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Although cinnamon is best known as a spice sprinkled on lattes and toasts, it has been used for a long time as traditional medicine all over the world. Since it has a warm, sweet taste and mellow aroma, this spice has not only been valued for its culinary powers, but also the health benefits of cinnamon offer a number of medicinal healing powers.
Although there are many types of cinnamon the most common one is Ceylon cinnamon that’s commonly found in many countries, Together with frankincense and myrrh, this unique spice was among the first spices that were used to delight the senses of the ancient world.
Where Cinnamon Comes From
Coming from the inner bark of the various evergreen trees that are in the family of Cinnamomum, cinnamon farmers remove the outer back of trees then carefully shave the inner back to reveal the layer of cinnamon.
Once it’s removed it’s dried and naturally curls into quills or curled sticks. Larger pieces are usually ground into the powdered spice.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, most Ceylon cinnamon, comes from Cinnamomum verum trees grown in Sri Lanka. Cassia cinnamon is mostly grown in Indonesia. The rest comes from China, Vietnam and Burma.
Types of cinnamon
There are a number of different types of cinnamon and depending on your use, they each offer something slightly different. Below are some of the main types and what they each offer as far as the heath benefits of cinnamon.
Also known as Cassia cinnamon, this type of cinnamon not only comes from Indonesia but is also used by over 70% of North America. As compared to Ceylon, this type tends to be less expensive.
Cassia cinnamon is also made from the hard bark of cinnamon trees and is spicy, sometimes bitter and smells very strong. it makes for a good essential oil.
This type of cinnamon has also gained a lot of popularity in the recent past. Originating from Vietnam, this Cinnamon makes a very good first impression in terms of its tastes and sheer aroma.
As compared to the Indonesian one it’s even more strong, spicy and sweet at the same time thus making it one of the best out there. It does contain the highest amounts of coumarin so its important if you have liver issues to avoid this type.
As compared to other cinnamon plants the quality of this spice is not as popular. Although it’s part of the cassia cinnamon family, it tends to be less sweet, more pungent and slightly bitter. This can possibly be attributed to the condition of the soil where it’s grown.
Unlike other cinnamon, this type of herb is usually turned into Chinese medications such as cures for phlegm, coughs, and other illnesses.
This type of cinnamon normally grows best in sandy soil. While the trees grow up to 49 feet in their natural state, they are usually cut much early for commercial purposes. The leaves are leathery and shiny on the top while dull on the underside. When the leaves are crushed they are spicy and have a hot taste while the back of the tree produces a very strong cinnamon smells.
Also known as Mexican cinnamon the biggest advantage of this cinnamon is that it’s very low in coumarin levels hence the most preferred choice for those who take it daily.
The most popularly enjoyed forms of cinnamon
These refer to rolled up pieces of cinnamon bark that are great for steeping inside a cup of hot water, coffee, tea, or thrown into a slow cooker with a dish. The true varieties of this cinnamon are known as Ceylon sticks.
Taken from ground cinnamon bark this is perhaps the most popular form of cinnamon in most kitchen cabinets. This cinnamon is also commonly incorporated in breakfast foods such as oats or toast.
Cinnamon essential oil refers to the oils made from the leaves, bark and root bark of cinnamon tree. This type of cinnamon is commonly used for their flavor, fragrance, and medicine.
The main chemical taken from cinnamon bark oil is known as Cinnamaldehyde. Leaf cinnamon oil also contains high concentrations of eugenol which are majorly used as antiseptic and offer amazing health benefits of cinnamon.
You can use essential oil to make cinnamon pine cones for sweet smelling decor in your home. And of course the health benefits of cinnamon are even in smell.
This type of cinnamon is prepared by soaking cinnamon sticks in alcohol and removing the solids. The remaining liquid is then used as a flavor. You can either buy this type of cinnamon or make it at home.
To Make Cinnamon Extract: just take a small mason type of jar, fill it with cinnamon sticks and high proof grain alcohol. A higher ABV = a faster extraction rate. E.g. vodka, everclear. 40% is sufficient. 50% is better. 95% is ideal.
