We’ve used cinnamon as a spice in baking, eaten cinnamon candy and sprinkled cinnamon on our oatmeal. We’ve had toast with cinnamon and sugar, flavored our apple cider with cinnamon sticks and enjoyed the scent of cinnamon candles. It’s hard to find anybody who doesn’t like cinnamon in some form.
Cinnamonum zeylanicum, or Ceylon cinnamon, is called “true cinnamon,” while Cinnamonum aromaticum, or Chinese cinnamon, is called “Cassia.” There is little difference in the finished product, but the Chinese cinnamon has a stronger flavor. Cassia is found more often in stores in North America since it is the less expensive of the two varieties.
Ancient civilizations used cinnamon as an aromatic spice in the preparation of the dead because of its preservative quality and ability to prohibit bacterial growth. This is one reason mummies found in Egypt were so well-preserved.
Cinnamon was one of the most precious commodities traded between Europe and the Near East in Medieval times. At times it was worth more than gold. Countries were invaded because of their large cinnamon production.
Cinnamon has been used as a cooking spice for over 5000 years. It is still considered a major spice to have on hand in the kitchen. Many recipes for desserts and candies list cinnamon as an ingredient. It can also be used in pickling.
This flavorful spice is said to have many health benefits as well. Studies are still being done, but cinnamon is gaining a reputation for lowering blood glucose levels by reducing insulin resistance in diabetics.
The calcium and fiber in cinnamon help to reduce colon problems, and help to reduce cholesterol levels. Cinnamon can also help with diarrhea and constipation.
Mixed with ginger and added to tea, cinnamon helps relieve cold and flu symptoms. This tea is also good in relieving morning sickness in pregnant women.
A few other reported health benefits of cinnamon include relief of arthritis pain, a toothache remedy, a sinus decongestant, a cough suppressant, an upset stomach remedy, and an effective insect repellent. Studies have also shown that the scent of cinnamon boosts memory and brain function.
Cinnamon is a good source of the nutrients manganese, iron, calcium, and dietary fiber.
Allergies to cinnamon are uncommon.
For best results, cinnamon should be stored in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dry place. Ground cinnamon keeps for about six months, longer if kept in a refrigerator.
Always be sure to talk to your doctor before using any kind of herbal remedies to treat a serious medical condition.
Prevention, February 2007, “The Spice Is Right”