The Benefits of Cinnamon

Cinnamon, one of the oldest spices known to man.  In ancient times considered more valuable than gold.

A recent trip to Bali found me stocking up on many of the wonderful spices found on this island paradise.  I came away with vanilla pods, pippali (long pepper or Indian long pepper), coffee beans (not the civet cat feces stuff, but the REAL stuff) and of course cinnamon – lots of it.

When I stock up on herbs and spices I tend to freeze the bulk and have smaller amounts available for daily use.  There are different points of view on freezing but this is the way I look at it.  I can’t access good quality dried herbs and spices readily in HK so when I can find a good source I stock up and to extend shelf life, freezing works for me.  They may lose potency over time so I just use more…..

But for cinnamon everywhere I turned suggested that freezing was not an option….so my friends benefited from my keen shopping trip to the spice markets of Ubud.

Now before we start to consider the many, many wonderful attributes of cinnamon I need to be clear about the different types of cinnamon.

The cinnamon I’ve bought in Bali is referred to as common cinnamon, or Chinese cinnamon, or cassia.  It is Cinnamomum cassia (cassia) and is the cinnamon bark from the trees that grow in China, Indonesia, Vietnam and other parts of Asia.

True cinnamon as it is referred to is also known as Ceylon cinnamon and is found in Sri Lanka, India and some other counties but 90% of the world supply comes from Sri Lanka.  It is, Cinnamomum verum (C verum) and is more expensive. 

 

the benefits of cinnamon and cassia for wellness

 

Where the qualities are different I will make the distinction in each of the categories.

Benefits to health

Cassia Cinnamon  is listed as one of the 50 fundamental herbs in Chinese herbology and is used to warm the kidneys’ and fortify yang.

Cinnamon is beneficial to the digestive system, aiding the body’s ability to fight parasites, fungal and bacterial infections.  It is used to calm the gastrointestinal system, stomach cramps, fullness, flatulence and diarrhea.  According to the monograph in Natural Herbs and Supplements, the beneficial biological effects of the spice come from the primary constituent of both plants, cinnamaldehyde (90% in cassia and 80% in C verum).

Because of its anti-fungal properties it is believe to be a useful remedy for candida or other yeast infections.

Recent studies have also found it to be beneficial to blood sugar levels for people with type 2 diabetes

Favorite medicinal uses: 

To reduce phlegm and sooth a sore throat associated with a cold or the flu: mix 1/4tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp black pepper, pinch of turmeric and mix into a paste with honey.

In our food

Cinnamon is mostly associated with food.  It is a natural food preservative with antimicrobial and fungicidal properties  and has been used as a common ingredient in cooking since medieval times, often combined with ginger.

C verum (Ceylon) is sweeter and more commonly used for sweetening, whereas the cassia being more pungent is more often used for savory meat dishes and curries.

Both varieties are very high in manganese (5gm = 45% of RDV) and are a good source of fibre and calcium, although you wouldn’t want to use cinnamon as a main source of fibre.

Favorite recipes

  • You can’t go past cinnamon in many Middle Eastern dishes, from tagines to kofta’s.
  • Add to hot tea or Berry Radical as a sweetener and a little boost of energy.
  • I love this Cinnamon Vanilla Sunflower Butter from 101cookbooks – a favorite site
  • And I tried this slow cook lamb shanks (without the slowcooker) earlier in the year – delicious!

Concerns to consider

The level of naturally occurring coumarins in the cassia cinnamon is higher than that found in C verum and may pose a risk to some people if consumed in substantial amounts on a regular basis (>6gms per day).  Coumarins are naturally occurring plant components that can have strong anticoagulant properties. Excessive intake of coumarins over a prolonged period of time can pose health risks.

What are your favorite uses of cinnamon and other spices?  Share your recipes and uses here. 

References
Braun, L & Cohen, M. (2008). Natural Herbs & Supplements, An evidence-based guide, 2nd ed. Elsevier, Australia
whfoods.org – The World’s Healthiest Foods

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Ingredients of Wellness is a blog that will nourish your mind and your body with wellness related research, knowledge sharing, news and inspiration.