Cinnamon can flavor sweet and savory dishes, and one of America’s favorite combination breakfast-dessert items is the famous ‘cinnamon roll.’ But, what is cinnamon? Where is its origin? And does it have a use other than adding slightly sweet, slightly spicy, and profoundly fragrant flavor to your favorite dishes?
In this guide, we’ll answer all these questions and more, plus share some little-known facts about how cinnamon can help you stay happy and healthy.
Cinnamon refers to a spice that comes from the bark of several species of evergreen laurel tree in the genus Cinnamomum. Peeled away from the tree and allowed to dry, the bark takes on a spicy, fragrant, slightly sweet, yet biting flavor profile – terpene-rich. Common ground down to a powder or used in “stick” form, cinnamon is a staple spice in pantries worldwide. While there is some debate over which cinnamon is the best and most authentic since several trees produce this flavorful bark, the most common and universal genus used for cinnamon is Cinnamomum cassia.
Note: Some species of Cinnamomum are used for their bark alone, while others may also be used for their fragrant leaves.
A popular spice used for centuries, cinnamon appears in many historical texts, religious books, and folk recipes. Interestingly, cinnamon also has traditional use roots in every corner of the globe and has been used for medicinal and ceremonial purposes from Ancient Egypt until today.
In Ancient Egypt, individuals often included cinnamon in embalming concoctions to mummify influential individuals after their passing. It was also common to use cinnamon for pickling meat, fish, and vegetables. It didn’t take long until other international cultures discovered cinnamon’s remarkable ability to enhance preservation.
In Ayurvedic medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, western herbalism, and other traditional natural healing practices, cinnamon is commonly used to treat indigestion, reduce the glycemic response, improve immunity, and even reduce cramping menstrual cycles. Widely thought to help support abdominal organs like the liver, kidneys, uterus, intestines, and stomach, cinnamon’s astringency is likely the reason for its soothing qualities.
In addition to medicinal uses, cinnamon has also traditionally been used to flavor chocolate, meats, fish, preserved items, soups, drinks, wine, and more in countries globally.
The most common type of commercial cinnamon – Cinnamomum cassia – is native to areas of China and Indonesia, which remain the world’s largest producers today. Cinnamomum Verum, or true cinnamon, is native to India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar. You can find other varieties of cinnamon growing wild in Vietnam and Saigon.
Do you love cinnamon and want an excuse to add more to your diet? In that case, we have a good reason for you: cinnamon contains essential compounds and nutrients that help support health and wellness, so enjoying cinnamon in your favorite foods is good for your body and your mind. Here are some of the commonly reported benefits of consuming cinnamon:
Cinnamon is full of beneficial antioxidants which help the body combat free radicals that find their way into your system. Free radicals can cause illness, infection, and inflammation, leading to long-term side effects and even chronic conditions. By consuming healthy antioxidants, you help fuel your body in the fight against disease and boost your immune system and overall health in the process.
Clinical trials conducted on mice have shown evidence suggesting cinnamon could help protect neurons, thereby reducing the risk of developing degenerative neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Regularly consuming cinnamon can help keep the mind sharp while inhibiting the buildup of harmful proteins.
Bacterial infections like minor colds and flu can be uncomfortable and draining and nearly impossible to avoid if you spend time with other people. Cinnamon contains a compound called cinnamaldehyde, which helps to kill germs and infectious bacteria in the body. Adding a few shakes of cinnamon to a latte or having cinnamon tea in the winter is the perfect way to prevent bacterial infections, sore throats, cold, and flu.
Chances are you already have a recipe or two that calls for cinnamon, but if you want to try new creative ways to enjoy this healthy and delicious spice, try one of these methods:
Cinnamon tea can be made just like any other tea and can be purchased ready to go in tea bags or made at home using cinnamon sticks. All it takes is to brew the cinnamon in hot water and let the spices sit until it reaches your desired spice level. Drink hot or cold, or enjoy with lemonade for a unique tangy flavor.
If you prefer to add a little bit of cinnamon to your favorite drink, try using cinnamon extract. Cinnamon extract features concentrated cinnamon flavor and the same antioxidant properties as cinnamon tea but can be used more sparingly for a less overwhelming cinnamon experience.
The most common way to enjoy cinnamon is to add cinnamon powder to marinades, cake batters, drink mixes, pickling liquids, or sprinkle over drinks and finished desserts.
Cinnamon can be taken at any time of day but should not be taken alone or on an empty stomach. For best results, take with something light to eat or with a meal to enjoy the soothing benefits of the spice.
There is no established dosage of cinnamon, that said, some experts suggest ½ to 1 teaspoon (2-4 grams) of cinnamon powder a day.
The soothing and antibacterial benefits of cinnamon can begin working within a day or two if you are using it to treat a specific ailment. For example, drinking cinnamon tea may help alleviate symptoms starting within a few hours from your first sips if you have a sore throat. Often a night of rest after consuming cinnamon can help to enhance its properties.
Since cinnamon can reduce the body’s reaction to glucose, some individuals should be aware that cinnamon can cause low blood sugar or complicate symptoms of diabetes. When eaten in excess, cinnamon may cause dehydration, mouth sores, or skin irritation. Accordingly, it’s wise to implement a natural skincare routine to retain moisture and radiancy.
Yes, consuming cinnamon regularly in the long term is safe so long as you do not experience negative symptoms and you consume less than the recommended daily maximum. Incorporating a coffee beverage with cinnamon into your morning routine is a healthy wellness tip.
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