ELA (Elettaria cardamomum)Ayurvedic texts mention two varieties of ela as Ela dvaya, namely, suksma (small) and brhat (big). The small variety is commonly used in medicines, whereas, the big variety in spices. Maharsi Caraka has categorized ela as svasahara – anti-asthmatic, angamarda prasamana – relieves bodyache and as sirovirecana – useful in cleansing nasal therapy. Ela is used in many parts of the world since ancient times. Caraka and Susruta both make mention of it as smasahara and in mahakasaya.
Ela grows in the humid forests of India and is cultivated throughout athe country. A large perennial herb, with thick fleshy or woody rhizome, gives off fibrous roots below. The leaves large, alternate, sheating and are distichously arranged. The flowers are rather small, stalked, and laxly arranged about 4 together in small racemes. The fruits are trilocular, subglobose capsules, marked with fine ribs. The seeds several in each cell, angular, closely packed, brownish, covered by a thin mucilaginous membrane.
The botanical name of ela is Elettaria cardamomum and it belongs to family Scitaminaceae, Zingiberceae. The plant shows much diversity in the size and percentage of the different chemical constituents of the volatile oil in the seeds, and in the geographical area of cultivation. Two varities, elettaria cardamomum var major Thwaits (this is the indigenous variant found in Sri Lanka) and Elettaria cardamomum var minor) Syn– E. cardamomum var miniscula Burkill) comprises all cultivated species in India.
The presence of pinene, sabinene, myrcene, cineol, limonene, cymene, heptenone, linalool, linalyl acetate, terpineol, borneol, geraniol, nerol, neolidol, heptacosane is detected in essential oil. From the essential oil of fruits and leaves a pinens, caphene, limonene, pcymene, terpinene and a-terpineol have been isolated.
Suksma ela (E. cardamomum var minor) is pungent and sweet in taste, sweet in the post digestive effect and has cold potency. It alleviates kapha and vata dosas. It possessed light and dry attributes. It is useful in cough, asthma, dysuria, tuberculosis and piles. It is an appetizer, vermicide and improves the sensation of taste.
Brhat ela (E. cardamomum var major Thwaits) is pungent in taste, pungent in the post digestive effect and has hot potency. It possesses light and dry attributes. It is an appetizer and vermicide. It is useful in nausea, pruritus, thirst, raktapitta, vomiting etc.
The seeds of ela have great medicinal value. Externally, the paste is applied in headache, caused due to vitiated kapha. Ela is an effective gargle in bad smell of oral cavity and dental ailments. The paste is also beneficial in the skin diseases, chronic ulcers and pruritus. Ela oil is used with great benefit in toothache due to infections.
Internally, ela is used in vast range of diseases. In digestive ailments like anorexia, flatulence, distaste, halitosis and excessive thirst, ela is extremely useful. The decoction of ela effectively controls vomiting and improves digestion. In flatulence due to vata, ela is the best carminative commonly used. The combination of ela and sunthi (0.5 gm each), given along with honey, wards off the blocked phlegm in cough. The roasted fruit skin of ela, powdered and mixed with ghee and sugar effectively controls the bouts of cough. In dysuria, the seed powder works well, when given with honey. The cough, asthma due to kapha is treated with ela, rock salt, ghee and honey. In menorrhagia and raktapitta, the mixture of ela, jatiphala, kunkuma, vamsalocana, nagakesara and sankhajiraka is recommended with ghee, rock candy, along with milk. Ela also serves to relieve the burning sensations in skin diseases and fevers. Vomiting due to vitiated kapha is mitigated with ela powder and honey. Ela and hingu given with ghee and milk, augment seminal fluids.
Classical Ayurvedic Preparations
- Eladi curna
- Eladi vati
- Eladi kvatha
- Eladi modaka
- Sitopaladi curna
- Avipattikara curna etc.