Cinnamon Benefits and Uses

Cinnamon Benefits and UsesWe love our pumpkin spice, apple pies, snickerdoodle cookies, and other cinnamon flavored goodies during the holidays. But did you know that cinnamon benefits your health in many ways, too? Learn more in this podcast with Julie Polanco.

Cinnamon Through History

Cinnamomum zeylanicum, or Cinnamon has a long history of use, going back to the ancient Egyptians and Chinese. The Ceylon variety grown in Sri Lanka (which was once called Ceylon) appears in Chinese writings as far back as 2800 BC. The Egyptians used it in their embalming spices. In the first century AD, the Roman Pliny the Elder wrote that 350 grams of cinnamon was worth more than five kilograms of silver. This means that cinnamon was an expensive and highly valued spice that only the nobles could afford, much like frankincense and myrrh. Indeed, it is said that the Roman Emperor Nero ordered that a year’s supply of cinnamon be burnt as an atonement after he murdered his second wife.

In medieval times, they knew of cinnamon benefits. After all, the doctors of the day used it to treat coughs, sore throats, and hoarseness. The upper classes also used it to preserve meats. However, it was difficult to get. Only Arabs traded in cinnamon and they carefully guarded the secret of their source. Since they traveled over difficult land routes, they kept this monopoly for centuries. In addition, they loved to tell tall tales about cinnamon to deter others and to justify the high prices.

Hear some of the tall tales the Arabs would tell on the podcast!

Discovered by Explorers

As we all know, Columbus and other explorers set out to find water routes to the far East in the late 1400’s and into the early 1500’s. They were, of course, looking for safer and faster routes to get the spices that were in great demand but expensive to buy. So, in 1518, the Portuguese found the source of Cinnamon and enslaved the island until the Dutch overthrew them in 1638. Then, the Dutch held the cinnamon monopoly for another 150 years until the British took over the island in 1784 after the fourth Anglo-Dutch war. However, the price of cinnamon had dramatically decreased by then. Other countries had discovered that they could enjoy cinnamon benefits by growing it in other parts of the world such as Java, Sumatra, Guyana, the West Indies, and other places.

Today, much of the grocery store cinnamon is not true cinnamon, but a cousin called Cassia. It is cheaper and has a stronger flavor but is not as medicinal.

Modern Research on Cinnamon Benefits and Uses

One of the active constituents of cinnamon is cinnamaldehyde. This is what gives it its unique and delicious smell. It is also high in antioxidant polyphenols, which is why it can be used to preserve meat. Amazingly, it has more antioxidants than even garlic or oregano, according to research. Because of this, another one of the cinnamon benefits is that it is anti-inflammatory and can help lower cholesterol levels. It may also inhibit tumor cell growth and help prevent cancer.

In addition, cinnamon benefits those at risk for diabetes. According to studies, cinnamon oil can help prevent Type 2 diabetes by preventing insulin resistance. Another way that cinnamon benefits those at risk for diabetes is that it can interfere with digestive enzymes, slowing the breakdown of food into glucose.

Of course, it has also proven be effective against oral bacteria and respiratory fungal infections and maybe that’s why medieval doctors liked to use it for coughs and other respiratory issues. It has also traditionally been used for issues in the gastrointestinal tract, such as vomiting, flatulence, and diarrhea.

Warning

Cinnamon contains coumarins, which in large amounts can be problematic. The best type of cinnamon to use is the original Ceylon Cinnamon because it has less coumarins and tends to be higher in medicinal properties.

Ready to dig into cinnamon? Get your FREE cinnamon recipe coloring pages by clicking HERE.

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