"The fruit of Elettaria repens (Sonnérat), Baillon"—(U. S. P.). (Elettaria Cardamomum, Maton; Alpinia Cardamomum, Roxburgh; Amomum repens, Sonnérat; Amomum Cardamomum, White; Renealmia Cardamomum, Roscoe; Matonia Cardamomum, Smith).
COMMON NAMES AND SYNONYMS: Cardamom seeds, Malabar cardamoms; Cardamomum Malabaricum, Cardamomum minus.
ILLUSTRATION: Bentley and Trimen, Med. Plants, 267.
Botanical Source.—Elettaria repens has a knobbed, perennial rhizome, with many fleshy radicles. The stems are numerous, erect, simple, jointed, enveloped in the spongy sheaths of the leaves, and about 4 or 6 feet high. The leaves are bifarious, subsessile on their sheaths, lanceolate, fine-pointed, somewhat villous above, sericeous underneath, entire, 1 or 2 feet long, and nearly ½ foot broad; the sheaths are slightly villous, with a rounded ligula rising above the mouth. There are from 3 to 5 scapes proceeding from the base of the stem, which are from 1 to 2 feet long, lying upon the ground, flexuous and jointed; the branches or racemes are alternate, 1 from each joint of the scape, sub-erect, and 2 or 3 inches long. The solitary bracts are oblong, smooth, membranous, striated, sheathing, and but 1 at each joint of the scape. The flowers are alternate, short-stalked, solitary at each joint of the racemes, opening in succession as the racemes lengthen. The calyx is monophyllous, funnel-shaped, 3-toothed at the mouth, about ¾ of an inch long, striated with fine veins, and permanent. The tube of the corolla is slender, as long as the calyx; limb double, exterior of 3 oblong, concave, nearly equal, pale, greenish-white divisions; inner lip obovate, much longer than the exterior divisions, somewhat curled at the edge, with the apex slightly 3-lobed, and marked chiefly in the center with purple-violet stripes. Filament short and erect; anther double and emarginate. Ovary oval and smooth. Style slender. Stigma funnel-shaped. Capsule oval, somewhat 3-sided, size of a small nutmeg, 3-celled, and 3-valved; seeds pale-brown, coriaceous, and numerous (L.).
History and Description.—Elettaria repens inhabits the mountainous parts of the coast of Malabar, where it grows both cultivated and uncultivated, the cultivated plants generally yielding the commercial cardamoms. (For account of culture, see Pharmacographia). The fruit, which is the official part, is not obtained until the shrub has reached its utmost height, which requires 4 years. The Pharmacopoeia describes cardamoms as "ovoid or oblong, from 10 to 15 Mm. (⅖ to ⅘ inch) long, obtusely triangular, rounded at the base, beaked, longitudinally striate; of a pale-buff color, 3-celled, with a thin, leathery, nearly tasteless pericarp, and a central placenta. The seeds are about 4 Mm. (⅕ inch) long, reddish-brown, angular, rugose, depressed at the hilum, surrounded by a thin, membranous arillus, and have an agreeable odor and a pungent, aromatic taste"—(U.S. P.). They contain about 75 per cent of the seeds which contain the active properties, while their covering, which has very little smell or taste, should be rejected; the aromatic, camphoraceous flavor of the seeds is soon lost when deprived of the capsules covering them.
The length of the commercial cardamoms varies, and on this account dealers have denominated, longs, mediums (short-longs), and shorts. The Malabar, as well as Aleppi fruits, constitute the ovoid varieties, while the longer and more acuminate seeds are the Madras cardamoms.
Chemical Composition.—Water or alcohol takes up the virtues of the seeds, which Trommsdorff found, in 1834, to be due to a colorless, strongly fragrant, volatile oil, of sp. gr. 0.943, which is very soluble in alcohol, ether, oils, and acetic acid; insoluble in potash-lye. It has a hot, camphoraceous, bitter taste, and exists to the extent of 5 per cent and less in Malabar cardamoms (FIückiger, 1891). By keeping, it becomes yellow, viscid, and loses its peculiar taste and smell. It consists chiefly of terpene bodies, whose constitution is C10H16. Crystalline terpin hydrate (C10H16.[H2O]3) was obtained by Dumas and Péligot from oil that had been kept for a considerable length of time. The seeds contain also about 10 per cent of fatty oil, and the ash contains a marked amount of manganese, some starch, gum-like extractive, coloring material, and potassium salts—(Pharmacographia)
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Cardamom seedsare very warm, grateful, pungent and aromatic, and form an agreeable addition to bitter infusions, and other medicinal compounds. They are chiefly employed as a carminative in flatulency, and to flavor syrups, tinctures, etc. Dose of the powder, from 10 grains to 2 drachms; infusion (bruised seeds, ℥j to boiling water, Oss), a wineglassful. As the powder rapidly loses its aromatic property, the seeds should be pulverized from time to time, as they are required for present employment.
Other Cardamoms and Related Seeds.—The following cardamoms are used in Oriental countries, but are not often seen in American commerce:
I. CEYLON CARDAMOM.—This variety is variously known as long, large, and wild cardamom. In the East it is incorrectly termed Grains of Paradise. It is the product of a Ceylon plant, the Elettaria major, Smith, now regarded merely as a variety of Elettaria repens. The fruits are from 1 to 2 inches long, lance-oblong, have 3 flat sides, are sometimes arched, and of a deep gray-brown color. They are terminated with a prolonged apex. They contain more seeds than the Malabar cardamom, and are larger, and differ in taste and odor, being less agreeable. Its properties are similar to those of cardamom, having essentially the same chemical components, sides, according to Flückiger, a dextrogyrate body, apparently like ordinary camphor.
