Cinnamon is a small tree that belongs to the family Lauracea. The cinnamon tree is native to Sri lanka and now cultivated in many tropical country, including Mexico.
Cinnamon is harvested for its bark which dried and rolled into cinnamon sticks (also called quills) or ground into powders.
There are four main varieties of cinnamon; Cassia cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon, Indonesian cinnamon, and Vietnamese cinnamon. The Ceylon cinnamon and Cassia cinnamon are the most popular among them. Ceylon cinnamon (sometimes called true cinnamon) is more expensive and has a sweet taste with softer quills. While Cassia cinnamon is less expensive with darker color and harder quills. Most cinnamon bark sold in supermarkets in North America is Cassia cinnamon.
The cinnamon bark is one of the oldest and most popular spices in the world. It is used in cuisines around the world and is the most important “sweet spice.” In the Middle East, it is used in savory chicken and lamb dishes. It also used as flavoring agent for cereals, bread-based dishes, and fruits in the US.
Apart from being a popular spice, cinnamon also has long been used in traditional Asian medicine to stimulate the circulatory and respiratory systems as well as to aid digestion.
The healing abilities of cinnamon are believed comes from the three active components in the essential oils found in its bark: cinnamyl acetate, cinnamaldehyde, and cinnamyl alcohol. It also a great source of manganese, fiber, iron, and calcium which are essential nutrients for our body.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon
- Prevent cancer
In a study published by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Maryland revealed that cinnamon reduces the propagation of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells.
According to researchers, cinnamon appears to inhibit the actions of certain phosphatases, enzymes that play an important role in facilitating mitosis (cell division). Also, cinnamon is a very good source of calcium and fiber, which can bind bile salts and remove them from the body. By eradicating bile, it can prevent damage to colon cells, and thus reducing the risk of colon cancer.
- Regulates blood sugar
Studies have found that cinnamon contains certain polyphenols that may help people with type 2 diabetes by regulating the blood sugar levels. A study published in the journal Diabetes Care in 2003 found that people with type 2 diabetes who took 1, 3, or 6 grams of cinnamon in pill form daily for 40 days reported a reduction in blood sugar by 18 to 29 percent.
- Reduces cholesterol
The calcium and fiber in cinnamon can help eliminate bile salts from the body. When bile salts are eliminated, the body must break down cholesterol to produce new bile salts. This process can help lower high cholesterol levels.
According to a 2003 study on 60 people, a daily intake of one-half teaspoon (1 gram) of cassia cinnamon not only lowered blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes, it also significantly lowered LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides.
- Improves cognitive function
Several studies have shown that the aroma and flavor of cinnamon acts as a cognitive stimulant, possibly improve working memory, recognition of virtual memory, and visual-motor speed while working on a computer-based program.
- Improves blood circulation
Cinnamon contains a significant amount of a compound called coumarin, a well known “blood thinner” which aids in the circulation of blood and help to prevent blood clots which may lead to heart disease. However, people with bleeding disorders or taking prescribed blood-thinning medications should not take cinnamon.
- Treats Arthritis pain
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, cinnamon helps in relieving arthritis pain and stiffness of muscles and joints. In a study at Copenhagen University, patients who were given half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder combined with one tablespoon of honey every morning before breakfast had a significant relief in arthritis pain after one week, and could walk without pain within one month.
- Fights yeast infections
Cinnamon also has antifungal and antibacterial properties which effective in combating yeast infections. It helps in destroying germs in the gall bladder and bacteria in staph infections.
- Cures respiratory problems
Cinnamon is a great home remedy for common or severe colds. Take one tablespoon of honey with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder daily for 3 days. This will cure most chronic cough and colds. Cinnamon also found to cure flu, influenza, sore throat and congestion.
- Aid in digestion
Cinnamon is very effective for improving a person’s digestion. It helps remove unwanted gases and indigested foods from the intestines. It also eliminates acidity, diarrhea and morning sickness. It is often referred to as a digestive tonic.
- Relieves menstrual cramping
Cinnamon has also been found useful for women’s health as it helps in relieving menstrual cramping and other feminine discomfort.
- Remedy for toothache
Cinnamon is a very useful remedy for toothache. Simply make a paste using five teaspoons of honey with one teaspoon of cinnamon powder. Apply a little of the paste onto your toothache area for 2 or 3 times a day until pain relieved.
- Boosts immune system
The mixture of honey and cinnamon can help in boosting the immune system, eliminate fatigue and increase the longevity of an individual. It is also known to have anti-aging properties.
- Eliminates bad breath
A mixture of honey and cinnamon powder is also an excellent remedy for bad breath. A recent study of cinnamon-flavored chewing gum found that cinnamon may have breath-odor fighting abilities. According to researchers, the gum contains cinnamic aldehyde, cinnamon oil, which reduce the bacteria in your mouth.
Gargling with a mixture of honey, cinnamon powder and water are helpful in maintaining one’s breath fresh throughout the day.
- Cures headaches
Cinnamon is useful in treating headaches caused by exposure to cold air. Apply a thin paste of cinnamon powder mixed with water on the temples and forehead to obtain relief.
- Reduces urinary tract infections
According to a study, people who ate cinnamon on a regular basis have been linked to a low incidence of urinary tract infections.