Cardamom is one of the world’s very ancient spices. It is native to the mountainous rain forests of southwestern India and Sri Lanka where it grows wild. A member of the ginger family, cardamom follows saffron and vanilla as the world’s most expensive spices. Ancient Egyptians chewed cardamom seeds as a tooth cleaner; the Greeks and Romans used it in perfumes. Vikings came upon cardamom a thousand years ago, in Constantinople, and introduced it into Scandinavia, where it continues to remain popular. This highly scented spice has a variety of typical uses, depending on the region. Cardamom has a pleasant flavor and aroma and in India it is used in tea, cool drinks, confectionaries and sweets, as well as vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. People of India consider cardamom to be a digestive aide while Scandinavians employ it as a breath freshener. Cardamom is a popular spice in Northern Africa and Eastern Africa. Cardamom flavors coffee in Saudi Arabia, baked goods in Sweden and ground meat in Norway. The Near East and Scandinavia consume half the world's cardamom. It is more widely used than cinnamon in Sweden. Cardamom coffee is a symbol of Arab hospitality. In the west cardamom essential oil is used as a food flavoring, in perfumery, and for flavoring liquor. The spice is often combined with cloves and cinnamon in all cuisines.