II. ROUND CARDAMOM.—Known also as Cluster cardamoms. This variety is the fruit of Amomum Cardamomum, Linné, growing in the East Indies and in Siam. They grow in compact clusters, are globular or ovate, about the size of a common cherry, and have a somewhat hairy, buff-colored pericarp. The seeds resemble those of Malabar cardamom, but have a more strongly aromatic, camphoraceous taste. They are consumed considerably in South Europe.
III. XANTHIOID CARDAMOM.—This is the fruit of Amomum xanthoides, Wallich, growing in Siam and Tennasserim, and is variously known in English markets as Cardamom seeds, Bastard or Wild cardamom of Siam. They have received their specific name from the fact that the pericarp is thickly covered with fleshy, spinous projections, as in the species of Xanthium. The seeds only appear in market, and resemble those of cardamom, being, perhaps, more finely wrinkled, but differ in flavor.
IV. NEPAL CARDAMOM.—This corresponds almost exactly with the following variety, except that it terminates in a tube-like calyx, of at least the length of the fruit itself, and differs also in being sometimes borne on a short stalk (Pharmacographia). It is produced by an undetermined species of Amomum.
V. BENGAL CARDAMOM.—This variety is known as Morung elachi, Buro elachi, and Winged Bengal cardamom. The fruit has a brown color, is about an inch in length, of ovoid or subobconic form, rounded at the lower end, and has 9 jagged, ridge-like wings near the distal extremity, the latter terminating in a truncated, nipple-like projection. It contains from 60 to 80 highly aromatic and camphoraceous seeds, imbedded in a viscid, sweet pulp. The wings are more readily seen if the seeds be soaked in water. Bengal cardamom is the fruit of Amomum subulatum, Roxburgh.
VI. JAVA CARDAMOM.—A Java plant, the Amomum maximum, Roxburgh, furnishes this variety. They are borne in a globe-like group, each scape having from 30 to 40 fruits. They are conical, or ovoid, stalked, 1 ½ inches in length, by 1 inch in breadth (when fresh), have 9 or 10 conspicuous wings passing the whole length of the fruit, and coarsely dentated, except in the lowermost portions. They are faintly aromatic, and their essential oil is of an inferior quality. They have an edible pulp which is prized by the Javanese.
VII. KORARIMA CARDAMOM.—True cardamomum majus, Korarima, Heil, Guráji spice, Habhal-habashi, Heel habashee. Conical, perforated fruits, resembling inverted figs, and having aromatic, angular seeds resembling in taste and odor those of Malabar cardamoms. They are perforated by the natives so that they may be strung to dry, and in this manner are occasionally used by the Arabs for rosaries. The plant which produces them inhabits eastern Africa, and has not been described by botanists, but Pareira proposed for it the name Amomum Korarima.
VIII. CHINESE CARDAMOM, or Rouna Chinese cardamom.—This is the fruit of the Amomum globosum, Loureiro, and is characterized chiefly by having a rounded side.
IX. MADAGASCAR CARDAMOM.—This fruit is believed to be derived from the Amomum angustifolium, Sonnérat. It is ovate, striated, has one flattened side, is pointed, and presents at the base a broad scar, circular in outline, and surrounded by a raised, wrinkled, and notched border. The taste and flavor resemble those of the official variety.
GRANA PARADISI.—Grains of Paradise, Guinea grains, Melegueta pepper, Piper melagueta. At least 7 species of fruits have at times received the name of grains of Paradise. That now recognized as the true variety is the fruit of Amomum Melegueta, Roscoe, a reed-like plant growing widely distributed along the tropical portions of western Africa. The botanical source of this plant has given rise to much confusion, but as Mr. Daniel Hanbury raised well-developed specimens (from the commercial seeds), which bloomed and bore the perfect fruit, the botanical origin above given seems clear from doubt. It is stated that there are two grades or varieties of seed in market, according to some authorities, both being the fruit of the same plant, while others believe one variety to be derived from Amomum granum paradisi, Afzelius, said to be a Sierra Leone plant. It is the smaller of the two kinds. The commercial grains of Paradise resemble cardamom seeds both in appearance and size, but do not possess a rugose surface. The seeds are variable in shape, but generally are 1/10 inch in diameter. They are somewhat rounded, or blunt-angular, hard, shining, and of a red-brown color. The hilum is not so deeply colored, and that sort referred to as Melegueta pepper or Guinea grains, has an elevated, tufted, beak-like hilum, while the smaller kinds present a broad depressed hilum. Both are faintly aromatic in odor, but have a very hot, peppery taste. Under the name of "grains" they were used as pepper, and as an ingredient of a spiced wine—hippocras—containing also ginger and cinnamon, they were quite popular in the middle ages. Grains of Paradise contains a volatile oil having a fragrant, but non-acrid taste. It is neutral, yellowish in color, and possesses the agreeable odor of the seeds. It dissolves sparingly in alcohol, but is soluble in carbon disulphide. Iodine is dissolved by it. Its formula, according to Flückiger, is C20H32O, and density 0.825 at 15.5° C. (60° F.). The ash is colored greenish through the manganese present. Gum, tannin, starch, and a viscid, brown resin, soluble in acetic acid, have also been obtained from the seeds. Thresh (1884) announced the discovery of the active constituent as a viscid, pale-yellow fluid, without odor, but having a pungent taste, not. so peppery, however, as capsaicin. Grains of Paradise are employed almost wholly in giving tictitious strength to liquors, and in compounding certain veterinary powders.