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Cinnamon, Cinnamomum verum, Cinnamomum zeylanicum, and Cassia

 

Cinnamon is one of the world’s most popular spices. It has been used by many different cultures for centuries. It was so highly valued in the ancient world that it was traded as currency. Its warm pleasant aroma and flavor makes adds allure to any culinary creation.

There are as many as 250 species of cinnamon that have been identified around the world; primarily two are found in our markets:

Cinnamomum zeylanicum or Ceylon cinnamon, known as “true cinnamon” which grows in Sri Lanka.

Cinnamomum aromaticum or Cinnamon cassia, which grows in Southern China or Indonesia.

Cassia has a stronger odor and flavor and is less costly than Ceylon which has a sweeter flavor and believed to have more health benefits.

Parts used:

Cinnamon is harvested from the inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree, Cinnamomum verum.

The stems are cut and the inner bark is peeled back and laid in the sun to dry where it curls up into rolls known as cinnamon sticks or quills.  These sticks are also ground into powder and sold world-wide as we see it in the market today. 

Cinnamon is also prepared into concentrated extracts and as an essential oil to be used therapeutically. The essential oil is derived from the bark, leaves and twigs.

History and Traditional uses:

Dating back to 2,000 BC, Ancient Egyptians used cinnamon as spice and as a perfume during the embalming process. Because it was highly valued and costly, it was given to royalty as gifts or signs of devotion.

In medieval days, doctors used it to treat arthritis, coughs and sore throats. Romans used it in funeral pyres to mask the scent of burning flesh. It is mentioned in the Bible noting its ability to fight illnesses, and also as a way to perfume bedding, clothes and as an anointing oil. It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries to treat respiratory and digestive problems. It has also been used traditionally in Chinese herbal medicine. 

Over time more was learned about the health benefits of cinnamon. Today numerous health benefits of cinnamon are recognized, and there is on-going scientific research to both back up the medicinal claims that ancient populations have known and practiced for centuries, and to further the medicinal uses of this powerful plant.

Medicinal and General Benefits of Cinnamon:

The distinct aroma and flavor of cinnamon is due to the oily component which is very high in cinnamaldehyde. It is this compound that offers most of the health benefits of cinnamon, as it is rich in antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, as well as helps to fight tooth decay and bad breath.

Cinnamon also contains large amounts of polyphenol antioxidants to protect the body from disease. It is so powerful that it can be used as a food preservative.

The polyphenols in cinnamon have anti-inflammatory effects, which also benefits allergic histamine responses. Whereas inflammation in the body is beneficial for fighting infection and for tissue repair, chronic inflammation, directed against the body’s own tissues, is problematic.

-       Cinnamon has been shown to help reduce risk of heart disease, as it helps to balance cholesterol and lower blood pressure.

-       It also has been known to reduce insulin resistance, thus lowering blood sugar levels in diabetics.

-       Animal studies have shown improvements in Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s’ disease.

-       Its being widely studied for its protective effects against cancer; research in this area looks promising.

-       HIV -1 studies are finding that cinnamon can be helpful to fight HIV-1 virus.

-       It has been found to be effective on fungal infections, such as Candida.

-       Helps to heal stubborn infected wounds.

How to use cinnamon therapeutically:

Note: Cassia can contain a high concentration of coumarin which can be toxic to the liver, but the typical amount that is used should not cause an issue.

However, when using cinnamon therapeutically, be sure to use Ceylon cinnamon. AND be sure that it is organic.

Extracts, essential oil and capsules are available for supplemental use.

Sources:

Some health food stores and on-line.

Culinary uses:

Are to sprinkle on toast and lattes, yogurt, fruit, oatmeal; boil with ciders and to season many dishes and baked goods, adding both flavor and nutrients with minimal calories.

Can be used to sweeten recipes without using sugar.  Also can help reduce food cravings and to manage weight gain.

Nutrient content:

High in manganese, with small amounts of calcium, potassium and other trace minerals and nutrients.

Safety Caution:

Not known to cause side effects.  Heavy use on the skin may cause redness or irritation.  Therefore use the essential oil with a carrier oil.  

Not recommended for children or during pregnancy or breast feeding.

Due to the higher coumarin content of cassia cinnamon, its use is cautioned for use with diabetes drugs, antibiotics, blood thinners, heart medicine, and liver disease.  If you take any medications regularly consult with your health care practitioner before using therapeutic doses.

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Author, Eve Stahl, is a Health Consultant, Herbalist and Skin Care expert. She specializes in using nature’s plants to enhance the health of people and to protect the health of our planet. To achieve this purpose she has created Garden of Eve Skin Care products for sensitive skin and all skin types. You can visit her company at: www.gardenofeve.com Prospective Affiliates visit: www.gardenofeveskincare.com/affiliate-application

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