Alpinia Cardamomum. Cardamom.
Nat. Ord. — Zingiberaceae, Lindley. Scitamineae, Brown. Sex. Syst. — Monandria Monogynia.
The Fruit. Cardamom Seed.
Description. — Alpinia Cardamomum has a tuberous horizontal root or rhizoma, with numerous fleshy fibers, and sending up from eight to twenty erect, simple, smooth, jointed, green and shining, perennial stems, which rise from six to ten feet in night, and bear alternate, spongy, sheathing, leaves. The leaves are bifarious, subsessile on their sheaths, elliptical-lanceolate, fine-pointed, somewhat villous above, sericeous underneath, entire, with strong midribs, and short footstalks, from one to two feet long, and from one to five inches broad. The sheaths are slightly villous, with a rounded ligula rising above the mouth. There are from three to five scapes proceeding from the base of the stem, which are from one to two feet long, lying upon the ground, flexuose and jointed ; the branches or racemes alternate, one from each joint of the scape, sub-erect, and two or three inches long. Bracts solitary, oblong, smooth, membranous, 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 monophyllous, funnel-shaped, three-toothed at the mouth, about three quarters of an inch long, striated with fine veins, 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 longer than the exterior divisions, somewhat curled at the edge, with the apex slightly three-lobed, marked chiefly in the center 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, and three-valved ; seeds pale-brown, coriaceous, numerous.
History. — This plant is a native of the mountains of Malabar, growing spontaneously in the forests after the removal of the undergrowth. The fruit, which is the officinal part, is not obtained until at the end of the fourth year; it is a three-celled capsule, containing numerous seeds. The seeds constitute about 74 parts by weight in the hundred of the fruit or capsules received in commerce. They are small, irregular, angular, rough, of a brown color, and are easily pulverized ; their odor is fragrant, and their taste warm, slightly pungent, and highly aromatic. The capsules are from three to nine lines long, three-sided with rounded angles, ovate-oblong, of a yellowish-white color, and three or four lines in thickness ; they are commonly rejected, although they are slightly aromatic. Water or alcohol extracts the virtues of the seed, which contain a volatile oil, of an agreeable, penetrating odor, and a strong aromatic, camphoraceous, slightly bitter taste. Its specific gravity is 0.945. It undergoes a change, soon becoming deprived of its odor and taste. The oil obtained by percolation of ether through the powdered seeds, and evaporation of the ether, is of a light greenish-brown color, consists of volatile and fixed oils, and keeps better than the oil procured by distillation. The seeds should be allowed to remain in the capsules until wanted, as by this means their aromatic properties are the best preserved.
Properties and Uses. — Cardamom seeds are aromatic, stomachic, and carminative, chiefly used in flatulency, and as an adjuvant or corrective in compound preparations. Dose from ten grains to two drachms.
Off. Prep. — Syrupus Stillingiae Compositus; Tinctura Cardamomi ; Tinctura Cardamomi Composita.