A strong case for cardamom
Apart from its piney, fruity flavour and sweet aroma, it also boosts respiratory health by reducing phlegm and acting as a natural expectorant that helps with the secretion of sputum.
Cardamom or elaichi is a spice used in almost every Indian household.
Apart from its piney, fruity flavour and sweet aroma, it also boosts respiratory health by reducing phlegm and acting as a natural expectorant that helps with the secretion of sputum. The mucous build-up in the lungs is the body’s defence against pollution, which it does by trapping toxic pollutants. But excess build-up may cause breathing issues and become the breeding ground for pathogens. According to ayurveda, cardamom helps reduce kapha, the body constitution type that tends to hold mucous. The spice has an active ingredient called cineole, which breaks down mucous and expels it out of the system.
This works both for the respiratory as well as digestive systems. Using cardamom is particularly useful for asthmatic individuals, who suffer from bronchitis and pneumonia, and have their respiratory passages choked up due to inflammation. Cineole also has antimicrobial and antiseptic properties, which help prevent bacterial infections that may affect the lungs directly or indirectly.
Cardamom also reduces inflammation in the body. Exposure to environmental pollutants can inflame the respiratory tract lining. The spice provides a cooling effect and brings it down. Because it’s alkaline, cardamom also helps combat acidity and is often suggested as a post-meal drink to manage bloating and acid reflux. Throughout the Middle East, coffee-brewing involves the use of cardamom powder because coffee is an acidic beverage and cardamom helps counterbalance it.
The spice is a powerful antioxidant and helps combat free radical damage caused by pollution. Antioxidants are known to stall the ageing of the respiratory system. Not just this, cardamom is a rich source of manganese, a powerful trace mineral which help the body form connective tissue.
Incorporating cardamom into your diet
1. Boil cardamom pods with ginger in water and have it as a detoxification brew for the liver, lungs and kidneys.
2. Enjoy cardamom tea by throwing in two or three pods while it’s brewing.
2. Add it to at least one meal a day by mixing it with curry powder.
3. Cardamom essential oil is a great way of clearing the respiratory system and easing digestive issues.
4. Crushed or powdered cardamom seeds can be added to smoothies, laddoos, energy bars and shakes.
5. Brew coffee with cardamom powder, dropping whole cardamom pods into small cups of coffee.
Word of caution
Even though cardamom is harmless, some people are allergic to the spice.
One of the most common allergic reactions is contact dermatitis, a type of skin rash that makes the skin itchy and red. People with large gallstones should consume cardamom with caution. In some cases, gallstone pain increases and can also lead to bleeding. It is best to check with a medical professional if you’re on drugs for the treatment of HIV, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or are on blood thinners, liver medicines, antidepressants, aspirin and antiplatelet drugs. In addition to that, while cardamom is usually safe to consume during pregnancy, larger amounts of it can cause complications such as a miscarriage. For all these reasons, it is advisable to start with small quantities of the spice and discontinue if you experience discomfort.
Coutinho practises in the field of Holistic Nutrition - Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine, Founder of Luke Coutinho Holistic Healing Systems