2 cup of milk added and simmered 10 minutes more; 2 to 3 drops of vanilla is then added, then sweetened with honey; 1 to 2 cups taken daily.
TINCTURE = 1/2 to 1 tsp
FLUID EXTRACT = 5 to 30 drops
MOUTHWASH = Seeds are soaked in 80 proof vodka for 1 week, then diluted.

Used to season and flavor a variety of dishes and baked goods such as coffee, curries (key ingredient), pickles, milk-based desserts, fruit compotes, squash, sweet potatoes, duck, pork, pastries, brines, sweet-and-sour meats, and mulled wined.
Is added to orange marmelade at the rate of 1/8 tsp per pint.
The whole seeds are added to fruit punch or marinades. Also shaved on chocolate drinks
Whole seeds are candied as a confection.
An important flavoring of Scandinavian pastries.
Often combined with cumin and coriander.

The leaves are placed in chests and drawers to lend a sweet, spicy fragrance to clothes, blankets, linens, etc.

Seeds are added to potpourri and sachets.

The essential oil is used in the perfume industry.


aka Grains of Paradise, Tavoy Cardamom
(Amomum xanthiodes)

CONTAINS: D-borneol, bornylacetate, d-camphor, nerolidol, linalool.

A tender perennial of Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia with reedlike stems to 10 feet. Leaves are lanceolate appearing in 2 rows along the stem and about 14 inches long. Flowers are orchidlike with a white lip striped in pink in dense spikes on short leafy stalks near the base of the plant. Fruits are thin-walled capsules containing the seeds. First mentioned in Chinese medicine during the Ming dynasty.

PROPAGATION: By DIVISION as new growth begins.
NEEDS: Grown as a crop in rich, moist soil with high humidity (requires constant moisture) in part shade. Hardy to 65ºF. A long lived perennial.
HARVEST: Pods are collected in an unripe state to avoid splitting, then dried.
PART USED: Ripe seeds [sha ren]
Bengal Cardamom (Amomum aromaticum): No image available. Cultivated in northeast India. Seeds chewed with Betel nut and used as a substitute for True Cardamom.
Cambodian Cardamomimage (Amomum krervanh): Native to Cambodia and Thailand. Stems to 10 feet, leaves to 2 feet long. Fruits contain 5 to 9 round seeds.
Java Cardamomimage (Amomum maximum syn A. dealbatum): Found wild in moist teak forests of Java and also cultivated. Leaves are fragrant when crushed. The young shoots and old leafstems are peeled and the heart eaten raw while the young flower clusters and unripe fruits are cooked with rice. The sweet-sour pulp around the seeds is eaten raw. The seeds are used for seasoning.
Kararima Cardamom (Amomum kararima): No image available.
Madagascar Cardamom (Amomum angustifolium): No image available
Nepal Cardamomimage (Amomum subulatum): Native to northern India and Nepal. Used as a substitute for True Cardamom.
Round Cardamomimage (Amomum compactum syn A. kepulaga): Cultivated in Java. The leaves give off a strong turpentine odor when bruised. The young shoots are cooked and eaten with rice. The fruits are used as seasoning. The seeds are chewed to sweeten the breath and to prevent colds. The seeds are used in cakes.
Siam Cardamom image (Amomum cardamomum): Used as a substitute for True Cardamom.


Aromatic, warming, appetite stimulant, digestive aid, antinausea, chologogue, virustatic; affects spleen, stomach, lungs, kidneys.
Has been used for indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, nausea of pregnancy, colic, headaches; also to stimulate the gastric flow, increase menstrual flow, treat premature ejaculation, incontinence, stomach pain.
In Chinese medicine the underground stem is considered tonic and laxative.

!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
GROUND SEEDS = 1.5 grams
TINCTURE = 1 to 2 grams

Used as a substitute for true cardamom in food and liqueur.
Used to flavor liqueur in China.
An ingredient of Chai tea (1 oz fresh ginger, grated; 7 peppercorns; 1 cinnamon stick; 5 cloves; 15 cardamom seeds; combine and heat in 1 pint of water and simmer 10 minutes; add 1/2 cup milk and simmer 10 minutes more; add a sprinkle of nutmeg and a few drops of vanilla extract; can be sweetened with honey).

A tablespoon of seeds or leaves are added to the bath.

aka Alligator Pepper, Grains of Paradise, Melegueta Pepper
(Aframomum melegueta)

Native to West Africa and cultivated in Surinam and Guyana. The flowers are solitary and showy. The orange to red fruits are larger than true cardamom and contain glossy brown conical seeds which are used to flavor wine, beer, cordials, liqueurs, ice cream, candy and soft drinks.

Wild or Madagascar Cardamomimage (Aframomum angustifolium): Stems to 12 feet. Leaves to 15 inches long. Flowers appear in clusters of 3 or 4. Stems and leaves give off a spicy aroma when crushed. The fruits contain an acid pulp and many small brown seeds which are eaten fresh. The dried seeds are used like pepper to season food. In the Arab world seeds are added to coffee and are believed to be aphrodisiac.

(Alpinia oxyphylla)


A warming, tonic herb which affects stomach and kidneys. Has been used medicinally for diarrhea, incontinence, and stomach chills.

©2000 & 2005 by Ernestina Parziale, CH