Cinnamon, with its warm and comforting scent is the perfect winter holiday spice. It is one of the oldest spices known to humans and was used in ancient Egypt for cooking, medicine and as an embalming agent. The demand for cinnamon so was high that it became one of the the first spices traded regularly between the Near East and Europe. It was such an important commodity that it was considered to be more valuable than gold.
There are two common types of cinnamon: Ceylon and Cassia. The former is the more expensive of the two and is sometimes referred to as ‘true cinnamon’. The Ceylon tree grows in regions of Sri Lanka, India, Madagascar, Brazil and the Caribbean while Cassia grows primarily in China, Vietnam and Indonesia. The bark of the tree is dried out and rolled into quills (sticks).
Besides its fragrant aroma and sweet taste, this spice is believed to have multiple health benefits:
1) Colds and coughs: Everyone from the French to the Indians to Chinese have been using cinnamon as a natural remedy for the common cold and flu. Many brew it into a tea which is said to break up accompanying fever and congestion.
2) Menstruation: As a blood stimulant, regular ingestion of cinnamon is said to help reduce painful menstrual cramps and regulate a women’s cycle.
3) Circulation: According to Chinese medicine people who suffer from cold hands and feet should drink or chew on cinnamon daily since it gets blood flowing and strengthens the circulatory system.
4) Energy: Many alternative medical practitioners believe that this magic spice will stimulate and return energy to areas that have been drained.
5) Upset Stomach: Cinnamon has long been known for its digestive properties, especially with fruit and dairy products. It is also naturally relieves symptoms of nausea, diarrhea and flatulence.
6) Blood sugar: Studies have shown that quotidian consumption cinnamon can help regulate blood sugar levels. Diabetics, however, should be cautious and consult their physicians before taking significant doses of cinnamon since it may interact with their medications and cause serious complications.
7) Anti-clotting: The cinnaldehyde in cinnamon helps in preventing the bloods clotting factors or platelets from clumping unnecessarily. It does so by inhibiting the release of an inflammatory fatty acid from the platelets’ membranes which consequently gives cinnamon anti-inflammatory properties as well.
8) Anti-microbial: Cinnamon has been shown to stop the growth of bacteria and fungi making it a wonderful natural food preservative. Furthermore, it has proven to be effective in combating the problematic and resilient yeast candida.
9) Scent boost brain function: Besides acting as a relaxing agent the sweet scent of cinnamon has been proven to increase overall cognitive function and memory. Next time you have to write an exam consider bringing a stick of cinnamon along!
10) Colon and Heart health: Cinnamon is good source of the trace mineral manganese as well as being high in iron, calcium and dietary fiber. These are all key components in maintaining a healthy digestive system as well as preventing heart disease.
Knowing the numerous benefits of cinnamon on your health should make your holiday cooking and baking more satisfying. Enjoy!