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Cardamom Chic

Cathy Christensen March 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine
cardamom seeds in a wooden spoon

Cardamom is one of the fragrant ingredients that helps give chai tea and curry their unique, warm flavors in addition to being a favorite ingredient of a variety of cultures for centuries.

Elletaria cardamomum, cardamom’s scientific name, is a member of the ginger family and originated in India.1 In fact, its cultivation is still limited to few countries, including India, Sri Lanka and Guatemala. Known as the queen of spices, cardamom features a pleasant aroma and slightly pungent taste, with its seeds leaving a warm feeling in the mouth.2

The ingredient is mentioned in Vedic texts and is common in ayurvedic medicines.1

In the kitchen

Cardamom’s flavor is extremely versatile, and it works well in both sweet and savory dishes. Cardamom seeds can be ground into powder, or the whole pods can be used—often with the seeds removed—in a variety of dishes, including desserts, chutneys and soups.2

It is one of the spices used to make garam masala, a basic blend of ground spices common in South Asian cuisines, and it works well in herbal infusions and tonics, chai drinks and coffee.2

For a warm and interesting touch, spa cuisine chefs reach for cardamom’s distinct flavor in:

Oatmeal Pumpkin Muffins—Spa Body Makeover, Santa Monica, California;

Pinot Noir Cranberry Sauce—Coastal Trek Health & Fitness Resort, Forbidden Plateau, British Columbia, Canada;

Rock Lobster Curry—Chiva-Som, Bangkok and Hua Hin, Thailand;

Mango, Cardamom and Pistachio Kulfi—Gaia Retreat & Spa, Brooklet, Australia; and

the Omega Sensation Smoothie—See the recipe from Executive Chef Chad Luethje of Miraval, Tucson, Arizona.

In the spa

Cardamom features a variety of health benefits that stem from its high amount of volatile oils, such as borneol, camphor, eucalyptol, limonene and terpinine.1 Along with its whole-body benefits, such as assisting with digestion, bad breath and depression, cardamom’s antioxidant and antiseptic benefits help to cleanse the skin. Additionally, its warming properties make cardamom oil great for massage, although it is better to use it on oil-rich skin, and not on sensitive or allergic skin.

As one of the oldest essential oils, cardamom is used in traditional Chinese medicine as a qi tonic that invigorates the lungs, spleen and nerves, as well as aiding in removing listlessness and depression. It also features an uplifting, spicy and refreshing aroma.3

Its benefits are featured in a variety of spa services aimed at rejuvenating and improving skin, such as:

The Spice Island Massage, which features a stimulating aroma combination of cardamom and nutmeg infused into a massage balm—Spa Oceana, The Don CeSar, St. Pete Beach, Florida;

The Magic of the Silk Route, a service that draws upon techniques and spices from Thailand, India and China, and includes a full-body exfoliation using cardamom and nutmeg—The Spa at The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, Colorado;

The 5-Elements Massage contains essential oils representing each element, with cardamom representing the yin earth element—The Spa at Marina Dunes Resort, Marina, California;

The Spiced Hot Stone Massage balances and restores using traditional spices, including cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and pepper—V-Spa at the Hilton Anatole, Dallas;

The Jivana Body Polish, featuring an exfoliation that soothes and hydrates using an aromatic blend of cardamom, and rose hip and seed oil—Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa, San Diego; and

The Hammam Ritual, a detoxifying ritual body treatment that draws deep impurities from the body for a warm radiance, featuring cardamom amber oil. See the step-by-step how-to from Spa Luce at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel & Spa, Hollywood, California.

Professional skin care products also use the benefits of cardamom oil and seeds.

Skin Authority’s Warming Glow Body Oil blends cardamom, bergamot, jasmine, sweet orange and cedarwood extracts to warm and hydrate the skin.

Red Flower’s Cardamom Amber Oil helps warm the system internally and externally, increasing circulation for calm, nourished, relaxed skin.

Éminence Organic Skin Care’s Pumpkin Cream Body Wrap includes cardamom essential oil for its antibacterial and healing properties.

Elizabeth Van Buren offers Cardamom essential oil for its warming, uplifting and regulatory properties.

Cuccio Naturale’s Rosemary Cardamom Massage Crème stimulates the senses with cardamom while providing hydration without the oily residue.

Sonya Dakar’s Red Grapefruit Wash includes cardamom extract that works with the red grapefruit extract to balance and nourish skin.

Bioelements’ Lip Buff, which exfoliates and helps reduce lines and improve texture around the mouth, features cardamom oil to help soothe and comfort lips.

Healing Herbal Soups’ Metabolism Stimulator Soup stimulates metabolism and warms digestion, using ingredients such as cardamom, butternut squash, nutmeg and Saigon cinnamon.

A touch of the exotic

Many different cultures embrace cardamom for its rich, distinctive flavor and scent, as well as its healing properties for both the skin and soul. For a touch of the exotic, consider adding this special spice to your spa menu to bring a taste of the unique to your clients.





