Cardamom is a key ingredient in masala chai, a milky, spicy beverage consumed throughout India. This spice has a very complex flavour, one that is both spicy and fragrant, and as a result, it works great in a wide variety of dishes and beverages. One of the best uses is in the form of cardamom tea, whether you’re consuming it by itself with a little milk and sugar, or in combination with complementary herbs and spices.
What is Cardamom Tea?
Cardamom is a spice made from several plants in the Zingiberaceae family, which is also where ginger comes from. It is native to India, the biggest producers of cardamom for many years. That title has since been overtaken by Guatemala, who produce over 25,000 tonnes of the spice every year.
The spice is produced from the seed pods, which are small and can be used whole. To make cardamom tea, simply add these seeds to a pan of water, bring to the boil, and then simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. You can use around a teaspoon of powder or crushed seeds per cup, and you can also add milk, cream, evaporated milk, or a milk alternative to make it more like the masala tea they drink in India.
This spice has a strong taste, so you may want to add a little honey or sugar. It will also taste better with other warming spices, especially turmeric and ginger, and if you really want to bring out those complex flavours then you can add a teaspoon of black tea.
Health Benefits of Cardamom Tea
Cardamom tea is a great way to extract both the flavour and the goodness of the cardamom seeds, which in turn could help provide a number of health benefits. The beauty of this spice, as with many common herbs and spices, is that you don’t need a lot of it to experience many of these health benefits.
1. It Can Help with Digestive Issues
One of the oldest uses for cardamom is in the treatment of digestive disorders. As with herbal remedies like spearmint, it can help soothe an unsettled stomach and may also reduce bloating and other digestive ailments.
There have also been animal studies showing that cardamom may help protect against ulcers, especially when it is use in combination with other anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric. (1) This suggests that cardamom could be as effective as stomach-soothing spices like mastic, and regular consumption could reduce the risk of ulcers and potentially reduce the size of those already developed.
There are no suggestions that it can remove them completely or that cardamom consumption will completely eliminate the risk of such issues developing, but the effects are still significant.
2. It Can Prevent Chronic Disease
Cardamom contains a number of antioxidants, compounds that have been linked to a reduction in chronic diseases like cancer and coronary heart disease. These compounds can fight oxidative stress and reduce inflammation, both of which can have an impact on overall health and reduce the risk of most common diseases.
This is not just guesswork either. Not only are the antioxidants found within cardamom well known, but there have also been studies performed directly on cardamom itself, including a 2017 study that gave extracts of this spice to rats and found that it inhibited several inflammation-causing compounds. (2)
Its anti-inflammatory effects may also go some way to explaining some of its soothing effects on the digestive system.
3. It Has Antibacterial Effects
Cardamom, like thyme, oregano, and many other common herbs and spices, possesses antibacterial effects and could be used to treat bacterial growth and infections. This is especially true for bacteria that grows in the mouth and leads to gum disease, cavities, and other dental issues.
However, as with the aforementioned herbs, it can only do this when its antibacterial compounds are extracted and utilised in a concentrated form. There is no suggestion that a cup of cardamom tea can fight dangerous infections in the body, but it further emphasises the usefulness of this common spice and could lead to more interesting developments in the future.
Other Benefits of Cardamom Tea
There are some suggestions that cardamom can be used to burn body fat, however, while a tenuous link between weight loss and cardamom consumption was established, no additional research has confirmed this. In fact, both animal and human studies have been unable to replicate these results.
It’s a similar story with suggestions that cardamom can be used to cure anxiety and depression. The high concentration of antioxidants may play a role in this, but again, there have been no concrete human trials to confirm these beliefs and there are no psychoactive compounds in cardamom.
In terms of vitamins and minerals, there isn’t a great deal to get excited about. Some herbs and spices, moringa included, can make a serious impact on your RDA of key nutrients, but you would need to consume over 100g of cardamom to get anywhere near 50% for the majority of its most concentrated nutrients.
The only real exception is manganese, as cardamom provides more than 100% of your RDA in just a 10g serving, but this mineral is abundant in common foods and beverages. In fact, if you drink several cups of black tea a day, there’s a good chance you’re getting your fill already.
Side Effects and Dangers
This spice is very well tolerated, but if you’re consuming it in significant quantities (as you might be if you’re drinking several cups of masala chai or pure cardamom tea a day), then you should be aware of a few issues.
Firstly, it may not be safe during pregnancy or nursing, as there simply isn’t enough supporting data to suggest otherwise. There are no concerns regarding “food quantities” and this may even include the occasional cup of cardamom tea, but the same can’t be said for excessive consumption.
Larger quantities are also not recommended in anyone suffering from gallstones, as large quantities may make this condition worse.
Finally, if you have any preexisting health conditions or you take medication, you may want to consult your doctor first. Cardamom is a very common and widely used spice, and it should not trigger the sort of dangerous contraindications that you see with St John’s Wort and other herbal remedies, but it’s still better to be safe than sorry.