Elettaria cardamomum (L.) Maton

Last updated: 19 Aug 2016

Scientific Name

Elettaria cardamomum (L.) Maton


Alpinia cardamomum (L.) Roxb., Amomum cardamomum L., Amomum ensal Raeusch., Amomum racemosum Lam. [Illegitimate], Amomum repens Sonn. [Illegitimate], Amomum uncinatum Stokes, Cardamomum elletari Garsault [Invalid], Cardamomum malabaricum Pritz., Cardamomum minus (Gaertn.) Kuntze [Illegitimate], Cardamomum officinale Salisb., Cardamomum verum Oken [Illegitimate], Elettaria cardamomum var. minuscula Burkill, Elettaria repens Baill. [Illegitimate], Matonia cardamomum (L.) Stephenson & J.M.Churchill, Zingiber minus Gaertn. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Buah pelaga [2]
English True cardamom, small cardamom [2]; cardamomum, cluster cardamom, lesser cardamom, round cardamom [3]
China Bai dou kou, pai tou k’ou [3]
India Aelaki, aintiram, alachi, bahula, bavula, bhringaparnika, candrabala, canitkuti, cantirapalai, cantuti, chandrasambhava, chhardikaripu, chhoti elachi, civakam, cutcanamala, divodbhava, elaki, elakkai, eyam, helbava, ilaachi, kanmali, kapita, kariyam, korankam, kulmam, kunattai, piriyai, qaqilah, sannayelaki, tulli, turuvatti,upakuncam, velachi, yalakki, yalum, yelam. [3]
Indonesia Kapulaga sabrang, kapol (Sundanese), kapolaga (Sundanese) [2]
Thailand Krawan-thet [2]
Tibetan Sug-smel, sug smel, se-ksme [3]
Laos Hma:k hné:ngx [2]
Myanmar Bala, pala, panlat [2]
Cambodia Krako sbat [2]
Vietnam Tr[us]c sa, b[aj]ch d[aaj]u kh[aas]u [2].

Geographical Distributions

Elettaria cardamomum occurs wild in gaps in the evergreen montane monsoon forests of the Western Ghats in Southern India and the western highlands in Sri Lanka. It is possibly also truly wild in Burma (Myanmar), Indo-China and Malaysia, and has been introduced into other parts of the tropics. In­troduction into Guatemala in the 1920s was par­ticularly successful and a sizable production and export developed. [2]

Botanical Description

E. cardamomum falls under the family of Zingiberaceae [3]. It is a robust perennial herb which can reach up to 5 m tall. It grows in a thick clump, with branched rhi­zomes which arise from 10-20 erect leafy shoots (composed of the leaf sheaths) and numerous de­cumbent flowering shoots [2].

The leaves are distichous. The petiole (free part) is up to 2.5 cm long, sheathing at the base and forming the pseudostem together with other sheaths. The ligule is entire and measures up to 1 cm long. The blade is lance shaped, measuring 25-100 cm x 5-15 cm, acuminate at apex, dark green and hairless above while light green and hairless or pubescent beneath. [2]

The inflorescence is a prostrate (seldom erect) panicle, which is up to 1.2 m long. It arises from the rhizome at the base of a leafy shoot. The bracts are arranged alternate, lance-shaped, measuring up to 3 cm x 1 cm and each bract is with an axillary which is usually a 2-3-flowered cincinnus. The bracteole is tubular and measures up to 2.5 cm long. The flowers are bisexual, zygomorphic and measure about 4 cm long. The green sepal is tubular, up to 2 cm long and with 2-3 teeth. The petal is also tubular and 3-lobed. The tube is as long as the sepal. The pale green lobes are 1-1.5 cm long and they are pale green. The labellum is obovate, measures 1.5-2 cm long, up to 1 cm wide, obscurely 3-lobed, and white but streaked with violet. The lateral staminodes are inconspicuous and awl-shaped. The pistil is with ovary 2-3 mm long while the style is slightly longer than the anther. The head-like stig­ma is small. [2]

The fruit is a spherical or subcylindrical trilocular capsule, measuring 1-2(- 5) cm long, pale green to yellow and brown when drying. There are 15-20 seeds per fruit, which are an­gled, about 3 mm long, wrinkled, dark brown, aro­matic and with thin mucilaginous aril. [2]


