The of Cinnamon dates back 2800 B.C. in Chinese writing where it is called as Kwai and is said to be used medicinally for colds, flu and problems of the digestive system. The ancient Egyptians used cinnamon as a perfuming agent in their mummification practice. Pliny the Elder, in the first century A.D., mentioned Cinnamon as being more in value than that of Silver.
Do you know where this Superfood actually comes from? It comes from the bark. They are taken from the inner layer of barks of different trees belonging to the genus Cinnamomum. This brown bark is either made into a dried tubular stick or grounded into powder. The two leading varieties of Cinnamon are Ceylon (which is considered as the “True Cinnamon”) and Chinese (also known as “Cassia” or Kwai). While both are relatively similar in fragrance and taste, Ceylon has a more subtle and refined flavor.
It is also important to note since both are usually labeled as cinnamon, Cassia (China) cinnamon contains more couarin than the True Cinnamon (Ceylon). Coumarin is a compound that can cause serious side effects when not used in prescribed dosage.
Now, let us see the benefits that this superfood can give. The distinctive healing abilities of cinnamon come from the essential oils found in its bark. These oils contain active elements called cinnamyl alcohol, cinnamaldehyde, and cinnamyl acetate including a wide range of other substances.
The cinnaldehyde content of cinnamon helps prevent clumping of blood platelets - the best in anti-clotting action. This superfood has the ability in lowering the release of arachidonic acid from cell membranes that can help in lessening inflammation. The essential oils in cinnamon also have an "anti-microbial" property to help stop the growth of bacteria as well as fungi and yeast candida. Cinnamon slows the rate at which the stomach empties after meals, reducing the rise in blood sugar level after eating.
This superfood is one of those fragrant spices that are so useful inside and outside the kitchen. If you want an extra burst of flavor, try to consider cooking with cinnamon. The pleasant spicy flavor and aroma of cinnamon will remind you of freshly baked stuff. It is not only good for sweets but also with savory stuff like soup. You can also use it in your favorite beverage. It adds a zing to hot cocoa, coffee or wine. You can also make a perfect marinade with it for meat dishes.
Just as with any kind of spice, you need to be aware of the side-effects when they are taken in large quantities. Cinnamon oil can cause irritation when directly applied to skin. Taking large amounts has shown to increase heart rate, a high risk for those with heart condition. For pregnant women, it is best to avoid cinnamon as it induces uterine contraction. Just remember that too much of everything is bad.
Picture courtesy of http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/03/29/149605395/just-say-no-to-the-cinnamon-challenge-istockphoto.com