Cinnamon (Cinnamonum verum) is a common spice made from the bark of several varieties of cinnamon tree. Although almost 100 different varieties of the tree exist, the most commonly harvested are Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamonum zeylanicum) and Chinese cinnamon (Cinnamomun aromaticum). Chinese cinnamon, also known as cassia, is less expensive and more popular in North America. Ceylon cinnamon, however, is considered the “true cinnamon,” and many culinary enthusiasts claim it has superior flavor. After harvesting, cinnamon bark is dried and rolled into sheets known as quills. These quills, or cinnamon “sticks,” are available whole or as a ground powder often used in cooking. Cinnamon also has numerous health benefits; it’s been used for thousands of years to treat a variety of ailments.
Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices known to man. In ancient Egypt, the bark was used as a beverage flavoring, medicine and embalming agent. In China, the herb’s use can be dated back to at least 2700 BC. It was mentioned in the Bible, and was once considered more valuable than gold. Cinnamon was one of the most widely used herbs in medieval Europe, and was especially prized for its use as a flavoring in meat and fruit casseroles. Because of the great demand during this time, cinnamon became one of the first commodities traded between the Near East and Europe. Today, cassia is commonly produced in China, Indonesia and Vietnam, and Ceylon cinnamon in India, Brazil, Madagascar, the Caribbean and Sri Lanka.
Cinnamon Health Benefits
Cinnamon has a long history of medicinal use in Eastern and Western cultures, and even modern science has begun to investigate the herb’s healing benefits. It’s medicinal effects are believed to derive from terpenoids found in the bark’s volatile oil. Cinnamon also contains anti-fungal, antibacterial and anti-allergic compounds, and is often used in home and natural remedies for treating fungal and bacterial infections. Some of the most significant benefits of cinnamon include:
- Reducing Inflammation – Cinnamon contains a compound known as cinnamaldehyde that helps prevent blood clotting. This action also helps reduce inflammation.
- Treating Indigestion – One of the most commonly known health benefits of cinnamon is the herb’s ability to relieve indigestion and intestinal gas. Both cinnamon teas and tinctures are equally effective in reducing flatulence.
- Healing Peptic Ulcers – A compound found in cinnamon known as propanoic acid stops the formation of stomach ulcers without reducing the production of gastric acid. Many treatments for peptic ulcers cause a shortage of gastric acid, which leads to indigestion, but cinnamon provides a safe and effective treatment for the ailment.
- Reducing Menstrual Bleeding – Cinnamon tincture was a standard treatment for heavy menstrual bleeding before the 20th century, and can still be used for the same purpose today. The herb stimulates blood flow away from the uterus, which normalizes bleeding and reduces heavy menstrual cycles.
- Treating Yeast Infections – Cinnamon teas and tinctures are both used to successfully treat yeast infections resistant to the prescription drug Diflucan. The herb is also useful for treating thrush, an oral yeast infection. Cinnamon bark oil is often used to treat fungal infections of the respiratory tract, including those caused by Candida albicans.
- Treating Diabetes – Although more studies are needed to prove the extent of cinnamon’s worth in treating diabetes, science has proven that sufferers of the condition benefit from consuming the herb daily. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2007 found that patients taking 6 grams of cinnamon daily experienced reduced blood glucose levels, which may be the result of delayed gastric emptying. (Source: Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jun;85(6):1552-6)
Preparation and Storage
The most common method of consuming cinnamon is to grate it directly onto food, or use it as a ground spice in cooking. The herb can also be made into a tea (see recipe below), or its oil added to hot water. Cinnamon supplements are also available, and should be used according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Store ground cinnamon and cinnamon sticks in tightly-sealed glass containers in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. Ground cinnamon typically lasts for about six months under proper storage conditions, and cinnamon sticks will last about one year. Judge the freshness of cinnamon by its fragrance. If the scent is weak, the cinnamon is likely too old to have much benefit. Cinnamon benefits your health the most when it has a strong, potent aroma.
Although generally considered safe for consumption, even as a food spice, cinnamon does contain moderate amounts of oxalate. Individuals with a history of kidney stones should avoid over-consumption of cinnamon. People with prostate problems and anyone allergic to balsam of Tolu should avoid the use of cinnamon oil.
Cinnamon Tea Recipe
Another health benefit of cinnamon, or folk remedy perhaps, is the herb’s ability to soothe a common cold. This is likely because it reduces inflammation of the respiratory tract, or maybe it’s just the placebo effect. Cinnamon tea is a comforting beverage when you feel a cold coming on, but it’s also a tasty way to consume the herb to take advantage of any of its healing benefits. Use freshly-ground ginger and cinnamon if possible.
- 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- 1 cup hot water
- Add the ginger, cinnamon and lemon juice to the cup of hot water.
- Stir to combine and drink immediately while still hot.
- Drink up to three cups a day, as needed.
Adding More Cinnamon to Your Diet
Ground cinnamon works well for a variety of culinary purposes. Using the spice regularly in cooking is one way to get more into your diet. After all, it certainly can’t hurt, especially if you suffer from painful inflammatory conditions, excessive bleeding or diabetes. Try any of the following methods for consuming more cinnamon:
- Use a cinnamon stick to stir a cup of warm milk, and drink before bed.
- Simmer a cinnamon stick with a cup of soy milk and tablespoon of honey, for a warm, delicious beverage that’s especially soothing on cold nights.
- Have a slice of cinnamon toast for breakfast. Spread a bit of margarine or butter over a piece of toast, and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.
- Add ground cinnamon to curries and other spicy sauces before serving.
- Add ground cinnamon to black beans before serving in tacos or burritos for a unique new flavor.
- Use ground cinnamon in meat dishes to add a Middle-Eastern flavor.
- Sprinkle cinnamon over cookies, cakes, muffins and pastries before baking, or add a bit of the ground spice to the batter.
No related posts.