As we were reminded in the Hymn in Praise of Herbs, herbs are very special and they support our existence in incredible ways.
While all plants are quite magical, cardamom offers us balance & bitterness, in the best kind of way.
Let’s think about foods that we love, which often shift us OUT of balance… How about coffee AND chocolate? Both act initially to stimulate the nervous system, but did you know that these stimulants can ultimately act as a depressants, leading to increases in stress and anxiety? While stimulants, such as caffeine, can feel initially energizing and supportive, they ultimately leave the nervous system in a more fragile, or depressive, state than it began with.
The thing is, many of us really LOVE chocolate. After all, it has plenty of wonderful properties, most notably the bitter taste, which is so often lacking in our Western diet. The purpose of this awareness is not necessarily suggesting that we must deprive ourselves chocolate OR coffee, but rather to encourage us to find ways to balance these wondrous treats. Once we learn to appropriately incorporate them into our lives (without spiraling into a state of fragility & dependency), we may have more space to enjoy and appreciate the whole process.
Now the question is, what is the key to balancing the depressive effects of such stimulating substances? It is time to call for a little cardamom magic. Cardamom is an incredibly special herb commonly used in ayurvedic healing. In Sanskrit, cardamom is called ela. It is generally balancing for vata, pitta & kapha doshas, but may increase pitta if used in excess. Of the bodily tissues (dhatus), cardamom supports blood, marrow, nerve & plasma. It benefits the circulatory, digestive, nervous and respiratory systems. Spiritually, it is said to promote clarity and joy. Not to mention its ability to activate antioxidant enzymes and reduce blood pressure!
Let’s recap. What is so MAGICAL about cardamom?
It may just allow us to eat stimulating foods, like coffee and chocolate, without spiraling into a state of complete imbalance.
Try adding a pinch of cardamom to your coffee, or sipping cardamom tea while eating your favorite dark chocolate. Better yet, seek out chocolate with cardamom IN it! My friend Ed makes an exceptionally magical version of this idea treat. Cardamom may also be taken to support a hangover recovery, balance the congestion of ice cream consumption and prevent loose stools after eating fruits like mango or banana.
Looking for other ways to integrate the magic of cardamom into your life? Try making a warming beverage like homemade chai or Golden Milk Elixir. You can even simply add a cardamom pod to steep with your tea! AND if you’re hungry for more, Cozy Kitchari also offers another opportunity to incorporate cardamom into your kitchen.
NOTE that we all have different sensitivities and different existing imbalances. Coffee can be very drying, especially for vata-types. Cardamom is not a cure-all in itself, but may be a piece of the puzzle that brings us deeper into our own balance.
Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing
by Dr. Vasant Lad
The Ayurveda Encyclopedia
by Swami Sadashiva Tirtha