Evergreen montane forest land sup­plies the most favorable environment for E. cardamomum, with soils varying from deep forest loam to white quartz gravel with only a shallow zone of humus accumulation. E. cardamomum is a plant of the early succession stage and appears in natural or man-made forest clearings but is not found in forests with an undisturbed canopy. On sloping land, it may grow well in pockets of soil among boulders. In the main production areas in south­ern India and Sri Lanka, cardamom is grown at altitudes of 600-1500 m. A uniformly distributed rainfall of 2500-3800 mm per year is considered optimal. The tolerable range extends from 1500­ 5800 mm; months with less than 125 mm rainfall have to be regarded as drought months. Drought periods during the formation of the inflorescence or during flowering will preclude seed production and cannot be overcome by sufficient precipitation at a later stage. Successive droughts in two or more years endanger the plant as a whole. Opti­mum annual mean temperatures are considered to be around 22°C. The diurnal temperature may vary between 10°C and 35°C. In the lowlands (an­nual mean temperatures more than 24°C), E. cardamomum only propagates vegetatively; the plants do not grow where annual mean temperatures are less than 17°C. E. cardamomum does not tolerate prolonged exposure to direct sunlight; about 50% is thought to be opti­mal. Strong winds may topple cardamom plants as their root system is weak. Desiccation by dry winds is a serious threat, especially to young seed­lings, but may also affect adult plants. The crop does best in little-disturbed soils well supplied with organic matter and, since it does not tolerate waterlogging, it is crucial to have good drainage. [2]

Chemical Constituent

E. cardamomum volatile oil obtained from supercritical CO2 extraction has been reported to contain α-terpinyl acetate, 1,8-cinoele, linalyl acetate, limonene and linalool. While hexane extraction gives off limonene, 1,8-cineole, terpinolene and myrcene. [4]

Plant Part Used

Whole fruit, seed. [2]

Traditional Use

The major use of E. cardamomum is for domestic culinary purposes. Cardamom is also included in several pharmacopoeias. It is considered tonic to the heart, stomachic, laxative, diuretic and carminative. It lessens inflammation, headache, earache, toothache, and alleviates disorders of the liver, chest and throat. Cardamom is commonly given in instances of snake bite and scorpion sting, but it is not an antidote. [2]

Preclinical Data


Gastroprotective activity

The essential oil of E. cardamomum is commonly used for digestive issues and gastrointestinal maladies. In animal studies, E. cardamomum oil exhibited preventative effects against aspirin-induced ulcers, partially due to its ability to increase mucus output in the stomach. Additionally, the essential oil of E. cardamomum was shown to decrease gastric motility. [5][6]

Anti-inflammatory activity

An in vitro study examined volatile oils on oedema induced by carrageenan.   E. cardamomum oil reduced the paw oedema up to 12 hours by leaching cholesterols from the affected area. The effect was classified as comparable to diclofenac, a commonly used treatment for oedema. [7]

Antispasmodic activity

E. cardamomum displayed antispasmodic activity in rabbits with acetylcholine induced intestinal spasm. The antispasmodic activity of cardamom is thought to occur through blocking muscarinic receptors. [8]

Anticarcinogenic activity

When tested among other essential oils, E. cardamomum ingestion in animals elevated sulfhydryl levels significantly and was the only essential oil to do so [9]. Other studies have demonstrated the anti-carcinogenic activity of cardamom by inhibiting the formation of DNA adducts. [10]


No documentation

Clinical Data

No documentation


No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation


Line drawing


Figure 1: The line drawing of E. cardamomum. [2]


  1. The plant list. Ver 1.1. Elettaria cardamomum (L.) Maton. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2016 Aug 19]. Available from: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-243056
  2. Wardini TH, Thomas A. Elettaria cardamomum (L.) Maton. In: de Guzman CC, Siemonsma JS, editors. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 13: Spices. Leiden, Netherlands: Backhuys Publisher, 1999; p. 116-120.
  3. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume III E-L. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 34.
  4. Marongiu B. Comparative analysis of the oil and supercritical CO2 extract of Elettaria cardamomum (L.) Maton. J Agric Food Chem. 2004;52(20):6278-6282.
  5. Jamal A. Gastroprotective effect of cardamom, Elettaria cardamomum Maton. fruits in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006;103(2):149-153.
  6. Jafri MA. Evaluation of the gastric antiulcerogenic effect of large cardamom (fruits of Amomum subulatum Roxb). J Ethnopharmacol. 2001;75(2-3):89-94.
  7. Sapra B. Role of volatile oil pretreatment and skin cholesterol on permeation of ion-paired diclofenac sodium. Indian J Exp Biol. 2000;38(9):895-900.
  8. Al-Zuhair H. Pharmacological studies of cardamom oil in animals. Pharmacol Res. 1996;34(1-2):79-82.
  9. Banerjee S. Influence of certain essential oils on carcinogen-metabolizing enzymes and acid-soluble sulfhydryls in mouse liver. Nutr Cancer. 1994;21(3):263-269.
  10. Hashim S. 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.