Perfume ingredient: What is Cardamom?

Perfume ingredient: What is Cardamom?

Cardamom, (noun) ˈkär-də-məm, -ˌmäm

Rich, sweet and spicy cardamom is often described as balsamic in character. It blends well with citrus, rose and bergamot. No wonder this fragrance ingredient combination is a popular one, often found in the Oriental family of perfumes.

The use of cardamom oil dates back to Vedic times, about 3,000 BC, and it was made mention of some 1,500 years later too in ancient Ayurvedic texts. 

In medicine and cooking

We’re still smitten. In medicine, cardamom is used as an aromatic stimulant but also for its stomach-calming properties. Extracts of the seed have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory qualities.
In the kitchen, cardamom fruit and seeds are prized for their warmth and spice, whether used in chai tea or to spice up a rice pudding. In many parts of the world, especially Saudi Arabia, cardamom is ground and served along with coffee for a richer, more aromatic brew than your standard java. 

A perfume ingredient

In perfumery, cardamom as a fragrance ingredient offers up the same exoticism: warmth, spice and richness.

Cardamom oil comes from the fragrant seeds of the “Elettaria cardamomum” botanical (small cardamom), a tall perennial plant belonging to the ginger family. There is also Amomum subulatum (large cardamom).

Perfume from the plant

The plant grows up to 4 feet in height and sports small yellow flowers. The cardamom grows fruit, which take about three years to mature, and within this fruit are seeds from which the cardamom oil is drawn. Just before the fruit has ripened, the oil is collected from the seeds via steam distillation. 

The seeds yield little oil, hence cardamom wins the distinction as one of the most expensive extracts in the world — the third most expensive, in fact, right behind saffron and vanilla.

Perfume geography

Cardamom often grows wild and has been harvested for centuries — in South India, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania and Guatemala. The larger variety, known as Nepal cardamom, is cultivated in select regions in India.

Currently, India and Guatemala remain as two of the world’s largest suppliers of cardamom, with Indonesia recently emerging as a dominant exporter of the crop.

All that to say that if you need a little spice in your life, try a cardamom-infused fragrance.

Fragrances with cardamom notes include Yves Rocher Ambre Noir, Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet, and Lise Watier India.

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This article was written by

Deborah Fulsang has spent the last two decades as a journalist covering news and trends in the worlds of style—in fashion and beauty, design and décor, food and entertaining. Her long-held love of fragrance led her to launch The Whale & The Rose, a destination for all things perfume-related. Now, when she indulges in a crazy-expensive bottle of fragrance, she can do so guilt-free. Well almost. It’s all in the name of research after all.