Monday, October 19, 2009

Cardamom - If At First You Don't Succeed, Chai Chai Again

(Elettaria cardamomum)

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When the chill of winter is upon us and the added pressure of another holiday season approaches, it’s a great time to stop, take a deep, aromatic breath and enjoy a true herbal friend: Cardamom. Cardamom has enormous worth and has been appreciated since ancient times for her fragrance, flavor and medicinal properties. Her sweet/spicy aroma is refreshing, opening to the sinuses and invites comforting memories of warmth and happiness. Sometimes known as “Grains of Paradise” or “Queen of the Spices,” cardamom is the third most expensive spice after saffron and vanilla. The somewhat round to oblong greenish pods containing twenty or more strongly aromatic seeds ripen at slightly different times, requiring hand harvesting; this partially accounts for its high price. Although native to Sri Lanka and southern India, it is primarily cultivated commercially in Guatemala.

A member of the ginger family, Cardamom can contain up to 8% volatile oils including terpines, cineol, limonene, borneol, camphor, pinene, eucalyptole, sabinene, and myrtenal. It was used as an essential essence in ancient Egypt and continues to remain of great value to aromatherapists the world over. Since the inception of the perfume industry, Cardamom has been a precious ingredient in many formulas. True Cardamom has a warm fragrance like eucalyptus with a hint of lemon while false or inferior products have a harsh, more camphor-like odor. Cardamom brings energetic warmth to the core of the body, allowing the surface to acclimate with the cooler weather. The penetrating aroma promotes clear thinking, improves memory and breaks up congestion in the head, stomach and chest.

This essential essence has a cheerful bouquet that is antidepressant and gives a lift to the spirit, while also calming anxiety and nervousness. If you are able to obtain exceptional quality essences, a wonderful remedy for all types of emotional trauma would include Cardamom layered with the essences of Inula, Goldenrod and Ylang-ylang applied neat to the skin over the heart (please only use the highest quality essences, it is best if you know where they come from first-hand). My friend once applied this combination right before arriving at his dog-sitting job where both dogs were prone to extreme excitability. When he arrived, right on cue both pups leaped on him frantically vying for his affection, yipping and licking his hands and neck where the essences had been applied. Within a few minutes, these normally neurotic dogs calmed right down and were soon curled up, relaxed and sleeping. They stayed calm and mellow for two days afterward, content to wag their tails happily and offer an affectionate lick - not even doing their normal freak-out when the mailman came to the door. Now that’s a powerful combination! Whether using the essence topically or taking the herb internally, she restores strength both physically and emotionally to chase away fatigue, listlessness and nervous exhaustion.

A stimulating herb for the digestion, Cardamom warms the middle and treats a variety of gastrointestinal disorders such as GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease), dysentery, gastritis, and chronic gastroenteritis. Its ability to sooth frayed nerves and anxiety as well as regulating the appetite makes Cardamom a great herb to choose as part of a treatment plan for many types of eating disorders. Because it can counteract food allergies and sensitivities, Cardamom is often paired with foods that are difficult to assimilate or mucous-forming such as dairy and sweets. Traditionally added to coffee in India and the Middle East, Cardamom also counteracts the harsh effects of caffeine. This herb is a real pal to have around over the holidays when overindulging in rich and heavy foods is the norm. Nausea, heartburn, indigestion and gas no longer need to be the unwelcome holiday guests, so long as you are sure to invite Cardamom to the party!

Cardamom really is a breath of fresh air, not only for conditions like allergies and chronic sinusitis, but also for chronic bronchitis and asthma. It is a well-known expectorant that will help to reduce phlegm, open a tight chest, and relax coughing spasms. It is best suited for Cold Damp conditions, in other words, the mucous would be white and copious; it is not particularly appropriate for hot, infectious conditions unless used in proper combination. As an ingredient in many herbal formulas, Cardamom offers a pleasant taste that improves the overall flavor of medicinal combinations while improving their absorption and digestibility. It really can be a “breath of fresh air” when used to offset garlicky halitosis!! Cardamom has such an agreeable perfume it is one of the few herbs that will cover garlic-breath.
Cooking with Cardamom will almost guarantee a great result, but it can be too strong if used with a heavy hand. When purchasing this splendid spice, be sure to choose whole, plump, undamaged green pods with a thin skin. Grind only as many seeds as needed at any one time for the best flavor, as the volatile oils will dissipate quickly. Freshly ground Cardamom offers an intense and pungent zing to any recipe and is featured in many curries, baked goods, fruit compotes and mulled wines. Using cardamom whole or only slightly crushed will lend a milder flavor to pickles or rice dishes; the pods can be removed easily before serving if desired. Because of the volatile oil content, it is best not to overcook Cardamom or it will lose its balanced flavor and become harsh or slightly bitter.

Here I would like to offer up my personal chai recipe that has received rave reviews to all who have tried it. I will frequently make a large batch of the chai mix to keep on hand for a quick fix while hunkering down in chilly New England from October to March. It really does help to keep me warmer, more focused and contented during “hibernation.” Serve it to all your guests and you will receive kindness and warmth in return.

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Lisl’s Chinese Herbal Chai

2 Tbs Cardamom pods, crushed
2 Cinnamon sticks (approx. three inches each)
5 slices Ginger*, dried (each about the size of a poker chip)
*(Or ¾” piece of fresh ginger, sliced)
2 tsp Black Pepper Corns, slightly crushed
1 tsp Clove buds
1 tsp grated Orange peel
5 Chinese Red Dates, dried
1 Tbs Goji berries, dried
6 cups water
1 heaping Tbs Black Tea
Whole Milk or Half & Half and Honey to taste

Combine all ingredients except for the tea in a medium sized saucepan and soak for about 15 minutes. Over high heat, allow the mixture to come just to the boiling point, then immediately reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat, add tea and replace cover. Steep for 5 minutes, strain and add milk and honey as desired. Garnish with a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg.

Lisl Meredith Huebner, Dipl.CH (NCCAOM), RH (AHG) is a nationally board certified Chinese Herbalist, and a Registered Herbalist with the American Herbalists Guild. Lisl is also a certified Medicinal Aromatherapist, a level II Reiki practitioner, an Acupressurist, an Auriculotherapist, a photographer, a renowned diagnostician, a teacher and a published writer in private practice for over a decade. She is available by appointment.
Please call 8 6 0 - 4 8 0 - 0 1 1 5 or email if you have any questions, would like to schedule an appointment, attend meditations, weed walks, or are interested in taking classes.

1 comment:

  1. Cardamom oil is sweet, spicy and almost alsamic in fragrance, is clear to pale yellow in color and slightly watery in viscosity.

    Cardamom was well known in ancient times and the Egyptians used it in perfumes and incense and chewed it to whiten their teeth, while the Romans used it for their stomachs when they over-indulged.

    Cardamom oil is particularly helpful for the digestive system. It works as a laxative and soothes colic, wind. It warms the stomach and helps with heartburn.

    When feeling weak and mentally fatigued, cardamom oil can help with its refreshing and uplifting effect.I found good Cardamon Essential oil form this Blog post...
    Cardamom Essential Oil