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91. Elettaria cardamomum, Maton.—The True or Officinal Cardamom.

Botanical name: 

Fig. 261-263. Malabar Cardamoms. Alpinia Cardamomum, Roxb. L.—Renealmia Cardamomum, Rose.—Amomum Cardamomum, D.
Sex. Syst. Monandria, Monogynia.
(Semen, L.—The fruit; Cardamoms, Ed.—The seeds, D.)

History.—A medicine, called Cardamom (καρδαμωμον), is mentioned by Hippocrates, [Pages 265, 572, 603, 651, ed. Foes.] Theophrastus, [Hist. Plant, lib. xi. cap. vii.] and Dioscorides, [Lib. i. cap. 5.] the first of whom employed it in medicine. But it is now scarcely possible to determine what substance they referred to, as their notices of it are brief and imperfect; though I believe it to have been one of the fruits which we call cardamoms. Pliny [Hist. Nat. lib. xii. cap. xxix. ed. Valp.] speaks of four kinds of cardamoms, but it is almost impossible to ascertain with any certainty what species he refers to.

Botany. Gen. Char.—The same as that of Amomum, but the tube of the corolla filiform, and the anther naked (Blume).

Sp. Char.—Leaves lanceolate, acuminate, pubescent above, silky beneath. Spikes lax. Scape elongated, horizontal. Lip indistinctly three-lobed (Blume).

Rhizome with numerous fleshy fibres. Stems perennial, erect, smooth, jointed, enveloped in the spongy sheaths of the leaves; from six to nine feet high. Leaves subsessile on their sheaths, entire; length from one to two feet. Sheaths slightly villous, with a roundish ligula rising above the mouth. Scapes several (three or four) from the base of the stems, flexuose, jointed, branched, one to two feet long. Branches or racemes alternate, one from each joint of the scape, suberect, two or three inches long. Bracts solitary, oblong, smooth, membranaceous, striated, sheathing, one at each joint of the scape. Flowers alternate, short-stalked, solitary at each joint of the racemes, opening in succession as the racemes lengthen. Calyx funnel-shaped, three-toothed at the mouth, about three-quarters of an inch long, finely striated, permanent. Tube of corolla slender, as long as the calyx; limb double, exterior of three oblong, concave, nearly equal, pale greenish-white divisions; inner lip obovate, much larger than the exterior divisions, somewhat curled at the margin, with the apex slightly three-lobed, marked chiefly in the centre with purple violet stripes. Filament short, erect; anther double emarginate. Ovary oval, smooth; style slender, stigma funnel-shaped. Capsule oval, somewhat three-sided, size of a small nutmeg [!], three-celled, three-valved. Seeds many, angular (Roxburgh).

Hab.—Mountainous part of the coast of Malabar.

Production.—Cardamoms are produced naturally or by cultivation. Between Travancore and Madura they grow without cultivation, [Hamilton (Buchanan], Journey through Mysore, Canara, and Malabar, vol. ii. p. 336.] and also at certain places in the hills which form the lower part of the Ghaûts in Cadutinada and other northern districts of Malayata. [Hamilton, op. cit., vol. ii. p. 510.] The cardamoms of the Wynaad, which are esteemed the best, are cultivated: the spots chosen for the cardamom farms are called Ela-Kandy, and are either level or gently sloping surfaces on the highest range of the Ghaûts after passing the first declivity from their base. [White, Trans, of Lin. Soc. vol. x. p. 237.] "Before the commencement of the periodical rains, in June, the cultivators of the cardamom ascend the coldest and most shady sides of a woody mountain; a tree of uncommon size and weight is then sought after, the adjacent spot is cleared of weeds, and the tree felled close at its root. The earth, shaken and loosened by the force of the fallen tree, shoots forth young cardamom plants in about a month's time." [Capt. Dickson, in Roxburgh's Fl. Indica.]

The quantity of cardamoms brought for sale at Malabar is about 120, or, according to another account, only 100 candies, from the following places: [Hamilton, op. cit., vol. ii. p. 538.]

Candies of 640 lbs.Candies of 640 lbs.
Cadutinada or Cartinaad32

The cardamoms of the Wynaad are shorter, fuller of seed, and whiter, than those of Malabar, and sell for 100 rupees a candy more. Those of Coorg have fewer fine grains, but they have also fewer black or light ones. The cardamoms of Sersi (western part of Soonda) are inferior to those of Coorg. [Hamilton, op. cit., vol. ii. p. 538, and vol. iii. p. 228.]

Description.—The fruit of the Elettaria Cardamomum constitutes the small, officinal Malabar cardamom (cardamoms, Ed.; cardamomum minus, Clusius, Matthiolus, Bontius, Geoffroy, Dale, Geiger, Th. Martius, and Guibourt; cardamomum malabarense). It is an ovate oblong, obtusely triangular capsule, from three to ten lines long, rarely exceeding three lines in breadth; coriaceous, ribbed, grayish or brownish yellow. It contains many angular blackish or reddish-brown rugose seeds (cardamomum, L.; cardamomum excorticatum, Offic.), which are white internally, have a pleasant aromatic odour, and a warm, aromatic, agreeable taste.[For some drawings of the minute structure of the seeds, vide Bischoff's Handb. d. botanik. Terminal. tab. xliii. Figs. 1876 and 1954.] 100 parts of the fruit yield 74 parts of seeds and 26 parts of pericarpial coats. [Th. Martius, Pharmakogn.]

