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Harmful Effects and Drug Interactions of Aromatic Culinary Spices Cardamom, Cinnamom, Clove, and Nutmeg

Updated on December 23, 2018

Asian, especially South Asian, countries have long used culinary spices cardamom, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg as food flavoring agents, herbal medicines, and therapies. They are relatively safe to use in culinary settings, but consuming them to cure or treat ailments require caution.

Cardamom pods and seeds
Cardamom pods and seeds | Source
Cinnamon Sticks
Cinnamon Sticks | Source

Components of Culinary Spices Cardamom, Cinnamon, Clove, and Nutmeg

Cardamom, botanically called Elettaria cardamomum, spices are produced from the plant's green to brown-colored pods and black seeds. Seeds are usually purchased as ground powder. Both pods and seeds emit exotically strong, spicy flavor and odor. The primary components responsible for health benefits are volatile or essential oils eugenol, borneol, cineol, geraniol, limonene, myrcene, sabinene, and terpenene, protein, dietary fiber, B-vitamins, vitamin C, minerals calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc.

Cinnamon, botanically Cinnamomum Zeylanicum, spice is derived from the bark of the tree. Whether in powdered form or as sticks termed quills, cinnamon has a sweet, strong, fragrant flavor and odor. Primary components are essential oils eugenol, pinene, and aldehydes, cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, cinnamyl acetate, cinnamyl alcohol, dietary fiber, vitamins A, B-6, E, and K, minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, sodium, and zinc, and amino acids.

Clove or Syzygium aromaticum produces flower buds that are pungent, spicy, sweet, woody, and warm in flavor and pungent, woody, sweet in odor. Buds are dried before they are sold as spice in whole or powdered form. Components include eugenol, pinene, methyl salicylate, vanillin, tannins, flavonoids, dietary fiber, substantial amounts of vitamins A and C, minerals calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium.

Nutmeg or Myristica fragrans fruit houses tough brown seeds enclosed in red membranes called mace (also used as spice). Both have a warm, somewhat sweet, and spicy flavor, and a distinctively sweet aroma. Nutmeg spice is sold whole, in powdered form or as butter. Its components include essential oils camphene, pinene, borneol, limonene, geraniol, myristicin, macelignan, and terpenene, flavonoids, protein, dietary fiber, vitamins A, B-complex, C, E, and K, minerals calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc.

How to grow Cardamom Plant from seeds...

Whole Cloves
Whole Cloves | Source
Whole Kernels of Nutmeg
Whole Kernels of Nutmeg | Source

Health Benefits Provided by Culinary Spices Cardamom, Cinnamon, Clove, and Nutmeg

Many of the ailments treated by those powerful components are supported by scientific research. Cardamom has proven to be successful in fighting cardiovascular and blood pressure issues (studies published in the Indian Journal of Biochemistry and Biophysics, December 2009), cancer, especially skin cancer (studies in the British Journal of Nutrition, September 2012), gastrointestinal, kidney, and epileptic issues (studies published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, February 2008). Studies also show cardamom spice acts as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, antidepressant, anti-dental disease, detoxifying, and aphrodisiac agent.

Cinnamon research shows that it enhances brain function (2006 United States Wheeling Jesuit University article: “Professor’s Study Finds that Peppermint and Cinnamon Lower Frustration and Increase Alertness in Drivers”), controls blood sugar and diabetes (studies conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center, Beltsville, Maryland), is a cancer prohibitor (Leukemia and Lymphoma study published by United States Department of Agriculture, Maryland), treats cardiovascular and blood pressure issues (Study: “Glycated Hemoglobin and Blood Pressure-Lowering Effect of Cinnamon in Multi-ethnic Type 2 Diabetic patients in UK,” Akilen R, Tsiami A, Devendra D, Robinson N; October 2010), decreases risks of heart disease for consumers of a high-fat diet (study presented by Vijaya Juturu, Ph.D., et al. of OmniActive Health Technologies Inc, Morrison, N J at the American Heart Association’s Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology/ Peripheral Vascular Disease 2017 Scientific Sessions, Minneapolis, MN), treat muscle spasms, gastrointestinal, and erectile issues (United States National Library of Medicine), Alzheimer’s Disease (study conducted by Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University, Israel), and Multiple Sclerosis (Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois). Research also show cinnamon to be a pain reliever, including pre-menstrual and menstrual, and an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antiseptic agent.

