Cinnamon is one of the most delicious fragrances of the Season!
Although cinnamon is available throughout the year, the aromatic, deliciously sweet and warm taste of the spice make it the perfect spice to use during the fall and winter months. The spice is readily available and used both inside and outside our kitchen. It is such a commonly used spice, we may give little thought to its origin and history.
Cinnamon has a spicy history
Cinnamon has been used for thousands of years! The ancient Egyptians utilized this spice as a flavoring for beverages, for medicinal purposes, and as a step in the embalming process. Its use and popularity became widespread in Egypt, although the Arabs seemed to hold the monopoly on the popular spice. They kept its origins a secret, creating elaborate tales, and adventurous stories surrounding the acquisition of the spice. This early ‘supply and demand’ allowed them to drive the market with outrageous prices and create a monopoly.
The desire to enjoy this luxury good drove explorers to set sail in search of their own stockpile of the exotic spice. Eventually Portuguese explorers and traders discovered their own cache at Ceylon, or modern day Sri Lanka. By the time the British took over the country, itwas no longer a rarity and the price no longer exorbitant.
There is more than one type of Cinnamon
The two varieties of commercial cinnamon, cassia and Ceylon, have similar flavor, however the cinnamon from Ceylon is slightly sweeter, more refined and more difficult to find in local markets. The Ceylon type is more expensive and produced in Sri Lanka. Cassia is produced in Indonesia and has a stronger aroma and taste. Cassia cinnamon is what we would typically purchase from the spice aisle of our local grocer.
Potential Benefits of Cinnamon
- Cinnamon may help lower blood pressure Extracts from the bark of the cinnamon tree have been utilized throughout the ages as traditional medicine. Cassia cinnamon may lower blood pressure in people suffering from diabetes. More research is needed, but studies show that cinnamon may significantly aid people with type-2 diabetes improve their ability to respond to insulin, thus normalizing their blood sugar levels. Adding this spice to a carbohydrate-rich food, such as oatmeal or sweet potato, may help lessen its impact on blood sugar levels.
- Cinnamon may have anti-microbial properties. Cinnamaldehyde, a chemical found in the cassia type may help fight against bacterial and fungal infections. Cinnamon’s essential oils also qualify it as an “anti-microbial” food, and cinnamon has been studied for its ability to help stop the growth of bacteria as well as fungi, including the commonly problematic yeast Candida. In laboratory tests, growth of yeasts that were resistant to the commonly used anti-fungal medication fluconazole were often stopped by extracts.
- Cinnamon may help lower the effects of consuming high fat meals. According to Penn State researchers, eating a diet rich in spices, like turmeric and cinnamon, reduces the body’s negative responses to eating high-fat meals.
- The scent of cinnamon may help boost brain function Just breathing in the sweet aroma of cinnamon can boost brain activity. Walk down the corridor of any major airport and the delicious and aromatic scent of Cinnabon can entice even the strongest willpower! The wonderfully rich scent of cinnamon can stimulate the mind, uplift the spirit, and create a cozy feeling.
- An ancient Chinese secret Traditional Chinese medicine utilized the energy based and warming properties of cinnamon to help with the onset of flu or colds. A delightful cup of tea was created with cinnamon and ginger to bring much needed relief for the chills brought on by illness.
- A natural way to freshen your home The inviting and cleansing scent of cinnamon is thought to have therapeutic effects when used in your home. The spice is a natural air freshener! But did you know it is also a insect repellent? It’s true! A very inexpensive holiday room freshener is to place whole cinnamon sticks in your potpourri.
- Natural beauty uses Skip the collagen treatments! Cinnamon is a natural lip plumper! Simply apply a bit of Vaseline onto your lips and gently pat a tiny amount of cinnamon on top. Rub the mixture on for a few seconds and then allow it to sit for a minute. You should feel a slight tingly sensation from the spice. Add another coat of Vaseline and you’ll have much fuller lips.
- A word of caution While cinnamon does not generally cause side effects, heavy usage may irritate the lining of the mouth and lips. Very high quantities of cassia may be toxic to anyone with liver conditions. It is always suggested to discuss usage with your physician. Do not use any spice for medicinal purposes in children or women who are pregnant or nursing.
Featured photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/manuuuuuu/ via flickr.com