CARDAMOM  Profile of the Herb and Essential oil

Cardamom seeds and a bottle of Cardamom CO2 showing
Cardamom seeds and oil

A Compilation From Jeanne Rose files

Synopsis ~ Cardamom is such a wonderful-looking plant, with many uses both in culinary,

in Chinese herbal medicine,  and especially in perfumery. It is not much

used in the West but here is an outline of some of its many qualities.

Common Name/Scientific name ~ Cardamom seed (Elettaria cardamomum)

Family ~ Zingiberaceae

Countries of Origins ~ Cardamom is cultivated in Guatemala (the biggest producer and exporter), Malaysia, and Tanzania and is native to India and Indonesia. There is also Black cardamom which is cultivated in Nepal, Sikkim, and parts of India and Bhutan.

Historical Uses ~ Cardamom is used as a spice and as an ingredient in traditional medicine systems of the traditional Chinese herbal medicine. There are two forms of Cardamom, and they are used as flavorings and cooking spices in both food and drink, and medicine. E. cardamomum (green cardamom) is used as a spice, a masticatory and it is also smoked and was reportedly used as an antidote for both snake and scorpion venom.

ENDANGERED OR NOT ~ Cardamom is not an endangered species, although growing it in some areas of Vietnam threatens the native forest and species of animals that live there.


Cardamom is a low-growing, leafy tropical plant, which grows on the jungle floor in the wild. Cardamoms have smooth green leaves on long stalks, spicily scented when bruised. The leaves have a different odor than the seeds. The leaves are used for cooking and to wrap fish, rice, or vegetables for flavor. The cardamom pods sold for cooking are picked when unripe. These seeds will not grow if you try to sow them.

               Grow it, it’s quite easy, but they are fussy and do not like drafts or sudden changes of temperature or direct sunlight. They grow best in a warm, steamy, shady place, like a warm bathroom, and should be misted daily with pure water. Alternatively, stand the pot on a big saucer of pebbles which are kept moist, to encourage a humid atmosphere around the plant. In winter, don’t water as frequently as during the summer. Feed with a foliage house-plant food (high nitrogen, low potash) when the plant is growing.

cardamom leaves
Cardamom leaves

PORTION OF PLANT USED IN DISTILLATION, HOW DISTILLED, EXTRACTION METHODS AND YS ~ Solvent extracted for an absolute. Extraction by CO2 yields a deeper richer product with a more pronounced Cardamom scent. Cardamom seed oil is also extracted by steam distillation from the seeds of the fruit gathered just before they are ripe.

YIELD is 1-5 %.

CHEMISTRY ~ The chemical composition and components of cardamom oil are a-pinene, b-pinene, sabinene, myrcene, a-phellandrene, limonene, 1,8-cineole, y-terpinene, p-cymene, terpinolene, linalool, linalyl acetate, terpinene-4-oil, a-terpineol, a-terpineol acetate, citronellol, nerol, geraniol, methyl eugenol, and trans-nerolidol.


• Color – dark yellow

• Clarity – clear

• Viscosity – not viscous

• Intensity of odor – 4 (scale is 1-10)

• Tenacity in a blend – Can be quite tenacious, use in moderation

Cardamom CO2 total bottle, shows color
Cardamom CO2 total

ODOR DESCRIPTION/ AROMA ASSESSMENT ~ Cardamom is primarily a spicy note, with subsidiary notes of fruity and fatty and the sweet back notes of hay and honey and a bit of a leather harness. One odor snapshot is shown at the end of this article.



The therapeutic properties of Cardamom oil are antiseptic, and stimulant, and the Cardamom seeds when eaten are antispasmodic, carminative, cephalic, digestive, diuretic, expectorant, and tonic.

Properties and Uses ~ Cardamom seeds are used in South Asia to treat infections in teeth and gums, to prevent and treat throat troubles, congestion of the lungs and pulmonary tuberculosis, inflammation of eyelids, and also digestive disorders. It also is used to break up kidney stones and gallstones.

The oil is used with massage oil or diluted in the bath. It can assist with the digestive system (a drop in a cup of tea), coughs  (via inhalation), or as a general tonic. It is excellent in the bath with other sweet oils, leaving you feeling refreshed and stimulated.

APPLICATION/ SKINCARE ~ Cardamom seeds and oil are somewhat antibacterial and can be used in skincare blends, masks, creams, and applications for mild skin breakouts to help clear the skin.  It is often used to lighten the skin or even out the skin tone.

Honey masks are always helpful in this circumstance.  Any honey mixed with a scant teaspoon of ground, powdered cardamom, and applied to the face with a light rub and then rinsed clean with clear water will act as a tonic cleanser.  The essential oil is very intense and can be added only in tiny, less than a drop, amount.

