Cinnamon

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Cinnamon is a strong, sweet-scented spice. One of the oldest known spices, cinnamon is potentially helpful for those with Type 2 diabetes. A native to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), cinnamon is mentioned in Chinese writings in 2800 B.C. Even now, it is still known as kwai in the Chinese language. It is grown in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Brazil, Vietnam, and Egypt.

Contents

Why should I be aware of this

  • A key ingredient in garam masala, cinnamon is used across the world in various cuisines.
  • Although available throughout the year, the fragrant, sweet and warm taste of cinnamon is a perfect spice to use during the winter months.
  • It is said to have many health benefits and finds mentions in ancient systems of medicines such as Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine.
  • It is a stimulator of insulin activity.
  • It also leads to mild anti-coagulant activity.

All about cinnamon

Cinnamon has a long history both as a spice and as a medicine. It is the brown bark of the cinnamon tree. It is available in dried tubular form known as a quill. It is also available as ground powder.

Although there are several varieties of cinnamon, Ceylon and Cassia cinnamon (also called the Chinese cinnamon)are the most popular. They have similar flavor, but the cinnamon from Ceylon is slightly sweeter, more refined and more difficult to find in local markets. Ceylon cinnamon is sometimes called true cinnamon. It is more expensive and has a sweet taste. The quills are softer and can be easily ground in a coffee

The characteristic flavor and aroma of cinnamon comes from a compound in the essential oil of the bark called cinnamonaldehyde.

Preparation

To prepare it, the bark of the cinnamon tree is dried and rolled into cinnamon sticks, also called quills. Cinnamon can also be dried and ground into a powder.

Selection and storage

  • Cinnamon is available in either stick or powder form.
  • While the sticks can be stored for longer, the ground powder has a stronger flavor.
  • To check to see if it is still fresh, smell the cinnamon. If it does not smell sweet, it is no longer fresh and should be discarded.
  • Opt for organically grown cinnamon since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated. Irradiating cinnamon may lead to a significant decrease in its vitamin C and carotenoid content.)
  • Cinnamon should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place.
  • Ground cinnamon will keep for about six months, while cinnamon sticks will stay fresh for about one year stored this way.
  • Alternatively, you can extend their shelf life by storing them in the refrigerator.

Cinnamon and health

The cinnamon bark is rich in essential oils which gives it unique healing abilities. Cinnamon has many beneficial properties. These include

  • Anti-Clotting
  • Anti inflammatory
  • Anti microbial
  • Controls blood sugar or glucose, called as Diabetes
  • A very good source of dietary fibre, iron and calcium. Calcium and fiber improve colon health and protect against heart disease.
  • Excellent source of the trace mineral manganese
  • Several studies suggest that cinnamon may have a regulatory effect on blood sugar, making it especially beneficial for people with Type 2 diabetes.
  • In some studies, cinnamon has shown an amazing ability to stop medication-resistant yeast infections.
  • In a study published by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Maryland, cinnamon reduced the proliferation of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells.
  • In traditional Chinese medicine, Cassia cinnamon is used for colds, flatulence, nausea, diarrhea, and painful menstrual periods. It is also believed to improve energy, vitality, and circulation and be particularly useful for people who tend to feel hot in their upper body but have cold feet.
  • In Ayurveda, cinnamon is used as a remedy for diabetes, indigestion, and common colds, and it is often recommended for people with the kapha Ayurvedic type.
  • It is believed to improve the digestion of fruit, milk and other dairy products.

Caution

  • People taking diabetes medication or any medication that affects blood glucose or insulin levels should not take therapeutic doses of cinnamon unless they're under a doctor's supervision. Taking them together may have an additive effect and cause blood glucose levels to dip too low.
  • Cassia cinnamon, the kind of cinnamon normally found in grocery stores and in supplement form, naturally contains a compound called coumarin. Coumarin is also found in other plants such as celery, chamomile, sweet clover, and parsley.
  • At high levels, coumarin can damage the liver. Coumarin can also have a "blood-thinning" effect, so cassia cinnamon supplements shouldn't be taken with prescription anti-clotting medication, such as Coumadin (warfarin), or by people with bleeding disorders.
  • Cinnamon can also be found in a concentrated oil form that comes from cinnamon bark. Some of these products are not intended for consumption, but instead are used for aromatherapy essential oils. Also, the oil is highly potent and an overdose can depress the central nervous system. People should not take the oil to treat a condition unless under the close supervision of a qualified health professional.
  • Pregnant women should avoid excessive amounts of cinnamon and should not take it as a supplement.

Reference

  • Cinnamon
  • Medicinal Value of Cinnamon
  • 10 Health Benefits of Cinnamon
  • What is Cinnamon?
  • Cinnamon Diabetes