Cardamom Essential Oil
Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) is an herb commonly referred to as ‘the Queen of Spices’.1,2 The plant bears striking violet-and-white flowers and shiny green fruit. Related to the ginger plant family, its celebrated spice is derived from the fruit’s seeds.1
The use of cardamom dates back thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians were reported to chew cardamom seeds to clean their teeth and freshen their breath. Classical-era Greeks and Romans used cardamom essential oil in their perfumery.5 Cardamom was an important medicinal plant in traditional Ayurveda, and was often used for its carminative properties to aid digestive problems, colds, and lung conditions.4,5,6
Cardamom essential oil is derived from the fruit’s seeds and is extracted through steam distillation.3 The oil is a dark, honey-brown color and is noted for its sweet, but spicy scent.
Cardamom Essential Oil Uses
From classic aromatherapy to a natural pantry moth repellant, cardamom essential oil has a wide range of everyday uses. As an important scent and ingredient for thousands of years, discover these modern twists on some traditional uses.
Cardamom essential oil is known for its warm and exotic fragrance. For aromatherapy, add 2-3 drops of cardamom essential oil to a diffuser filled with water.
Alternatively, add 1-2 drops of cardamom essential oil to a facecloth or handkerchief. Hold the cloth just below your nose and take several deep inhalations to enjoy the relaxing scent.
Natural Air Freshener
Fill a spray bottle with water and add 2-3 drops of cardamom essential oil. Mist the cardamom spray anywhere in your home for a natural air freshener. The warm, spicy scent of cardamom essential oil has been reported to have a particularly relaxing aroma in colder weather.
Pantry Moth Repellant
Pantry moths can be a serious irritation that can quickly spread throughout dry food products like flour, cereal or grains. If you have found pantry moths, cardamom essential oil can be used to help repel the insects and reduce the chance of re-infestation.
First, discard any infested products and clean your pantry thoroughly. Saturate cotton balls with 3-4 drops of cardamom essential oil and place in small dishes throughout your pantry. This will make your cupboards a less hospitable place for pantry moths. Lemon, eucalyptus, and lavender are other excellent essential oils for deterring pantry moths if you would like to mix scents.
Mix cardamom oil with your favorite carrier oil in a 1:1 ratio. Apply to your wrists and other pulse points for a natural fragrance. Cardamom blends well with other essential oils such as cinnamon, sandalwood, or jasmine.
With anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) properties, cardamom essential oil can be used for a therapeutic massage. Add 5 drops to 2 Tbsp. of a carrier oil such as jojoba, grapeseed or avocado oil. Gently massage the affected area, until the mixture is absorbed. If there is access oil, wipe away with a cool cloth.
Benefits of Cardamom Essential Oil
Scientific studies conducted on cardamom essential oil have revealed a wide range of possible health benefits. Cardamom essential oil has been noted for its anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antibacterial qualities, as well as strong insect repellent properties. While research is still ongoing, discover some of the latest benefits of cardamom essential oil.
In a study published in Pharmacology Research, scientists investigated the anti-inflammatory properties of cardamom essential oil. Scientists induced tissue inflammation in animal subjects. The subjects were then either injected with a placebo, a common anti-inflammatory drug, or one of two different dosages of cardamom essential oil.6
The inflammation level of each group was tested, and the subjects who received the highest dosage of cardamom essential oil showed the least inflamed tissue, indicating that cardamom essential oil has stronger anti-inflammatory properties than even synthetic drugs designed to stop inflammation.6
The same study also looked at the analgesic or pain-relieving properties of cardamom essential oil. Scientists induced pain in animal subjects, which were then administered either aspirin or cardamom essential oil. A third group was administered saline and served as the control group.6
Scientists observed that the aspirin and the cardamom essential oil were similarly effective in providing pain relief. Though more research is needed, cardamom essential oil shows promise as a potential pain reliever.6
In a 2011 study, scientists tested the use of cardamom essential oil against three common food-storage pests, C. maculatus (the bean beetle), T. castaneum (the red flour beetle), and E. kuehniella (the Mediterranean flour moth or pantry moth).2,7,8,9 Adults of each type of insect was released into glass vials and paper disks treated with pure essential oil were inserted under the vial caps. Cardamom essential oil was an effective pesticide against all subjects, and had the highest effect on E. kuehniella, the pantry moth.2
The pesticidal use of cardamom essential oil on bean beetle eggs was also tested. Scientists noted that less eggs hatched when vials were treated with cardamom essential oil.2
The researchers concluded that the appeal of using essential oils as pesticides is twofold: Essential oils may be a natural alternative to synthetic pesticides, and also act effectively on pests that have become resistant to common synthetic pesticides. While current data suggests cardamom essential oil has strong insecticidal properties, further research is required before it could be considered for widespread use.2
In a 2010 study, scientists tested cardamom essential oil and various cardamom fruit extracts against 10 different strains of bacteria and fungus. Cardamom essential oil demonstrated significant antibacterial activity against B. pumilus and good activity against S. epidermidis, P. aeruginosa and S. cerevisiae. S. epidermis and P. aeruginosa are associated with infections in humans, particularly in hospitalized or elderly populations.11,12
The study concluded that cardamom essential oil has a broad spectrum of antibacterial activity, that with further research, may be useful in the fight against drug-resistant bacteria.10
Note: All use of cardamom essential oil in the aforementioned studies was conducted in isolated laboratory environments. Essential oils should not be used as a substitute for conventional medical treatments.
