The origins of cardamom are unknown, yet it is believed that it grew as wild herbs in the monsoon forests of the Western Ghats in southern India. Cardamom finds its first mention in the Charak Samhita (an early text on Ayurveda) written somewhere between 2nd century BC and 2nd century AD. The Charak Samhita says that cardamom is an important constituent in many medicines. Later, the spice finds mentions in many Sanskrit texts as being used in rituals and ceremonies.
Small cardamom is grown in India, commercially in plantations, under the shade of tall forest trees at moderately high altitudes in the evergreen forests of the Western Ghats. India is a major producer and consumer of cardamom, holding the second spot in world production; Guatemala taking the top slot. With no domestic consumption, Guatemala also becomes the largest exporter in the world.
Cardamom is widely used as spice, renowned for its flavour and aroma. In south Asia, green cardamom is largely used in traditional Indian sweets and in the making of tea; in Arabia it is used in the preparation of ‘gahwa’—a strong cardamom coffee that is used to welcome guests; in northern Europe, it is an essential ingredient in sweet foods. Therapeutically, cardamom finds varied uses, such as in the treatment of teeth and gum infections, digestive disorders, throat trouble, and skin problems.