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Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum)

Synonyms / Common Names / Related Terms
Aframomum, Amomum, Amomum cardamomum, Amomum subulatum Roxb, amooman, bai dou kou, Bari Ilaichi, bastard cardamom, buah pelaga (Malay), cardamom oil, cardamome (French), cardamomo (Italian, Spanish), cardamon, cardamone (Italian), cardomomi fructus, chhoti elachi (Indian), elaichi, e(e)lachie (Indian), ela(i)chi (Indian), Elettaria cardamomum, Elettaria cardamomum Maton var. Miniscula Burkill, elam (Tamil), enasal (Sinhalese), grains of paradise, grawahn (Thai), greater cardamom, Heel kalan, illaichi (Indian), Indian cardamom, kapulaga (Indonesian), Kardamom (German), Kardamomma (Iceland), kravan (Thai), large cardamom, lesser cardamom, Nepal cardamom, Malabar cardamom, Mysore cardamom, phalazee (Burmese), protocatechualdehyde, protocatechuic acid, Siam cardamom, true cardamom, ts'ao-k'ou (Chinese), Unmadnashak Ghrita, winged Java cardamom, Zingiberaceae (family).

Mechanism of Action
  • Constituents: Constituents of the fruits of greater cardamom (Amomum subulatum) were analyzed, and protocatechualdehyde, protocatechuic acid, 1,7-bis(3,4-dihydroxyphenyl)hepta-4E,6E-dien-3-one and 2,3,7-trihydroxy-5-(3,4-dihydroxy-E-styryl)-6,7,8,9-tetrahydro-5H-benzocyc loheptene were identified.11
  • The volatile oil of Elettaria cardamomum (L.) Maton seeds contains trace waxes; alpha-terpinyl acetate, 42.3%; 1,8-cineole, 21.4%; linalyl acetate, 8.2%; limonene, 5.6%; and linalool, 5.4%; limonene, 36.4%; 1,8-cineole, 23.5%; terpinolene, 8.6%; and myrcene, 6.6%.12 It also contains Mg, Al, Si, P, S, Cl, K, Ca, Ti, Mn, Fe, Cu and Zn, with varying concentrations.13 The volatile oil also includes cineole.
  • Allergic effects: Patch test reactions to cinnamic aldehyde were found in 11/25 factory workers, but in several cases, the nature of the reactions was difficult to evaluate.9 Irritant patch test reactions were seen from powders of cardamom, paprika and white pepper. On prick testing, 6/25 workers reacted to cinnamic aldehyde. The results illustrate the difficulties of patch testing with spices and indicate the need for further research and validation of methods.
  • Chronic contact dermatitis has occurred with repeated exposure to cardamom.2 In a case report, the patient had positive patch test reactions to cardamom and certain terpenoid compounds present in the dried ripe seeds of cardamom.
  • Analgesic effects: An investigation of the analgesic activity of the oil extracted from commercial Elettaria cardamomum seeds using p-benzoquinone as a chemical stimulus proved that a dose of 233microL/kg of the oil produced 50% protection against the writhing (stretching syndrome) induced by intraperitoneal administration of a 0.02% solution of p-benzoquinone in mice.4
  • Anti-cancer: Male Swiss albino mice were injected with azoxymethane (AOM) (dose: 5mg/kg body weight) or saline (Group 1) weekly once for two weeks.6 The AOM-injected mice were randomly assigned to two groups (Groups 2 and 3). While all the groups were on standard lab chow, Group 3 received oral doses of 0.5% cardamom, in aqueous suspension, daily for 8 weeks. Following treatment, significant reduction in the incidences of aberrant crypt foci (p<0.05) was observed. This reduction in aberrant crypt foci (ACF) was accompanied by suppression of cell proliferation (mean Brdu LI in carcinogen control=13.91+/-3.31, and 0.5% cardamom=2.723+/-0.830) and induction of apoptosis (mean AI in carcinogen control=1.547+/-0.42 and 0.5% cardamom=6.61+/-0.55). Moreover, reduction of both cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) expression was also observed. These results suggest that aqueous suspensions of cardamom have protective effects on experimentally induced colon carcinogenesis.