Side Effects of Cardamom Essential Oil
Cardamom essential oil is generally considered safe for inhalation and diluted, topical use. It should not be ingested and should always be diluted with a carrier oil before topical use.
In rare cases, allergic reactions such as dermatitis or respiratory concerns may occur. Do not use cardamom essential oil on children and pregnant or nursing women unless advised by a health care professional.
Where to Buy Cardamom Essential Oil
Previously, high quality essential oils could only be bought at specialty health stores, or through expensive multi-level marketing companies. Now, due to advancements in technology, extremely high grade essential oils can be purchased over the internet at very reasonable prices.
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- The Editors of the Encyclopædia Britannica. (2008). Cardamom. In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/cardamom – View reference
- Abbasipour, H., Mahmoudvand, M., Rastegar, F., & Hosseinpour, M.H. (2011). Fumigant toxicity and oviposition deterrency of the essential oil from cardamom, Elettaria cardamomum, against three stored—product insects. Journal of Insect Science. 11(165). http://dx.doi.org/10.1673/031.011.16501
- Burdock, G. A. (2009). Fenaroli’s handbook of flavor ingredients, (6th ed). CRC Press: Boca Raton; New York; London. Retrieved from https://www.crcpress.com/Fenarolis-Handbook-of-Flavor-Ingredients-Sixth-Edition/Burdock/p/book/9781420090772
- History of medicine. (2017). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from Britannica Library Reference Centre database.
- Campbell, J. (2017). Cardamom. Salem Press Encyclopedia. Retrieved from Research Starters/EBSCO database.
- Al-Zuhair, H., Al-Sayed, B., Ameen, H.A., Al-Shoora, H. (1996). Pharmacological studies on cardamom oil in animals. Pharmacology Research. 34(1/2), 79-82. Retrieved from http://download.xuebalib.com/xuebalib.com.10368.pdf
- Beck, C.W., & Blumer, L.S. (2014). A handbook on bean beetles, Callosobruchus maculatus. Retrieved from http://www.beanbeetles.org/handbook/index.html#Introduction
- Canadian Grain Commission. (2013). Red flour beetle – Tribolium castaneum (Herbst). Government of Canada. Retrieved from https://www.grainscanada.gc.ca/storage-entrepose/pip-irp/rfb-trf-eng.htm
- Invasive Species Compendium. (2012) Ephestia kuehniella (Mediterranean flour moth). Retrieved from http://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/21412
- AGNIHOTRI, S., & WAKODE, S. (2010). Antimicrobial Activity of Essential Oil and Various Extracts of Fruits of Greater Cardamom. Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 72(5), 657-659. DOI: 4103/0250-474X.78542
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014, May 7). Pseudomonas aeruginosa in Healthcare Settings. Retrieved March 21, 2017 from https://www.cdc.gov/hai/organisms/pseudomonas.html
- Staphylococcus epidermidis. (n.d.) McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. (2002). Retrieved March 21 2017 from http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Staphylococcus+epidermidis