DIFFUSE/DIFFUSION ~ This is a cheerful, spicy oil to use in a blend, in a diffuser, or in massage oil.  Here are two samples of formulas using Cardamom in the blend.

    AMBIANCE BLEND #6044 of Blood Orange, Ylang complete, Cardamom, and other oils,  is used with moisturizing body oil for grounding and calming – in massage oil. Inhale directly for centering and easing your body. This grouping of essential oils is sweet, cheerful, and calming and is a good all-body rub for starting a happy day.

            BAHAMA BLEND #6004 ~  So warming and soothing as a massage, feels tropical and relaxing like you are sitting in your chair on the warm sand. Use as an application in the evening and get that warm spicy Vanilla/Cardamom aphrodisiacal feeling and a delicious floral scent of Jasmine and Mimosa. Use in your room in the diffuser.

EMOTIONAL/ENERGETIC USE ~  There is some material on the internet that attributes many qualities to Cardamom.  Here is one.  Cardamom enables us to balance this part of ourselves and let go of some of the rigidity that a dominant mental body can have on us.”‑1

PERFUMERY with Cardamom ~ Cardamom, Whole seed CO2 Extract (Elettaria cardamomum) via carbon dioxide extraction yields the aroma of fresh cardamom pods. A small amount goes a long way! It is wonderful to use in perfumery as a spicy and woody bridge note between the flowers and the roots of plants such as Jasmine and Vetivert.

            BLENDING with other oils ~ Cardamom is a spicy-smelling seed, and the CO2 extract and essential oil are both excellent to blend with a variety of other scents. Try any of the other spicy oils, most wood oils such as Sandalwood, true Cedar, florals such as Lavender, Neroli, Ylang, and Rose, and especially with the culinary scents such as Coffee, Chocolate, and Ginger.  It works well as a bridge note in most exotic blends.

Blend ~ Besides the two blends listed above, PrimaFleur has another called CHAI BLEND #6050  which is a warm, spicey, and energizing blend that is used in Massage, and also in diffusion to energize the air in a common room. Added to Turmeric oil at  5% with a bland carrier oil it works well for deep-tissue massage for aching joints or to add to an unscented cream and use for a body massage.  This is not for facial skin care. This spicy blend includes Cardamom, Cinnamon leaf, Ginger, Nutmeg, and others.

Simple Food-Scented Perfume

30 drops of Cardamom CO2
 30 drops of Coffee absolute
10 drops of Cocoa absolute
2-3 drops of Cinnamon bark

Mix together in a ½ oz clear glass bottle, succuss vigorously. 
Add Orange spirits*, enough to dilute the blend. 
Smell it, and add more spirits if necessary (I used almost ½ oz.)

Organic spirits are available from They carry a full line of fine high-quality spirits including grape, cane, corn, wheat, coconut, orange, pear, and lychee alcohols.

HYDROSOL ~ I have not had the opportunity to experience a Cardamom hydrosol.

PLEASE NOTE: A true hydrosol should be specifically distilled for the hydrosol, not as a co-product or even a by-product of essential oil distillation. The plant’s cellular water has many components most are lost under pressurized short steam runs for essential oil, or by using dried material. We recommend that the producers specifically distill for a product by using plant material that is fresh.


Two Cardamom plants growing in San Francisco

Jeanne Rose Cardamom plants

KEY USE ~ Best used in food, beverage, and in perfumery.

This work is sponsored and supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals.


Patch Test ~  If applying a new essential oil to your skin always perform a patch test to the inner arm (after you have diluted the EO in a vegetable carrier oil). —Wash an area of your forearm about the size of a quarter and dry carefully. Apply a diluted drop (1 drop EO + 1 drop carrier) to the area. Then apply a loose band-aid and wait 24 hours. If there is no reaction then go ahead and use the oil in your formulas.—The Aromatherapy Book, Applications &  Inhalations, p. 64




Arctander, Steffen. Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin
Mabberley, D. J. Mabberley’s Plant-Book, 3rd edition, 2014 printing, Cambridge University Press.

Rose, Jeanne.  375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols.  Berkeley, California: Frog, Ltd., 1999

Rose, Jeanne.  The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations.  San Francisco, California:

Herbal Studies Course/ Jeanne Rose & Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 1992

DISCLAIMER:  This work is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for accurate diagnosis and treatment by a qualified health care professional. Dosages are often not given, as that is a matter between you and your health care provider. The author is neither a chemist nor a medical doctor.  The content herein is the product of research and personal and practical experience. Institute of Aromatic & Herbal Studies  – Jeanne Rose©

Odor Snapshot of Cardamom

Thank you for reading and your comments.