Cinnamon is one of the most universally known spices available today. It appears in both powder and in sticks. The cinnamon stick is actually the brown bark which is dried and rolled into what is also known as a quill.
As plentiful as cinnamon seems to be, it is a surprising fact that real cinnamon is hard to get. Most cinnamon sold in the U.S. is really cassia, also known as Chinese cinnamon. To find real cinnamon, go to a spice or health food shop. It is grown in Sri Lanka and is called Ceylon cinnamon after the former name for Sri Lanka. Today the country exports 10,000 to 12,000 metric tons annually.
Cinnamon has a long history dating back to 2800 BC in China. The name comes from the Greek word kinnamomon. It is mentioned four times in the Bible, famous for its fragrance. The priests used it in their holy anointing oil (Exodus 30:23). It was also used simply because of its fragrant smell (Proverbs 7:17; Song of Solomon 4:14; Revelation 18:13). Cinnamon gets its flavor and scent from cinnamaldehyde, a compound in the bark.
Ancient Egypt was famous for their skill in embalming, a process which used cinnamon. They also used it in medicines and flavorings for drinks and food. Cinnamon became expensive by the Middle Ages and was a major indication of a person’s social status.
Cinnamon is best known as a spice but it also has medicinal value. LDL cholesterol can be lowered significantly when a person takes .5 teaspoons a day. Cinnamon can also benefit people with Type 2 diabetes by helping to regulate blood sugar. It also helps to stop certain types of yeast infections.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture in Maryland showed that cinnamon reduced the spread of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells. Cinnamon also has an anti-clotting effect on the blood. At Copenhagen University, researchers found that in just one week cinnamon was effective in reducing arthritic pain. It also inhibits bacterial growth and food spoilage, making it a natural food preservative.
Cinnamon is a good source of iron, fiber, calcium, and manganese. Calcium and fiber together help remove bile and thus help prevent colon cancer and damage to colon cells. The fiber relieves constipation and problems caused by irritable bowel syndrome. Cinnamon even helps our brains reason and memory, and helps to fight E. coli bacteria found in some unpasteurized juices.
Cinnamon has been used to treat yeast infections of the mouth and vagina, stomach ulcers, and head lice. Components of the essential oils are responsible for these healing qualities. Cinnamon also fights bacteria, fungi, and parasites.
In addition to the active components in its essential oils and its nutrient composition, cinnamon has also been valued in energy-based medical systems, such as traditional Chinese medicine, for its warming qualities. Cinnamon has also been used to provide relief when faced with the onset of a cold or flu, especially when mixed in a tea with some fresh ginger.
Some suggestions on using cinnamon: Enjoy cinnamon toast with a healthy twist. Drizzle flax seed oil onto whole wheat toast and then sprinkle with cinnamon and honey. Simmer cinnamon sticks with soy milk and honey for a deliciously warming beverage. Adding ground cinnamon to black beans to be used in burritos or nachos will give them a uniquely delicious taste. Healthy saute lamb with eggplant, raisins and cinnamon sticks to create a Middle Eastern inspired meal. Add ground cinnamon when preparing curries.
A few cautions are in order. Don’t think that because a little cinnamon is good for you, a lot is better. Large amounts can be toxic. Cinnamon should not be used in place of prescription medicines either. If you want to keep cinnamon fresh, store it in a tightly sealed glass container in a dark, cool, and dry place. The smell of it will tell you if it is fresh and sweet.