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Sarah-Eve Tremblay, M. Sc. A., chimiste

Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) is part of the Zingiberaceae family, just like ginger, curcuma and plai. It is a perennial shrub that can reach a height of 2,5 meters with thick lateral roots on which the seeds grow. The cardamom seeds are harvested from a pod, from which they are removed prior to be powdered. These are mainly used as a spice for cooking to enhance the taste of curries, coffees, cakes and meats. Essential oil of cardamom is used as flavoring in a variety of foods, drinks, sweets and sauces. Cardamom is mainly grown in southern India, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Guatemala and Morocco [1].

Figure 1. Typical profile for a cardamom essential oil on a DB-5 column. Refer to text for compounds.

Essential oil of cardamom is mostly composed of monoterpenes. One of the main compounds is 1,8-cineole (E) at more than 20%. α-Pinene (A) (0,5%  to 2,5%), sabinene (B) (1% to 5,5 %), myrcene (C) (up to 3%) and limonene (D) (1,4% to 7%) are also part of the monoterpenes present in cardamom essential oil.

Figure 2. Some molecules found in cardamom essential oil. E: 1,8-Cineole G: Terpinen-4-ol H: α-Terpineol I: Linalyl acetate J: α-Terpinyl acetate K: (E)-Nerolidol L: Coronarin E

Some monoterpenic alcohols like linalool (F) between 1% and 7%, terpinen-4-ol (G) between 0,2% and 3%, and α-terpineol (H) up to 8% are also present, as well as monoterpenic esters like linalyl acetate (I) between 1% and 9% and α-terpinyl acetate (J) between 30% and 50%. The essential oil of cardamom is one of the richest in α-terpinyl acetate, which makes it unique. One of the characteristic sesquiterpenes of cardamom is a sesquiterpenic alcohol, (E)-nerolidol (K), which varies from 0,3% to 2%. In certain cases, the presence of coronarin E (L), a diterpene, has also been noticed during routine analyses.

Reference

[1] Singh, G., Kiran, S., Marimuthu, P., Isidorov, V., Vinogorova, V. (2008) Antioxidant and antimicrobial activities of essential oil and various oleoresins of Elettaria cardamomum (seeds and pods), J. Sci. Food Agric. 88: 280-289.

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