Steep the concoction for about a month. After 1 month steep time, or shorter per intensity of flavor, transfer the extract to a 2 oz dropper bottles using a funnel. Now you are ready to make countless recipes using your homemade cinnamon extract.
These are different types of cinnamon that are mostly sold in capsule and pill form. For short term use, these supplements are believed to be very safe According to NCCIH, since some people may experience allergic reactions, it’s important to consult a doctor before taking the supplements.
Health benefits of cinnamon
Cinnamon has medicinal properties
Dating back to as far as ancient Egypt, cinnamon has been used as an ingredient. Since it used to be valuable and rare, it was considered as a gift only fit for the kings.
The oily part of cinnamon contains a compound known as cinnamaldehyde which scientists believe is responsible for its powerful effects on metabolism and health.
One of the best ways to extract all the goodness from cinnamon is to soak the stick inside a warm cup of water and sip on it daily. Supported by several health experts, cinnamon-infused water is used to make a wonder drink that has several healing and medicinal properties.
Cinnamon may reduce the risk of heart disease
Cinnamon has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease which is among the most common causes of premature death. As a matter of fact, those suffering from type 2 diabetes can greatly benefit from 1 gram of cinnamon per day. Overall, it may improve some key risk factors of heart diseases including blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides according to Pubmed.
Cinnamon can help clear acne
According to the 2015 review of studies, cinnamon could help clean skin breakouts due to the antibacterial effects of bioreactive photo chemicals. You can make a simple acne-fighting topical face mask by combining organic honey, 2 teaspoons of raw organic honey and sprinkle of cinnamon. If you apply this to your face and for ten minutes and rinse with warm water and washcloth, it kills the bacteria and the acne should show signs of improvement.
Although there is ongoing research, some studies have shown that cinnamon may significantly help raise good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol levels. In fact, one particular compound cinnamate may be able to decrease the activity of the enzyme that makes cholesterol and reduce the amount of fatty acid in the blood. These foods will also significantly reduce cholesterol naturally.
Cinnamon can lower the blood sugar level
Cinnamon is also famous because it has a blood sugar lowering properties. Apart from its effects on insulin, it can reduce the amount of cholesterol by several other mechanisms. First, it is believed that it can significantly reduce the amount of glucose that enters the bloodstream after eating. Second, a compound in cinnamon can act on cells by mimicking insulin. This can significantly improve glucose intake by the cells
Cinnamon can help reduce inflammation
Cinnamaldehyde, a compound that’s responsible for cinnamon’s flavor and odor can also prevent blood platelets from clumping together and minimize swelling. Its anti-inflammatory properties don’t end there! ICinnamon can also prevent certain substances that are linked to abnormal cell growth thereby lower the risk of heart
Cinnamon may protect one from cancer
Cinnamon has also been widely studied for its ability to prevent and aid in the treatment of cancer per Advanced Science News. This means it acts by reducing the formation of blood vessels in tumors and the growth of cancer cells. Since it appears to be toxic to the cancer cells it causes their death within a short time.
It can slow signs of aging
As our skin ages it produces less elastic and collagen which are the proteins that help keep the skin supple and smooth. Although lots of creams and lotions claim to help increase the production of these proteins, cinnamon may do the job perfectly well without the help of these chemicals.
Cinnamon helps fight fungal and bacterial infections
Cinnamaldehyde one of the main components of cinnamon may significantly help fight different kinds of infections. For instance, cinnamon oil has been shown to effectively treat infections that are caused by fungi. It can also prevent the growth of bacteria including salmonella and listeria. The antibacterial properties of cinnamon may also help reduce bad breath and prevent tooth decay.
With that said cinnamon is one of the healthiest and delicious spices on the planet. Apart from reducing heart disease risk factors and lowering blood sugar levels, the health benefits of cinnamon far exceed our expectations. If you want to get the most from it just ensure that you get the correct kind to give you the optimal benefits.