Three varieties of Malabar cardamoms are distinguished in commerce; viz. shorts, short-longs, and long-longs. The two latter differ from each other in size merely.

α. Shorts. Malabar cardamoms, properly so called; Petit cardamome (Guibourt); ? Wynaad cardamom (Hamilton); Prima species Elettari plane rotunda et albicans (Rheede). [Rheede, pars xi. tab. 4, 5, and 6.]—From three to six lines long, and from two to three lines broad; more coarsely ribbed, and of a browner colour, than the other varieties. This is the most esteemed variety.

β. Short-longs. Secunda species Elettari oblongior sed vilior (Rheede).—Differs from the third variety in being somewhat shorter and less acuminate.

γ. Long-longs. Moyen cardamome (Guib.): Tertia species Elettari vilissima et plane acuminata (Rheede).—From seven lines to an inch long, and from two to three lines broad: elongated, somewhat acuminate. This, as well as the last variety, is paler and more finely ribbed than var. α. shorts. The seeds also are frequently paler (in some cases resembling those of the Ceylon cardamom) and more shrivelled.

The three sorts are brought from Bombay in chests. The shorts are usually the dearest, and fetch from 3d. to 6d. per lb. more than the longs. The long-longs are seldom brought over. From Madras, only long cardamoms (usually short-longs, rarely long-longs) are brought: they are generally packed in bags, and are lighter by weight than the Bombay sort, and usually fetch 3d. per lb. less than the latter.

Composition.—The small cardamom was analyzed by Trommsdorff in 1834. [Journ. de Chim. Méd. t. i. p. 196, 2nde Sér.] He obtained the following results: Essential oil 4.6, fixed oil 10.4, a salt of potash (malate?) combined with a colouring matter 2.5, fecula 3.0, nitrogenous mucilage with phosphate of lime 1.8, yellow colouring matter 0.4, and woody fibre 77.3.

1. Volatile or Essential Oil of Cardamom.—Is obtained from the seeds by distilling them with water. 50 lbs. of good short Malabar cardamoms yielded, at one operation, about fℨviss of oil for every lb. of fruit. [Private information.] It is colourless, has an agreeable odour, and a strong, aromatic, burning taste. Its sp. gr. is 0.943. It is very soluble in alcohol, ether, oils (both fixed and volatile), and acetic acid. It is insoluble in potash-ley. By keeping, it becomes yellow, viscid, and loses its peculiar taste and smell. It then detonates with iodine, and takes fire when placed in contact with concentrated nitric acid. On this oil depend the odour, flavour, and aromatic qualities of the seeds. Its composition is analogous to that of oil of turpentine, being C10H8.

2. Fixed Oil of Cardamom.—Is insoluble in alcohol, ether, and the oils, both fixed and volatile. Nitric acid, assisted by heat, reddens it. It has some analogy to castor oil.

3. Starch.—Schleiden says that in these seeds he has discovered amorphous paste-like starch in the cells.

Physiological Effects.—The effects of cardamoms are those of a very agreeable and grateful aromatic, devoid of all acridity.

Uses.—Cardamoms are employed partly on account of their flavour, and partly for their cordial and stimulant properties. They are rarely administered alone, but generally either as adjuvants or correctives of other medicines, especially of stimulants, tonics, and purgatives.

Administration.—Though cardamoms enter into a considerable number of pharmaceutical compounds, only two preparations derive their names from these seeds. They are the following:—

1. TINCTURA CARDAMOMI, E. [U. S.]; Tincture of Cardamoms.—(Cardamon seeds, bruised, ℥ivss [℥iv, U. S.]; Proof Spirit Oij [Diluted Alcohol, U. S.]. Macerate for seven days [fourteen, U. S.], and strain. "This tincture may be better prepared by the process of percolation in the same way with the tincture of capsicum, the seeds being first ground in a coffee-mill," E.)—This compound is agreeably aromatic. It is used as an adjunct to cordial, tonic, and purgative mixtures. Dose fℨj to fℨij.

2. TINCTURA CARDAMOMI COMPOSITA, L. E. D. [U.S.]; Compound Tincture of Cardamoms.—(Cardamom seeds bruised, Caraway seeds bruised, of each ℨiiss [ℨss, D.]; Cochineal, powdered, ℨijss [ℨij D., ℨj, E.]; Cinnamon, bruised, ℨv [ℨj, D.]; Raisins [stoned] ℥V [E.]; Proof Spirit Oij [Oiij, D.]. Macerate for seven [fourteen, D.] days, and filter. "This tincture may also be prepared by the method of percolation, if the solid materials be first beat together, moistened with a little spirit, and left thus for twelve hours before being put into the percolator," Ed. The Dublin College omits the cochineal and raisins. [Take of Cardamon, bruised, six drachms; Caraway, bruised, two drachms; Cinnamon, bruised, five drachms; Raisins, deprived of their seeds, five ounces; Cochineal, bruised, a drachm; Diluted Alcohol two pints and a half. Macerate for fourteen days, express, and filter through paper, U. S.])—This tincture is used for the same purposes and in the same doses as the former preparation, over which it has the advantage of a more agreeable flavour. Moreover, its colour often renders it useful in prescribing.

The Elements of Materia Medica and Therapeutics, Vol. II, 3th American ed., was written by Jonathan Pereira in 1854.