  • Essential oil from cardamom was tested for its ability to suppress the formation of DNA adducts by aflatoxin B1 in vitro in a microsomal enzyme-mediated reaction.5 The oil was found to inhibit adduct formation very significantly and in a dose-dependent manner. The adduct formation appeared to be modulated through the action on microsomal enzymes, because an effective inhibition on the formation of activated metabolite was observed with the oil. The enzymatic modulation is perhaps due to the chemical constituents of the oil, and this could form a basis for their potential anticarcinogenic roles.
  • Anti-inflammatory effects: Cardamom oil produced the maximum (10x) in vitro permeation enhancement for ion-paired diclofenac sodium (DS).14 The carrageenan induced rat paw edema reduction (up to 12 hours) by cardamom oil was comparable to that of diclofenac subcutaneous injection. Leaching of cholesterol from excised skin in addition to increased partition coefficient following volatile oil skin pretreatment appears to be responsible for in vitro permeation enhancement of DS. Whereas, a mild barrier perturbation effect due to altered cholesterol levels following pretreatment with volatile oils appears to increase the permeation of ion-paired DS across viable skin, thereby producing significant reduction of carrageenan induced paw edema.
  • A comparative study of the anti-inflammatory activity of the oil extracted from commercial Elettaria cardamomum seeds, in doses of 175 and 280microL/kg and indomethacin in a dose of 30mg/kg against acute carrageenan-induced planter edema in male albino rats was performed, which proved to be marked.4
  • Anti-microbial effects: Inhibition of growth was tested by the paper disc agar diffusion method.15 Antibiotic susceptibility discs were used as control. Minimum lethal concentration (MLC) was determined by the tube dilution method. Essential oil from cardamom was evaluated to have some inhibition for each of the test strains that included: Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli O:157:H7, Yersinia enterocolitica, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Lactobacillus plantarum, Aspergillus niger, Geotrichum, and Rhodotorula.
  • Five prepackaged samples of cardamom powder were selected from supermarkets and ethnic shops in Lisbon (Portugal) for estimation of aflatoxins by immunoaffinity column clean-up followed by HPLC.16 Aflatoxin B1 (AFB1), B2, G1 and G2 were not detected.
  • Antioxidant effects: Cardamom has medium levels (50-100mg) of antioxidant phenolics and flavonoids.17 Total phenolics were measured biochemically and flavonoids were measured as a sum of quercetin, kaempferol, luteolin and pelargonidin.
  • Cardamom extracts have also been found to be pro-oxidants.18
  • In order to gain insight into the antioxidant effect of cardamom (Amomum subulatum) hepatic and cardiac antioxidant enzymes, glutathione (GSH) content and lipid conjugated dienes were studied in rats fed high fat diet along with cardamom.19 The antioxidant enzyme activities were found to be significantly enhanced whereas GSH content was markedly restored in rats fed a fat diet with cardamom. In addition, cardamom partially counteracted increase in lipid conjugated dienes and hydroperoxides, the primary products of lipid peroxidation. Thus, it appears that cardamom exerts antioxidant protection through its ability to activate the antioxidant enzymes.
  • Anti-spasmotic effects: The antispasmodic activity of the oil extracted from commercial Elettaria cardamomum seeds the was determined on a rabbit intestine preparation using acetylcholine as agonist, the results proving that cardamom oil exerts its antispasmodic action through muscarinic receptor blockage.4
  • Anti-ulcer effects: The crude methanolic extract of A. subulatum and its fractions, viz. essential oil, petroleum ether and ethyl acetate, inhibited gastric lesions in rats induced by ethanol significantly, but not those which were induced by pylorus ligation and aspirin.7 However, ethyl acetate fraction increased the wall mucus in pylorus ligated rats. The results suggest a direct protective effect of ethyl acetate fraction on gastric mucosal barrier. While the observation of decrease in gastric motility by essential oil and petroleum ether fractions suggests the gastroprotective action of the test drug.
  • In a similar experiment using Elettaria cardamomum Maton., all fractions significantly inhibited gastric lesions induced by ethanol and aspirin but not those induced by pylorus ligation.20 In the aspirin-induced gastric ulcer, the best gastroprotective effect was found in the petroleum ether soluble fraction, which inhibited lesions by nearly 100% at 12.5mg/kg. The petroleum ether soluble extract at doses >or=12.5mg/kg proved to be more active than ranitidine at 50mg/kg.