Clove research has demonstrated the spice’s effectiveness in dental care (2006 Journal of Dentistry study: “Clove oil works same as benzocaine without side effects”), prevention of type 2 diabetes (2006 study by Richard A. Anderson, Ph.D. from United States Department of Agriculture, Beltsville, MD), prevention of cancer and improved memory (“Clove [Syzygium aromaticum]: a precious spice,” Cortes-Rojas, Diego Francisco, Fernandes de Souza, Claudia Regina, et al; Asian Pac J Trop Biomed; Feb 2014; 4 (2); 90-96; U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health), treating cardiovascular issues (study published in the New England Journal of Medicine: “Scientists Uncover Miracle Food that Stops Heart Disease…,” Booth Hubbard, Syliva; Miguel Hernandez University, Spain; Newsmax Media, April 2013), staving off infections (“Antimicrobial Activity of Clove and Rosemary Essential Oils Alone and in Combination,” Fu Y, Zu Y, Chen L, et al; Phytotherapy Research. 2007; 21 (10); 989-994), staving off indigestion and other gastrointestinal diseases (article: “Health Benefits of Cloves,” Dr. Edward Group, DC NP DACBN; Dec 4, 2015 update). Cloves have also been proven to treat earaches and headaches.

Nutmeg studies reveal it to be a memory and brain function enhancer, anticarcinogen, antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-depression, detoxifier, and cholesterol regulator (article: “Myristica Fragrans: A Comprehensive Review,” Tripathi Nagja, Kumar Vimal, Acharya Sanjeev; International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. 2016; 8 (2); 27-30), to treat insomnia (study: “Enhancement of ethanol-induced sleep by whole oil of nutmeg,” Sherry CJ; Experentia. 1978; 34 (4); 492-493), treat impotency (“Lauric acid and myristic acid prevent testosterone-induced hyperplasia in rats,” SV Veeresh Babu, B Veeresh, Anup A Patil, et. al; European Journal of Pharmacology. 2010; 626 (2-3); 262-265), and treat skin diseases (study by Spain’s Provital Group, specializing in “environmentally-sound products,” Elevate Magazine. Sept 17, 2014). Nutmeg has also been proven to relieve pain, halitosis, and food allergies.

Side Effects and Drug Interactions of Culinary Spices Cardamom, Cinnamon, Clove, and Nutmeg

While the health benefits provided by cardamom, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg are tremendous, the United States Food and Drug Administration has not sanctioned any of them for medical treatments. So, it’s prudent to consider possible side effects and drug interactions.

Ground Cardamom
Ground Cardamom | Source

Cardamom

Side Effects

Cardamom spice is relatively safe as culinary flavoring. Though there’s little research to substantiate its side effects and interaction with drugs, the use of cardamom as medicine may not be for everyone.

Cardamom can trigger allergic reactions. Symptoms to look for include runny nose, watery eyes, swelling, hives, difficulty in breathing, and chest pain.

Ingesting large amounts can result in overdosing and/ or gallstone production due to the body’s inability to absorb it. If this happens, you can experience pain, infection, and bleeding.

Cardamom can also cause ulcers.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and children should use cardamom with extreme caution.

Drug Interaction

Cardamom should not be consumed if you’re taking anticoagulants, anti-platelet, antidepressant, gallstone, liver, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) medications or aspirin.

Ground Cinnamon
Ground Cinnamon | Source

Cinnamon

Side Effects

For people with cinnamon sensitivities, ingesting the spice can lead to runny nose, watery eyes, swelling, nausea, dizziness, lowers blood pressure, and other symptoms of anaphylactic shock.

Ingesting too much can result in kidney and liver toxicity and disease, nausea, headaches, difficulty breathing, elevated body temperature, and inflammation.

Ingesting over a period can cause cinnamon buildup and toxicity.

You can also develop increased heart rate, especially if you suffer from heart disease; irritable stomach or ulcers, especially if you’re susceptible; blood sugar decrease, which can create problems, especially before and after surgical procedures.

If you’re a Lyme disease patient, consuming cinnamon can worsen your symptoms.

If you’re pregnant, consuming cinnamon can induce uterine contractions, leading to premature labor or abortion.

These findings are supported by research from the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, 2006: “Using Dietary Supplements Wisely,” https://nccih.nih.gov/health/supplements/wiseuse.htm.

Drug Interaction

Cinnamon spice should be avoided if you’re on medication for diabetes, liver disease; heart disease (anticoagulants), and antibiotics.

