Botanical Nomenclature: Elettaria cardamomum
Extraction Method: Distillation
Cardamon essential oil is made from the common kitchen spice cardamon. And according to legend, cardamon is the one of the oldest culinary spices known. Both traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India, have long histories with this herb and evidence suggests that cardamon was known in Europe by the 400 CE.
A member of the ginger family, cardamon is thought to be named for an ancient Sanskrit term that means “hot and pungent”. Today, two plants are known as cardamon—one in the genus Elettaria and one in the genus Amomum. In aromatherapy, it’s the seeds from the plant in the genus Elettaria that’s most often used to make cardamon essential oil.
Characteristics of Cardamon Oil
Cardamon oil should be nearly colorless with pale yellow hues that darken after prolonged exposure to sunlight. Your initial impression of cardamon oil should be one of a warm, spicy scent with strong hints of camphor. Later, after the oil has been exposed to air, the scent will deepen and take on a more woody scent with very faint hints of floral.
Like other essential oils made from pungent spices, cardamon is associated with strength, determination and the ability to make good decisions. Popular aromatherapy texts tell us that cardamon personalities are strong, faithful leaders.
Traditional Uses for Cardamon Oil
Cardamon is used in Eastern and Middle Eastern medicine mainly for digestive complaints but it is also prized for its believed anti-microbial properties. Aromatherapist Salvatore Battaglia also assigns the following actions to cardamon essential oil:
Scientific Studies on Cardamon Oil
Like many essential oils, cardamon hasn’t been exhaustively studied for efficacy or safety in humans. But a couple of animal studies stand out as particularly promising.
Finding a way to protect delicate intestinal tissue from damage due to aspirin therapy was the focus of a 2006 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Researchers using a “crude” extract of cardamon were able to reduce lesions by nearly 100% at certain doses.
Other Digestive Benefits
About 5% of the weight of cardamon seeds is essential oil and a 1996 study published in the journal Pharmacology Research suggests that this essential oil may be responsible for cardamon’s reputation as a tummy soother.
In laboratory studies in mice, cardamon oil demonstrated antispasmodic activity in both mice and rabbits. How, or if, this will translate into benefits for humans has yet to be studied.
Cardamon is a relatively rare essential oil and it hasn’t been extensively studied for safety. Salvatore Battaglia lists cardamon as non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing.
Battaglia, S. (2005). The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy
Jamal, A., et al. (2006). Gastroprotective effect of cardamom, Elettaria cardamomum Maton. fruits in rats.
al-Zuhair, H., et al. (1996). Pharmacological studies of cardamom oil in animals.