  • Cardamom may somewhat increase gastric acid secretion.3
  • Dermatological effects: The in vitro and in vivo effect of pretreatment by cardamom oil, a crude drug extract, in ethanol/water vehicles on the transdermal delivery of indomethacin was investigated.10 The cyclic monoterpene components in cardamom oil were also determined and quantified in this study. The permeation of indomethacin was significantly enhanced after pretreatment of cardamom oil both in the in vitro and in vivo studies. The result of various pre-treatment periods showed that the indomethacin flux decreased as the length of the pretreatment increased. Both natural cardamom oil and a cyclic monoterpene mixture composed of the components of the oil showed similar enhancement on indomethacin permeation, indicating cyclic monoterpenes are the predominant components altering the barrier property of stratum corneum. The results also showed that three minor components in cardamom oil (alpha-pinene, 6.5%; beta-pinene, 4.8%; alpha-terpineol, 0.4%) had a synergistic effect with 1,8-cineole (59.3%) and d-limonene (29.0%) to enhance the permeation of indomethacin.
  • A synergistic effect on drug permeation was observed when transdermal iontophoresis combined with the pretreatment of cardamom oil as a permeation enhancer.10
  • Food preservation effects: Cardamom exhibited a moderate effect in the minimization of the formation of toxic histamine in mackerel.21
  • Genotoxic effects: Cytogenetic studies in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells using aqueous and organic extracts of pan masalas, as well as genomic damage observed among pan masala consumers have conclusively shown genotoxic potential of pan masala, a dry complex mixture including areca nut, lime, catechu, cardamom, and often containing tobacco.22 Due to the multiple ingredients in pan masala, the effects specific to cardamom are difficult to extract.
  • Pan masala (without tobacco) is a dried powdered mixture containing ingredients like areca nut, catechu, lime, cardamom and flavoring agents.23 In view of the role of the ingredients of pan masala in the causation of oral diseases, the possible harmful effects of consuming this complex mixture were analyzed in individuals regularly consuming pan masala and among healthy non-consuming controls without any habit. Three cytogenetic endpoints and two tissues were employed to assess possible DNA damage. Sister chromatid exchange and chromosome aberrations were estimated in the peripheral blood lymphocytes, tissues indirectly exposed to the substance and the frequency of micronucleated cells was scored in the tissue directly in contact with pan masala, i.e. the exfoliated buccal mucosa cells. All three cytogenetic endpoints demonstrated a statistically significant increase (p<0.001) among the pan masala consumers as compared with the non-consuming controls. Because pan masala is a combination of several ingredients, the effects specific to cardamom cannot be extracted from this study.
  • Hepatic effects: The influence of cardamom essential oil on the activities of hepatic carcinogen-metabolizing enzymes (cytochrome P450, aryl hydrocarbon hydroxylase, and glutathione S-transferase) and acid-soluble sulfhydryl level was investigated in Swiss albino mice.8 The oil was fed by gavage at 10microL per day for 14 days, and then the animals were sacrificed and their hepatic enzyme activities and sulfhydryl levels were evaluated. Cardamom oil caused a significant reduction in cytochrome P450 level activity (p<0.05).
  • Platelet aggregation effects: An increase in concentration of cardamom has decreased malondialdehyde formation significantly.1 The aqueous extract of cardamom may have components, which protect platelets from aggregation and lipid peroxidation.

