With the increased availability of CO2 extracts on the market, it is interesting to compare their similarities and differences.  Today I take a look at Cardamom CO2 extract and Cardamom Essential Oil.

Common to both Cardamom CO2 and Cardamom Essential Oil

Name: Cardamom Elettaria cardamomum

Family:   Zingiberaceae

Description:  Cardamom is a perennial herb with lance-shaped leaves borne on long sheathing stems which can grow up to 4 meters. Fruits are produced once the plants are 3 years old and the productive life of the plant can continue for up to fifteen years. The seeds are stored in the fruits until they are required for distillation to prevent oil loss. The time for harvesting the fruits is very important as all the fruits on the same raceme ripen at the same time, and once the fruit has ripened they will split open and the seeds will be dispersed.  Cardamom oils are produced in Guatemala, Sri Lanka, India, Laos, Indonesia, Tanzania, and El Salvador.  Cardamom has been used as a traditional flavouring and food ingredient in many of these countries.  Around 60% of the world’s production of cardamom comes from India.

History/Folklore: Cardamom has been used as a medicine for centuries in India and China.  It is a recognized domestic spice in curry, coffee, cakes, and bread, especially in India, Europe, Scandinavia, the Middle East, and Latin America.  Arctander says that Cardamom is one of the oldest essential oils known as cardamom and its distillation is outlined in the reports of Valerius Cordus dated 1540.   The spice has been used for over 4000 years.  The Ebers Papyrus, dating back to around 1500 BC, chronicles that ancient Egyptians were using it for medicines, embalming, and other ritualistic practices. They also chewed the pods to clean their teeth and freshen their breath.

Differences between Cardamom CO2 vs Cardamom Essential Oil

Method of Extraction
Carbon dioxide as the `solvent` to extract the viscous liquid from the seeds.
Essential Oil: Cardamom essential oil is produced through steam distillation of crushed nearly ripe seeds.

Colour and Appearance
 A transparent fluid extract with a warm brown colour. (Kerkhof)
Essential Oil:
  A colourless to yellow mobile liquid with a complex odour.

 a Complex, layered sweet spicy aroma, very much like the freshly crushed seeds. (Kerkhof)
Essential Oil:
 It can be quite penetrating, camphoraceous, spicy, and warm. (Burfield)  In perfumery, the oil will not only impart spiciness, but also a warm, sweet note which fits into floral bases. (Arctander)

 Waxes, fatty acids and around 90% essential oil with up to  55% terpinyl acetate and  40% 1,8 Cineole.  (Kerkhof)
Essential Oil:
  26.5 – 44.6% 1,8-Cineole, and 29.2 – 39.7% Terpinyl acetate. (Tisserand and Young)


CO2: Hardly any risk of CNS and breathing issues for highly sensitive young children with its relatively low cineole content.  In high sensitivity or severe asthma avoid application near the faces of children and infants. (Kerkhof)  Personally, I would probably still be inclined to avoid its use near the faces of children and infants.  Up to 40% 1,8-cineole seems quite high to me.
Essential Oil:
Essential oils high in 1,8-cineole can cause CNS and breathing problems in young children.  Do not apply to or near the face of infants or children.  (Tisserand and Young)

Indications for Use

CO2:  Coughs, bronchitis, airway congestion, and infections, lung conditions; an immune stimulant; muscle fatigue, muscle spasms, and aches; nausea; lack of appetite, reflux, abdominal cramps.
Essential Oil:
  Coughs and bronchitis; muscular aches and pains; anorexia, colic, cramp, gas, halitosis, heartburn, indigestion, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea; urinary tract infections as well as spasmodic period pain.

  1. Joy Bowles says that cardamom oil is appreciated for its digestive-stimulant properties and its soothing effect on the lungs. 1,8-cineole (oxide) has expectorant properties. Alpha-terpinyl acetate (ester) may contribute antispasmodic properties to the oil, making it useful for indigestion, and also helps release tightness in the chest.

Both the CO2 and the essential oil can be effectively used for emotional and spiritual conditions like stress, tension, nervousness, depression, lack of confidence, feeling cold to the core, and having trouble concentrating.

You might also enjoy the articles on Cardamom Essential Oil, Heartburn and Essential Oils and Dental Care and Oral Hygiene in the Article Archives.

Steffen Arctander, Perfume and Flavor Material of Natural Origin, 1960
Tony Burfield, Natural Aromatic Materials – Odours & Origins, 2000E. Joy Bowles, the A to Z of Essential Oils, 2003
E. Joy Bowles, The Chemistry of Aromatherapeutic Oils, 2003Eden Botanicals Certificate of Analysis for Ginger CO2Leung and Foster, Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients 1996
Ernst Guenther, The Essential Oil, Vol I-V, 1948 reprinted 1972Madeline Kerkhof, CO2 Extracts in Aromatherapy, 2018Tisserand and Young, 2nd Edition Essential Oil Safety, 2014