The dried leaves and inner bark of the cinnamon tree are used in powder or “stick” form as a popular, fragrant and aromatic spice. A native of Asia, cinnamon was known for its medicinal properties in ancient times in different parts of the world. It is believed that the bark of cinnamon was used by physicians in Rome and China as early as 2700 BC. The Indians recognized its therapeutic value in the eighth century. The Jewish religious text, the Torah, is supposed to contain the earliest mention of the spice, while it is also mentioned in the Bible.
Composition and Uses of Cinnamon
Cinnamon contains a number of nutrients like carbohydrates, protein, fat and fiber, vitamins like A and C, as well as thiamin, niacin and riboflavin of the B group. It is an excellent source of manganese, while other minerals include iron, sodium, potassium, calcium and phosphorus. The powerful essential oil derived from the leaves is eugenol, similar to clove oil. Finally, cinnamon contains an antioxidant, glutathione.
Cinnamon has diverse uses. As a culinary ingredient, cinnamon is popular in Indian, Sri Lankan and other Asian cuisine to flavor some rice dishes, cakes, confectionery, sweets and liqueurs. Ground or powdered cinnamon is used for spice mixtures like curry powder. Cinnamon is also used to make herbal teas.
It also has uses other than culinary ones. It is an ingredient in dental and pharmaceutical preparations. Due to the antimicrobial properties, it can be used as a preservative. Cinnamon is used in home remedies to alleviate headaches and acne, and as a mouth freshener. Finally, it is also used in perfumes and incense.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon
Like some other common spices, cinnamon has many health benefits due to its antimicrobial, antibacterial and antioxidant properties.
Cinnamon has been used in traditional Asian medicine to boost blood circulation and treat high blood pressure.
It is effective in lowering cholesterol and triglycerides and blood sugar levels. Cinnamon has a flavonoid which helps glucose to metabolize.
It is a stimulant which prevents nervous tension and improves the memory. Smelling cinnamon is reputed to boost brain activity.
In combination with pepper powder and honey, cinnamon is effective in treating sore throat, influenza, malaria and cold. This is because of its antiseptic properties.
Cinnamon is a carminative which relieves flatulence, nausea, diarrhea and indigestion.
Cinnamon is an ancient and popular culinary ingredient with preventive and curative properties and many health benefits. It has a number of nutrients, including an essential oil and antioxidant. Since cinnamon is a stimulant, carminative and antiseptic, it is a beneficial addition to the daily diet.