  1. Suneetha WJ, Krishnakantha TP. Cardamom extract as inhibitor of human platelet aggregation. Phytother Res 2005;19(5):437-440. 16106388
  2. Mobacken H, Fregert S. Allergic contact dermatitis from cardamom. Contact Dermatitis 1975;1(3):175-176. 138507
  3. Vasudevan K, Vembar S, Veeraraghavan K, et al. Influence of intragastric perfusion of aqueous spice extracts on acid secretion in anesthetized albino rats. Indian J Gastroenterol 2000;19(2):53-56. 10812814
  4. al Zuhair H, el Sayeh B, Ameen HA, et al. Pharmacological studies of cardamom oil in animals. Pharmacol Res 1996;34(1-2):79-82. 8981560
  5. Hashim S, Aboobaker VS, Madhubala R, et al. Modulatory effects of essential oils from spices on the formation of DNA adduct by aflatoxin B1 in vitro. Nutr Cancer 1994;21(2):169-175. 8058527
  6. Sengupta A, Ghosh S, Bhattacharjee S. Dietary cardamom inhibits the formation of azoxymethane-induced aberrant crypt foci in mice and reduces COX-2 and iNOS expression in the colon. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev 2005;6(2):118-122. 16101317
  7. Jafri MA, Farah, Javed K, et al. Evaluation of the gastric antiulcerogenic effect of large cardamom (fruits of Amomum subulatum Roxb). J Ethnopharmacol 2001;75(2-3):89-94. 11297839
  8. Banerjee S, Sharma R, Kale RK, et al. Influence of certain essential oils on carcinogen-metabolizing enzymes and acid-soluble sulfhydryls in mouse liver. Nutr Cancer 1994;21(3):263-269. 8072879
  9. Meding B. Skin symptoms among workers in a spice factory. Contact Dermatitis 1993;29(4):202-205. 8281784
  10. Huang YB, Fang JY, Hung CH, et al. Cyclic monoterpene extract from cardamom oil as a skin permeation enhancer for indomethacin: in vitro and in vivo studies. Biol Pharm Bull 1999;22(6):642-646. 10408241
  11. Kikuzaki H, Kawai Y, Nakatani N. 1,1-Diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl radical-scavenging active compounds from greater cardamom (Amomum subulatum Roxb.). J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo) 2001;47(2):167-171. 11508709
  12. Marongiu B, Piras A, Porcedda S. Comparative analysis of the oil and supercritical CO2 extract of Elettaria cardamomum (L.) Maton. J Agric Food Chem 2004;52(20):6278-6282. 15453700
  13. Al Bataina BA, Maslat AO, Al Kofahil MM. Element analysis and biological studies on ten oriental spices using XRF and Ames test. J Trace Elem Med Biol 2003;17(2):85-90. 14531636
  14. Sapra B, Gupta S, Tiwary AK. Role of volatile oil pretreatment and skin cholesterol on permeation of ion-paired diclofenac sodium. Indian J Exp Biol 2000;38(9):895-900. 12561947
  15. Elgayyar M, Draughon FA, Golden DA, et al. Antimicrobial activity of essential oils from plants against selected pathogenic and saprophytic microorganisms. J Food Prot 2001;64(7):1019-1024. 11456186
  16. Martins AP, Salgueiro L, Goncalves MJ, et al. Essential oil composition and antimicrobial activity of three Zingiberaceae from S.Tome e Principe. Planta Med 2001;67(6):580-584. 11509990
  17. Nair S, Nagar R, Gupta R. Antioxidant phenolics and flavonoids in common Indian foods. J Assoc Physicians India 1998;46(8):708-710. 11229280
  18. Beddows CG, Jagait C, Kelly MJ. Preservation of alpha-tocopherol in sunflower oil by herbs and spices. Int J Food Sci Nutr 2000;51(5):327-339. 11103298
  19. Dhuley JN. Anti-oxidant effects of cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) bark and greater cardamom (Amomum subulatum) seeds in rats fed high fat diet. Indian J Exp Biol 1999;37(3):238-242. 10641152
  20. Jamal A, Javed K, Aslam M, et al. Gastroprotective effect of cardamom, Elettaria cardamomum Maton. fruits in rats. J Ethnopharmacol 2006;103(2):149-153. 16298093
  21. Shakila RJ, Vasundhara TS, Rao DV. Inhibitory effect of spices on in vitro histamine production and histidine decarboxylase activity of Morganella morganii and on the biogenic amine formation in mackerel stored at 30 degrees C. Z Lebensm Unters Forsch 1996;203(1):71-76. 8765991
  22. Patel RK, Trivedi AH, Jaju RJ, et al. Protection from pan masala induced genomic damage by beta-carotene and retinoic acid--an in vitro experience. Neoplasma 1998;45(3):169-175. 9717530
  23. Dave BJ, Trivedi AH, Adhvaryu SG. Cytogenetic studies reveal increased genomic damage among 'pan masala' consumers. Mutagenesis 1991;6(2):159-163. 2056918

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