Cinnamon is a sweet warm flavor that is used as a favourite holiday spice, but also used in savory dishes year round. It is one of the oldest known spices that is grown in the bark of a cinnamon tree. It is dried rolled into cinnamon sticks also know as quills. Cinnamon which grows in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Brazil, Vietnam and Egypt can be dried and ground into a powder. This powder is what we know it as a benefit for healthy living.
The characteristic flavor and sweet aroma of cinnamon comes from a compound in the essential oil of the bark called cinnamon-aldehyde.
There are four main varieties of cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon are the most favorite. Ceylon cinnamon is sometimes call the “true cinnamon”; which is more expensive and has a sweeter taste. The quills area softer and can be used in a coffee grinder, and is sold in specialty stores. In North America, most stores sell the less expensive variety, Cassia cinnamon. It is a darker colour and the quills are harder. It must be ground professionally, as it is difficult to grind in the coffee grinder.
Besides using it in cooking, cinnamon was and is used in traditional medicine; the Cassia cinnamon is used for colds, flatulence, nausea, diarrhea and even painful menstrual periods; and it is also believed to improve energy, vitality, and circulation for those who have hot top body and cold feet.
What is so special about cinnamon is that it may offer protective benefits to our health. A teaspoon of cinnamon is rich in nutrition, supplying fibre, calcium manganese, iron and oxidants. Cinnamon may also help reduce the growth of bacteria and reduce inflammation.
Cinnamon is a common ingredient in chai tea, and it is believed to improve digestion of fruit, milk and other diary products.
Further studies have shown that just the smell of cinnamon may be able to boost brain power. Although research is still in its beginning stages, researchers suggest that it may help lower blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides in people with type 2 diabetes.
According to Cathy Wong, in “Your Guide to Alternative Medicine”, one of the first studies in 2003 in the journal “Diabetes Care”, sixty people with Type 2 diabetes took 1, 3, or 6 grams of cinnamon in pill for daily, equivalent to 1/4 tsp to 1 tsp. of cinnamon. After 40 days, all 3 amounts of cinnamon reduced fasting blood glucose by 18 to 29%, triglycerides by 23 to 30% and LDL (Bad cholesterol by 7 to 27% and above all total cholesterol 12 to 26 per cent. Cathy says that there were concerns with the study as for example; there was no difference in benefit to those who took the three doses of cinnamon.
In another study scientists looked at the effect of cinnamon on 79 people with type 2 diabetes who were not on insulin therapy, but were taking or diabetic meds or modifying their diet. They took approximately 3 grams of cinnamon or a placebo three times a day for four months. There was a significant reduction in blood glucose in the people taking the cinnamon compared to the people taking the placebo 3 times a day for four months. There was no difference in glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1C levels) which is a test that tells how well blood sugar has been controlled during the previous 3 to 4 months.
In a six week study involving 25 postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes, women were give 1.5 grams of cinnamon daily or a placebo. There was no effect on blood sugar, insulin sensitivity, or cholesterol levels, according to Wong.
Wong also showed that in a small Swedish study published in the “American Journal of Medicine” where 14 people were given either rice pudding on its own or rice pudding with cinnamon. Researchers found that those that added cinnamon lowered the post-meal rise in blood glucose compared to those who did not consume cinnamon.
The use of cinnamon in cooking is a pleasant way of consuming cinnamon; on an apple, on pudding, in cakes, loaves and muffins and stews. And, there is nothing nicer than a cup of Chai tea with cinnamon to make your day.
Cassia cinnamon found in supplement form and regular cooking form does contain at high levels of use, some Coumarin. It is also found in celery, parsley, chamomile, sweet clover. The point is always check with your doctor before you decide you want to try cinnamon or any supplement that may affect your medications you are taking.
Using cinnamon, normally in baking and in teas is a healthy benefit for healthy living, so enjoy the sweet aroma. You can also buy cinnamon oil for aromatherapy. There again, check with your doctor – if you have the go-ahead, it will be one of most enjoyable experiences for benefits of healthy living.