Cinnamon, the spice from the barks of several trees belongs to genus Cinnamomum in the family Lauraceae.
Cinnamon Sticks –The Spicy Bark
In the traditional era, four types of cinnamon were famous namely, Cassia from Arabia and Ethiopia, True Cinnamon from SriLanka, Malabathrum from North of India and Serichatum of China.
History of Cinnamon
Cinnamon has fame from ancient times. It was so highly prized among ancient nations that it was regarded as a gift for monarchs and offering to God. An inscription at the temple of Apollo at Miletus records the gift of cinnamon and cassia.
Cinnamon is native to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Malabar Coast of India and Burma. The spice trade agents hide the source to protect their monopoly.
It is cited in ancient Chinese writings of at least 2700 years old and also features several times in the Bible. The Egyptians imported cinnamon from China and it was used as a medicine, food enhancer and an embalming agent.
For the Romans Cinnamon was just as sacred and important. It was burned at funerals and it is said that the Emperor Nero burnt a whole year supply at the funeral of his wife Poppaea.
Cinnamon was one of the first spices that have been traded between Asia and Europe and the fact that Venetian merchants controlled the entire cinnamon trade in Europe fuelled other European explorers to travel afar in search of other ways of obtaining the precious spice.
At the end of the 15th century the Portuguese took control of the cinnamon trade soon after they discovered Sri Lanka (Ceylon). The Dutch removed them from power a century later, followed by the British in 1796. Since then the significance of the cinnamon trade turn down, and Cinnamon began to be produced and cultivated in other areas.
Cinnamon adds grand flavour and smell to baked good, Asian curries and desserts. It blends well with variety of items especially with orange and honey. It is used whole or broken or in ground form.
It is a main ingredient in homemade cakes, cookies and biscuits. It can be sprinkled on apple crumble, apple pie, cereals or hot chocolate. It is used in mulled wine making, hot meat dishes or pulao recipes. Yoghurt and Ice creams can be made out of Cinnamon. It can be added to chopped fruits, fruit desserts, rice puddings and rice dishes.
French or cinnamon toast is a popular breakfast around the globe. Fresh and fried doughnuts acquire an interesting taste when sugar and cinnamon are sprinkled. It is a popular marinade for beef or lamb and it offers a unique taste when added to black beans in a nachos or burnitos recipe.
It is the most popular spices for baking and commonly found in cinnamon buns, cinnamon cookies, cinnamon raisin bread, apple pie and pumpkin pie.
Cinnamon is must required for baking purposes. Adding Cinnamon to sweet potatoes or acorn squash offers a punch. Cinnamon as spice is found in recipes of sauces and stews.
Cinnamon has a subtle flavour and is used in both sweetie and savoury dishes. This spice is commonly used in Asian and Middle Eastern cooking to flavour lamb, aubergine, rice dishes, curries and more. Cinnamon is part of a mixed spice powder ‘garam masala’ used widely in Indian cooking.
Cinnamon oil is extracted from the cinnamon leaves or bark using different processes. This oil could also be used in cooking to make teas or candies.
Cinnamon has various health benefits. In India Cinnamon is an essential spice, and it has been using it for hundreds of years.
In Ayurveda, cinnamon is a cure for indigestion, diabetes, colds and other infections.
In Chinese medicine, cinnamon is used to treat painful menstruation, diarrhoea, colds, nausea and flatulence. Cinnamon is said to improve vitality, energy and circulation.
Cinnamon is also used as an herbal remedy to treat high blood sugar, high cholesterol, yeast infections, arthritis and as an aphrodisiac.
Cinnamon oil is used in aromatherapy and can be used in our homes as a room freshener, in a potpourri, decoration, moth repellent and more.
Cinnamon stick boiled in warm milk has medicinal properties. Cinnamon tea combined with honey treats various illness.
Cinnamon oil is also used to make medicinal preparations, in aromatherapy and as ingredients in creams or lotions for topical use.
Cinnamon spice is known to have anti-oxidant, anti-diabetic, anti-septic, local anaesthetic, anti-inflammatory, warming, soothing, carminative and anti-flatulent properties. It has the premier anti-oxidant strength of all the food sources in nature.
The spice contains health benefiting essential oils such as eugenol, a phenylpropanoids class of chemical compound, which gives pleasant, sweet aromatic fragrance to it. Eugenol has employed in the dental and gum treatment procedures.
Other essential oils in cinnamon include ethyl cinnamate, linalool, cinnamaldehyde, beta-caryophyllene, and methyl chavicol.
Cinnamaldehyde in cinnamon-sticks has been found to have anti-clotting action, prevents platelet clogging inside the blood vessels, and thereby helps prevent stroke, peripheral arterial and coronary artery diseases.
The dynamic principles in this spice may boost the motility of the intestinal tract as well as aids in the digestion by increasing gastro-intestinal enzyme secretions.
This spicy bark is an excellent source of minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, zinc, and magnesium. It also contains very good amounts of vitamin A, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, flavonoid phenolic anti-oxidants such as carotenes, zea-xanthin, lutein and cryptoxanthin.
The highly antiseptic and warming spice makes it a best medicine for dental problems and remedy for cold and flu. Cinnamon soothes stomach and digestive complaints such as flatulence, indigestion, heartburn and stomach cramps.
It is an excellent medicine for colds, congestion, temperature and flu. Research has shown that cinnamon is effective against fungus and yeast infections.
Cinnamon can be used to lower fever by promoting sweating. Cinnamon oil can be used to treat chest infections and catarrh. It can help improve blood circulation around the body especially to the hands and feet. Cinnamon is an aid for weak digestion. It can help reduce pain caused by arthritis, rheumatism and muscle pain.
Cinnamon is a relaxing herb and can reduce anxiety, depression and stress. It can help with sickness, nausea and vomiting. Cinnamon can stimulate menstrual bleeding and help regulate periods. It has been proved to lower high blood pressure.
Chewing cinnamon sticks can relieve toothache and for the freshness of the breath. Cinnamon is effective in the prevention of blood clots.
Cinnamon has been proven to regulate blood sugar levels in people with type-2 diabetes and also to improve their response to insulin. Cinnamon is a good source of manganese, iron and calcium, which are all vital minerals required for a healthy body.
Cinnamon is a warm, sweet and exotic spice that is associated with cold wintry nights to make it more pleasant by sitting beside a warm fire and feeling an aroma of cinnamon in the air.