Warm, Spicy Aroma of Cinnamon

The warm, spicy aroma of cinnamon wafting from baked goods and hot apple cider is one of the first and welcome signs of autumn. An ancient and beloved spice, we have long valued cinnamon to enliven cuisine, create exotic perfumes, and as a staple spice rack remedy.

Though many species of cinnamon exist, the most common is Cassia {cinnamomum cassia}, known also as Chinese cinnamon, and Ceylon {Cinnamomum zylanicum}, which is a related species of tropical evergreen trees in the Lauraceae family native to East and Southeast Asia. While Cassia is most familiar to the United States, its cousin Ceylon is considered “true” cinnamon and more popular in Europe and Mexico.

cinnamon two types

First appearing in Traditional Chinese Medical texts over 4,000 years ago, cinnamon was used to boost the immune system and unblock yang qi. The Egyptians prized it as food, perfume, and incense while Ayurvedic practitioners found it helpful with digestive disorders. Introduced to Western Europe by the returning crusaders, medieval physicians prescribed cinnamon as an expensive cure-all; eighth-century English Benedictine monk Bede the Venerable found it “effective in curing disorders of the guts.” Cinnamon stirred into milk was an old-country cure for dysentery, and a “strengthening tonic” of cinnamon was popular for fatigue, melancholy, cholera, and tuberculosis.

cinnamon broom

Associated with fire and sun, cinnamon was employed to connect with the spiritual realm and enhance folk magic, and it was burned as incense in ancient Greek and Roman temples. It featured in love potions and charms to draw happiness and money, and in one enduring custom, homeowners hung a cinnamon broom, bristles down, above the door to bring positive energy into the home and keep out negative influences.

For the Body

Like many kitchen spices, cinnamon is a time-honored carminative, warming the digestive system and calming indigestion, gas, and cramping while improving nutrient absorption. Its astringent action makes it helpful in quelling diarrhea while toning the intestinal tract.

Cinnamon’s most active properties, cinnamaldehyde {a powerful antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial} and eugenol {an impressive anti-inflammatory and antiseptic}, make it a fantastic remedy for many ailments. While its expectorant, astringent qualities help dry up and expel mucus, its antiviral components aid the immune system and protect against respiratory infection, making it a great choice in treating colds and flu. Anti-inflammatory and analgesic actions help with aches and pains of fever.

A study in a 2014 issue of the journal Food Chemistry that evaluated chlorogenic acid from coffee and cinnamic acid from cinnamon discovered their synergistic action effectively scavenged free radicals and inhibited pro-inflammatory activity. It was also found that the digestive process further enhanced their effectiveness – a good reason to add cinnamon to your cup of Joe.

It may also help with blood sugar levels. A 2016 analysis in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reviewed 11 studies involving cinnamon and the treatment of diabetes, all of which produced a drop in fasting blood sugar levels. Studies that measured longer-term glucose, or HbA1C levels, also saw modest reductions. However, less than half of these studies achieved blood sugar reductions that met the criteria of the American Diabetes Association, suggesting that it may not help all diabetics.

Both species can be used interchangeably for medicinal purposes. However, Cassia contains coumarin and should not be taken in large doses or for long periods of time. Ceylon is better for longer-term use.

cinnamon oil

Powerfully spicy, cinnamon essential oil is a featured ingredient in some toothpaste. A 2018 study published in Scientific World Journal tested the cinnamaldehyde from both Cassia and Ceylon EO, finding it 99.9 percent effective on oral bacteria. Further discovery found that only 2 ml of cinnamaldehyde greatly reduced the existence and future growth of Streptococcus pyogenes and E. coli, proving it as a promising prototype for adjunct antibiotic therapy. {Cinnamon essential oil is very hot; never use it undiluted on skin. Do not use cinnamon therapeutically while pregnant or while taking blood thinners.}

cinnamon-tree-23

Grow It

You can cultivate cinnamon in USDA Zones 10-13 and in greenhouses; with regular pruning, they can stay at about 3 feet. Preferring well-drained, slightly dry and sandy soil, full to partial sun, and frost protection, they thrive in a climate no colder than 60 degrees.

Keep It Fresh

Keep powder and chips in an air-tight jar away from light and heat.

Eat It

Cinnamon blends well with other warming spices like ginger and cardamom. Sprinkle on oatmeal, dessert, or chai to heat up your autumn mornings.

Cinnamon Coffee and Tea

Coffee: Add 1/4 – 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon to each cup of ground coffee. Add coffee to drip basket or French press and prepare as usual. Add some vanilla for a tastier blend or a small pinch of ground cayenne to add some heat.

Tea: Simmer 1 cinnamon stick in 8 oz of water for 5 minutes. Add 1 tsp black tea of choice. Remove from heat and steep 5 minutes. Strain and prepare as desired.

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