(All accessed Dec 30, 2009)

Related Content



Quick Facts: Cardamom

• In the past, cardamom was considered to have aphrodisiac qualities and was used to make love potions.1

The Arabian Nights, a collection of Middle Eastern stories and folk tales, makes frequent reference to cardamom.1

• Cardamom is also known as cardamon, Grains of Paradise, ela and elachi.1

• Cardamom was an article of trade from India westward, and was mentioned by the ancient Greek philosopher Theophrastus in the fourth century B.C.2

• Whole pounded cardamom boiled with five mint leaves in one cup of water is useful in relieving hiccups.2

Recipe: Omega Sensation Smoothie

From Executive Chef Chad Luethje of Miraval, Tucson, Arizona

Omega Sensation Smoothie

Makes 1 serving, 240 calories, 3 grams of fat


1 teaspoon flaxseed

1 teaspoon hemp seed oil

3⁄4 cup apple juice

1⁄2 banana, broken up

1 teaspoon cardamom

1 teaspoon cinnamon

12 ounces of ice


1. Combine all ingredients in blender, puree and enjoy.

Treatment How-to: The Hammam Ritual

From Spa Luce at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel & Spa, Hollywood, California

The Hammam Ritual is a sensual experience of heat, steam, massage, detoxification, rich scent and relaxation based on the skin care practices of a hammam bath house.

Treatment duration: 80 minutes

Treatment cost: $180

Products needed:

Moroccan mint tea silt purifier

Lemon coffee blossom olive stone scrub

Jasmine rose rhassoul clay polish

Orange quince steam room mist

Cardamom amber oil

Tangerine fig butter cream

Neroli cypress high atlas bath soak

Supplies needed:

1 flat sheet

1 plastic sheet

3 large bath sheets or large towels

7 washcloths (optional)

1 dry washcloth

2 rubber product bowls

1 small bowl

1 table warmer

1 foil sheet (optional)

Before treatment: Dress table with one flat sheet covered by a plastic sheet and one large bath sheet or towel placed on top of that for the client to lie on, as well as one bath sheet to cover the client. Place two tablespoons of Moroccan mint tea silt purifier in a small bowl, and place two tablespoons of lemon coffee blossom olive stone scrub in rubber bowl. Mix three tablespoons of rose jasmine rhassoul clay and two tablespoons of warm water into a soft paste and heat in a hot cabby. Place one ounce of cardamom amber oil in a hot cabby to warm.

Step 1: Greet the client and ask her to fill out a health questionnaire. Discuss any issues that may arise from this information, check for ingredient allergies and remember that this service should not be performed on clients who are pregnant or nursing.

Step 2: Lead the client to a shower area and instruct to shower using Moroccan mint tea silt purifier under steaming water, lathering the whole body with it using warm, wet hands. If you do not have shower facilities, soak six washcloths in hot water with Moroccan mint tea silt purifier, wring out so they are moist, and place in hot cabby.

Step 3: Bring client into the treatment room and ask her to lie on the table face up on top of one large bath sheet or towel. Cover the client with another bath sheet or towel, and ask if there are any particularly sensitive or problem areas of the body.

Step 4: Place a warm, dry washcloth infused with orange quince steam room mist onto the forehead and gently press it into the temples.

Step 5: Beginning at client’s feet and legs, undrape one leg at a time and apply lemon coffee blossom olive stone scrub in vigorous circular strokes toward the heart. Work the scrub onto the entire leg by lifting the limbs as you go. This is an active treatment, so be as physical as you and the client agree upon.

Step 6: Move up to the torso and upper body. Apply scrub more gently to abdomen and chest, using deeper strokes to the tops and undersides of arms.

Step 7: Using a dry washcloth and starting at the feet in circular sweeps toward the heart, begin to dust grains off of the skin.

Step 8: Instruct and assist the client to turn onto one side, and make her comfortable in a side-lying position. Expose the back, and apply the scrub to the back using vigorous strokes, followed by the dry brushing gommage technique described in Step 7. The client should remain in the side-lying position as the towel covering is replaced with a fresh bath sheet. After she lies back down, fully cover the client.

Step 9: Next, apply the rose jasmine rhassoul clay quickly and with a medium pressure touch. Massage with the clay. Cover the client’s back and apply the clay to the backs of the legs. Ask the client to lie on her back and apply the clay to the front of the body, as well. As the rhassoul clay dries and begins to pull impurities from the body, there is a very brief cooling sensation. Depending on the client, a foil covering may or may not be necessary to maintain comfort. Once the clay dries, the cooling subsides.

Step 10: After the clay has dried, if a shower is available in the treatment room, turn it on and instruct the client to thoroughly rinse. If there is no shower available, use warm, wet washcloths to remove clay. Next, redrape the table to prepare for mist and massage.

Step 11: Uncover the client’s legs and delicately mist them with the orange quince steam room mist. Redrape the legs and uncover the arms and chest. Apply the mist. Redrape and compress through towel for comfort.

Step 12: Remove cardamom amber oil from the cabby and undrape the top of the chest. Sit in a comfortable position and provide a generous neck, face and scalp massage using the oil. Massage the arms, abdomen and legs.

Step 13: Apply tangerine fig butter cream all over the body after the massage.

Step 14: Advise the client that the treatment has concluded, ask her to dress, provide her with water and ask her to rest after the treatment.

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