Cinnamon is one of the most common spices in the world. It’s in every grocery store, in every restaurant, in every house hold kitchen. Heck, it’s a table top item in coffee shops like salt. That said, there are a lot of unknown facts about Cinnamon. That makes it as interesting as it is delicious!
1. Origins of Cinnamon
Did you know there are two types of Cinnamon? Ceylon, also known as True cinnamon, and Cassia, the more common of the cinnamons, colloquially known as bastard cinnamon. Technically Cassia isn’t even a Cinnamon! But its regarded as such everywhere.
All types of Cinnamon are nothing more than curled up tree bark! It comes from the inner bark of cinnamon trees. This common baking spice comes from a small evergreen tree that’s part of the Lauraceae family. Both the cinnamon tree’s flowers and fruits have just as distinctive an odor as the spice itself!
It’s also one of the oldest spices known. Its first mentions are as far back as 2700BCE. It’s mentioned in the Bible and was used in ancient Egypt for a variety of reasons such as beverage flavoring, medicine, and…
Egyptians used Cinnamon during the embalming process while mummifying. They would use the oils in the embalming agent, rub it on the corpses as a rudimentary perfume, as well as sew sticks in the chest cavity. It’s thought to have acted as a preservative as well as mask the odors from the dead bodies.
Speaking of, it’s used in tons of soaps and is an essential essence to many mainstream perfumes. The sweet and savory undertones match well with masculine and feminine scents alike to create a memorable scent. You can even create your own at home perfume with cinnamon essential oil, but be careful! A little goes a long way. Cinnamon’s essential oil is strong and needs to be diluted and should be complimented with other scents.
3. Value of Cinnamon
It was so highly treasured that it was considered more precious than gold! In ancient Rome it was considered so valuable that the Emperor Nero burned a year’s supply on his wife’s funeral pyre as proof of his devotion to her.
Much like salt, cinnamon was a spice reserved for the rich. In fact, it’s reputation was so royal, that for millennia, there was an entire caste in Sri Lanka dedicated to harvesting cinnamon. Stories were created about how Cinnamon was fished from the Nile River, and common people used to think it came from Cinnamon birds who somehow made the sticks. These stories were created by traders along the silk road to justify the high price of cinnamon. It wasn’t until the Portuguese came along and found the source of the bark that the myths were debunked. Shortly thereafter the trees were then cultivated elsewhere in the world for all to have.
4. Holistic Healing
Want to know an “ancient Chinese secret?” Cinnamon has been used in traditional medicine to treat ailments such as colds, flatulence, nausea, diarrhea, and painful menstrual cramps. The Chinese utilized the stuff in about as much application as the Egyptians did. It was thought to be something of magic!
Cinnamon is a powerful anti fungal, antiviral, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory. It has a long history of use in old medicine and is still used today for a lot of alternative healing. If you do go down the path of holistic healing though, take note that there is no scientific evidence that cinnamon can treat any medical conditions. So while we wouldn’t say its a magic end all be all spice – it is pretty damn neat!
5. The So Called Health Benefits
Don’t believe what you read on the internet! Cinnamon has been tested in various clinical trials, such as bronchitis and diabetes, however there is no scientific evidence that consuming cinnamon has any drastic health benefits. Studies are continuously being done to see the affects of Cinnamon on diabetes but the research is still out. Although we’re sure eating Cinnamon beats eating a BigMac, we wouldn’t count on it to cure that Type II that might be buggin’ you.
Both Cinnamon types, Cassia more so, contain a high amount of coumarin, a flavoring compound known to thin blood. Although Cassia has a much higher amount, patients on blood thinners such as Coumadin are often advised to limit their intake of cinnamon. In large amounts coumarin has also been linked to liver damage – thought the affects appear to be reversible. As a result we don’t recommend doing…
6. The Cinnamon Challenge
At least not too often. A lot of hype has been created on teens going to the hospital for collapsed lungs and other side affects. To fill those in on what the Cinnamon Challenge is; it’s when you take a table spoon full and try to eat the entire thing within a minute. Seems easy enough right? The inherent difficulty comes from how dry and fine the cinnamon powder is.
Due to how fine the powder is, and the high amounts of coumarin – the effects of the challenge have sometimes been found devastating. Not to worry – despite the internet’s claims of 50,000 patience and new clubs forming in the likes of Mom’s Against Cinnamon, there doesn’t appear to be an abnormal amount of isolated cases of people being hospitalized for cinnamon.
7. The So Called Effects
Despite no scientific evidence for it turning you into Super Man, additional studies have been done to show that cinnamon does have some interesting short term effects. It regulates blood sugar, smelling cinnamons stimulates brain activity, it is a natural food preservative, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic and anti-inflammatory.
It’s loaded with free radicals and antioxidants. So while we can’t stress enough that Cinnamon won’t make you live forever, adding it to your food can give you an edge over your comrade that doesn’t. Antioxidants are substances that may prevent or delay some types of cell damage, often linked to premature aging as well as cancer. And who doesn’t want to thwart off cancer?!
8. Packs in the Minerals
Both types of cinnamon are excellent sources of the trace mineral manganese which is an important activator of enzymes essential to building healthy bones as well as other physiological processes. It’s also helpful in carbohydrate and fat metabolism.
Cinnamon is also high in dietary fiber, calcium, iron, and zinc. These are all essential nutrients for the human body. So even though you wont become the next Jack Lalane with a few table spoons, go ahead and jazz up that Starbucks Coffee with a few shakes. And your tea… And your desserts…
9. Types of Cinnamon
The differences are principally their origins. Ceylon cinnamon grows in Sri Lanka, Madagascar and other parts of West Asia and South America. In fact, over 80 percent alone comes from Sri Lanka. Cassia, on the other hand comes predominantly from East Asia like China and Vietnam.
Ceylon is more expensive and difficult to find in North American. Most spices labeled cinnamon are actually the cheaper cassia. Sweeter, lighter and more refined than cassia, true cinnamon is most suitable to flavoring desserts. Cassia being more robust, is better suited for the savory dishes. In fact, your best bakers will tend to avoid Cassia for their desserts all together.
10. The Many Uses of Cinnamon!
Cinnamon can bring things back to life! No, really! Cinnamons has been proven to bring back dead or rotting flowers! If you have an Orchid that you’ve over watered, trim off the rotted roots, dab the remaining with cinnamon, and your plant will start to rejuvenate over the next few days and look good as new!
You can also make all natural flea preventative with it. Cinnamon essential oil mixed with carrier oils can create an all natural repellant for you and your animals alike! It’s a natural mosquito repellent. A natural pesticide! It’s an antibiotic, antiseptic, and an astringent. If you take essential oil, along with a carrier oil like Jojoba, you can rub it in infected wounds to stave off infection. It’s the bounce sheet of spices. What doesn’t this stuff do?!