Oleum Cardamomi. - Cardamomenol. - Essence de Cardamome.

Origin and Production. Up to the beginning of this century, the official Malabar cardamoms from Elettaria Cardamomum, Maton (var. a minor) were but rarely used for the production of volatile oil.

Wheras formerly this variety was exclusively cultivated on the Malabar coast, it is now also produced in Ceylon and designated Ceylon-Malabar cardamom in commerce. The exports are made up partly of the entire fruit, partly of seeds, the latter being styled "Ceylon cardamom seeds". Upon distillation Malabar cardamoms yield 3,5 to 7 p.c. of oil. It should be noted that the Ceylon cardamom oil is at present distilled exclusively from the Ceylon-Malabar cardamoms3).

Cultivation4). The cardamom fruits are collected from the wild, the half wild, and cultivated plants. In the shady, wooded regions of Canara, Cochin and Travancore the cardamom plant grows at an altitude of 2500 to 5000 ft. It thrives best in a moist, rich, clay soil in protected localities. These conditions are met with in the betel and pepper plantations of Mysore and Canara, also in the cardamom gardens of Ceylon.

1) Chem. Ztg. 34 (1912), 1217.

2) Report of Schimmel & Co. October 1910, 148.

3) Ibidem October 1901, 14 and October 1910, 32.

*) According to Chemist and Druggist 80 (1912), 367. Comp. also Fluckiger, Pharmakognosie, IIIrd ed. Berlin 1891, p. 898; G. Watt, The commercial products of India, London 1908, p. 514 and Oil, Paint and Drug Reporter 76 (1909), No. 12, p.28D; Report of Schimmel & Co. April 1910, 29.

In the wooded districts of Coorg (Mysore), cardamom gardens are established in February by cutting down the trees. Between the individual gardens a 20 to 30 yd. strip of wood is left untouched. In all this, superstition plays an important role. Thus the deforestation must take place on certain days only, and then before 9 o'clock in the morning. The natives also believe that the presence of ebony and nutmeg trees, also of pepper plants, exercise a favorable influence on the development of the cardamom plants. From the fifth year the gardens are in full bearing and after seven additional years the plants begin to show signs of sickness. At this juncture some of the trees that have served as a sort of fence around the garden are felled. The falling trees destroy a large number of cardamom stems, thus inducing the rhizomes to send forth new shoots. The garden then remains productive for another eight years, after which time it has to be replanted.

In Ceylon the methods of cultivation are much more rational. Most of the cardamoms are cultivated in Matala, Medamahan-wara and Hewahata. The place having been selected, the under-brush is removed. Holes 1,5 to 2 ft. in diameter and 12 to 15 inches deep are dug in rows 7 ft. apart, the holes in each row being likewise 7 ft. apart. The rhizomes must not be planted too deep, otherwise they rot. In recent years the cardamom plants are raised more and more from seeds, the Mysore variety being propagated mostly by seedlings. It is remarkable that but few of the seeds germinate. In Ceylon the cardamom plants bear flowers almost the entire year. The harvest begins in August and lasts until April. The fruits are carefully dried by exposure to the sun or, in rainy weather, by artificial means. With the aid of machinery they are deprived of stems and the remnants of the blossoms, then sorted, and in some cases even treated with sulphur dioxide vapors.

The accompanying table supplies information concerning the cultivation of cardamoms in Ceylon and their export during the past ten years.



Export in Engl. lbs.



Export in Engl. lbs.

1901 ....


559 704

1907. . . .


789 495

1902 ....



1908. . . .



1903 ....



1909. . . .


824 008

1904 ....



1910. . . .


639 007

1905 ....



1911 ....


564 819

1906 ....


732 136

Calcutta is one of the large commercial centres for this drug. The annual consumption in India and Burma is estimated at 1000 000 lbs.

Properties. Oil of cardamom is a spicy liquid, the odor being that of cardamoms: d13o0,923 to 0,944; aD +24 to 4-41°; nD20o1,462 to 1,467; A. V. up to 4,0; E. V. 94 to 150; soluble in 2 to 5 vol. and more of 70 p.c. alcohol1).

Composition. In an old Malabar cardamom oil, Dumas and Peligot2) found prismatic crystals of terpinhydrate. No doubt, they owed their formation to terpineol, the presence of which in the oil was shown later. According to Schimmel & Co.3), the high saponification value is due to terpinyl acetate. The analysis of the silver salt of the acid obtained from the saponification liquid agrees with silver acetate. From the saponified oil, fractionation in vacuum (150 to 164° under 14 mm.) yielded crystallizable d-a-terpineol: m. p. 35 to 37°; aD + 81°37' in the super-cooled state. For its identification the following derivatives of terpineol were prepared: dipentene dihydriodide (m. p. 78 to 79o); terpinyl phenylurethane (m. p. 112 to 113°), which is also optically active ([a]D in 10 p.c. alcoholic solution +33°58' at 20°) and the terpineol nitrosochloride. From the last a nitrol-piperidide was obtained, the melting point of which was found at 151 to 152°, hence 8° lower than that of the inactive terpineol nitrolpiperidide.

1) From the variety known as the Ceylon-Mysore cardamom, which is also cultivated in Ceylon, E. J. Parry (Pharmaceutical Journ. 63 [1899], 105) obtained upon distillation 2,6 p.c. of oil, the odor of which could scarcely be distinguished from that of Malabar oil. Its constants were: d15,5° 0,9418; aD + 46°39'

2) Annal. de Chim. et Phys. II. 57 (1834), 335.

3) Report of Schimmel & Co. October 1S97, 10. - Wallach, Liebig's Annalen 360 (1908), 90.

In the lowest fraction cineol was found, which was identified by its iodol compound melting at 112 to 113°.

Malabar cardamom oil does not contain terpinene, but, according to Parry1), it contains limonene.