Clove fruits and Seeds

Ground Cloves
Ground Cloves | Source

Clove

Side Effects

Like culinary spices cardamom and cinnamon, consumption of clove is generally safe. But some people can have allergic reactions with symptoms as rash, difficulty breathing, itching, and anaphylactic shock (Medline Plus, subsidiary of the National Institute of Health: “Clove Oil Side Effects”).

Too much clove can cause decrease the blood’s ability to clot and lead to bleeding, especially in those with bleeding ailments. It should also be avoided before and directly after surgery (Research conducted by Creighton University of Medicine, Omaha, Nebraska).

Overdosing on clove can cause toxicity issues as kidney and liver disease or failure, nausea, sore throat, seizures, intestinal issues, and lung fluid buildup.

Used over time, you can develop inflammation, and pain in the mouth (gums, teeth) and mucous membranes.

Clove can reduce blood sugar significantly, especially in diabetics.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women and children should use clove with great caution.

Drug Interaction

Cloves should be avoided if you’re taking anticoagulants, anti-platelets, ibuprofen, or aspirin.

Ground Nutmeg
Ground Nutmeg | Source

Teens using nutmeg to get high

Nutmeg

Side Effects

Large doses of nutmeg can be toxic (article: “Myristica Fragrans: A Review; Toxicity of Myristica Frangans,” V. Kuete. Medicinal Spices and Vegetables from Africa. Feb 2017; Academic Press; chapter 23) and result in dry mouth, nausea, irritable stomach, vision impairment, dizziness, disorientation, chest pain, convulsions, and seizures.

Nutmeg has been known to act as a stimulant or a depressant, causing hallucination.

The spice can also induce premature labor. So, pregnant women should avoid consuming it.

Breastfeeding women and children should use nutmeg with utmost caution.

Drug Interaction

Nutmeg spice does not react well with drugs for psychiatric conditions, epilepsy, and liver disease.

Harmful Effects and Drug Interactions of Aromatic Culinary Spices Cardamom, Cinnamon, Clove, and Nutmeg

AROMATIC CULINARY SPICES
HARMFUL EFFECTS
DRUG INTERACTIONS
Cardamom
(1) Allergic reaction: runny nose, watery eyes, swelling, hives, difficulty breathing,, chest pain. (2) Ingesting large amounts: overdosing or gallstones with pain, bleeding, and infection. (3) Ulcers. (4) Pregnant and breastfeeding women should exercise caution. (5) Children should exercise caution.
Interfares with anticoagulants, anti-platelet, antidepressant, gallstone, liver, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) medications, and aspirin.
Cinnamon
(1) Allergic reaction: runny nose, watery eyes, swelling, nausea, dizziness, lowers blood pressure, other symptoms of anaphylactic shock. (2) Ingesting large amounts: kidney and liver toxicity or disease, nausea, headaches, difficulty breathing, elevated body temperature, inflammation. (3) Ingesting over time: toxicity due to cinnamon buildup. (4) Increased heart rate, especially in heart disease patients. (5) Ulcers, stomach irritations. (6) Worsen symptoms of Lyme disease. (7) Pregnant women may incur uterine contractions and premature labor.
Interfares with diabetes, liver disease, heart disease medications and antibiotics.
Clove
(1) Allergic reaction: as above, including rash and itching. (2) Ingesting large amounts: decreases blood clotting ability, so clove should be avoided before and after surgery. (2) Overdosing: kidney and liver toxicity, disease, or failure, nausea, sore throat, seizures, intestinal issues, lung fluid buildup. (4) Ingesting over time: inflammation, mouth and mucous membranes pain. (5) Reduce blood sugar, especially in diabetics. (6) Pregnant and breastfeeding women should exercise caution. (7) Children should exercise caution.
Interfares with anticoagulants, anti-platelets, ibuprofen, and aspirin.
Nutmeg
(1) Ingesting large amounts: dry mouth, nausea, irritable stomach, vision impairment, dizziness, disorientation, chest pain, convulsions, seizures. (2) Acts as a stimulant or a depressant, causing hallucinations. (3) Induces premature labor. (4) Breastfeeding women should exercise caution. (5) Children should exercise caution.
Interfares with psychiatric, epileptic, and liver disease medications.

Medical Disclaimer

As with any product you are thinking of using for medicinal purposes, consult a health professional first. This article is strictly for information.

Favorite Aromatic Culinary Spice

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