Botany, traditional uses, phytochemistry and biological activities of cardamom [Elettaria cardamomum (L.) Maton] - A critical review

J Ethnopharmacol. 2020 Jan 10;246:112244. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2019.112244. Epub 2019 Sep 18.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Small cardamom [Elettaria cardamomum (L.) Maton. (Family: Zingiberaceae)] capsules (fruits) have been used for traditional medicine applications including for the control of asthma, teeth and gum infections, cataracts, nausea, diarrhea, as well as cardiac, digestive and kidney disorders. The versatile use of cardamom capsules has several other beneficial health effects that are relevant in light of traditional and modern pharmaceutical perspectives.

Aim of the study: This review aims to provide a critical and comprehensive evaluation of the traditional and current medical uses of E. cardamomum, and compare these applications with modern research studies. This critical review also discusses the botanical distribution, phytochemical constituents and biological activities of cardamom capsule extracts and essential oil.

Materials and methods: An online survey was conducted of the traditional uses, phytochemical composition, and pharmacological applications of cardamom essential oil (CEO) and extracts. Pertinent data were obtained from several electronic scientific databases (Science Direct, Elsevier, Web of Science, PubMed, Springer, ACS publications, Taylor and Francis, Wiley On-line Library and Google Scholar), and additional information was obtained from textbooks and local prints and scripts.

Results: Cardamom fruits (capsules) are used widely as a spice and flavoring ingredient in foods, and are often recognized for their beneficial health properties. They are also used in fragrances. Phytochemical analyses have described important chemical constituents of cardamom including carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, lipids, essential oils, flavonoids, terpenoids and carotenoids. CEO has several biological roles including antioxidant, antidiabetic, antibacterial, anticancer, gastro-protective and insecticidal activities.

Conclusion: The widespread availability and recommendation of synthetic compounds for addressing human health have several side effects besides higher costs. Hence, examining natural bioactive compounds is imperative. This review investigates and presents the pertinent information on cardamom and its traditional uses, as well as potential pharmacological properties of CEO and extracts. Additional research studies are needed to understand the mechanism of action of bioactive constituents.

Keywords: Botany; Cardamom; Essential oil; Phytochemicals; Traditional and pharmacological applications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Elettaria / chemistry*
  • Elettaria / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Traditional
  • Phytochemicals
  • Plants, Medicinal


  • Phytochemicals