Cinnamon – Spice up your life to better health
Yesterday I read a friend’s status update on Facebook where she mentioned that cinnamon was a good treatment for keeping ants out of your house. This advice comes in handy for the battle I have been waging with ants of all shapes and sizes at my house, but it also reminded me that I have been meaning to share with you the good stuff about cinnamon that is being researched as we speak.
Everyone knows cinnamon, at the very least from the sprinkles on their buns and that it is one of the essential smells of Christmas. It has been around since ancient times – 2500 year old Chinese writings and even the Bible make mention of it. The Egyptians imported cinnamon from China and used it as an embalming agent. The Romans burned it at funerals. Cinnamon was one of the first spices to be traded between Asia and Europe and for awhile Venetian merchants controlled the entire cinnamon trade in Europe. This motivated other European explorers of the 15th and 16th centuries to travel the globe in search of this precious spice. By the early 19th century plantation had sprung up around the world, making it a far more accessible commodity.
There are two types of cinnamon commonly used. In the West we generally use Cinnamon zeylanicum which is the tan coloured stick you will no doubt be familiar with. In China the native Cinnamon cassia is used.
The bark is the most commonly used part of the cinnamon tree, although the Chinese do like using the twigs as well. You can also use the essential oil, which is distilled from the bark.
Both members of the cinnamon family share carminative, astringent, aromatic and stimulant properties and contain volatile oils (cinnamaldehyde, eugenol, cinnamic acid, weitherhin), mucilage, diterpenes, proanthocyanidins.
What that means is that cinnamon is warming, will promote sweating and aids digestion. It is also a uterine stimulant so pregnant women are advised to avoid therapeutic doses. The essential oil is a strong antibacterial and antifungal treatment.
Now, the world of diabetes (if there is such a thing) has been abuzz for some time now with some very promising research being done in Pakistan. There researchers have been studying the effects of cinnamon cassia on blood glucose, triglyceride, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes. The evidence strongly suggests that by including cinnamon in your diet (say about 1/2 teasp a day) you could reduce your blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels. Very exciting stuff, especially since Type 2 diabetes is on such a steep rise around the world.
Oh, as a side note. I thought I would just point out that eating enough cinnamon buns to make up 1/2 teasp of ground cinnamon is unlikely to drop your blood sugar levels seeing just how much carbs and sugar you will be consuming at the same time.
Cinnamon is great added to milk drinks, sprinkled on desserts and fabulous in stews and curries. Of course it is also available in capsules.