If you’re new to cinnamon, know that it’s been around for thousands of years! Mention of cinnamon can be found in Chinese writings as early as 2800 BC. Originally grown in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), it was brought to Europe by Arab traders, and sold at expensive prices. As the demand for this rare spice increased in Europe, explorers set out to look for its origins. Portuguese explorers found it in Ceylon where they enslaved the people and kept control of the cinnamon trade for over a century, until it was overtaken by the British.
Spices and herbs have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. More recently, the rise of modern Western medicine has overshadowed these uses. While modern medicine has undoubtedly saved many lives, it offers a quick fix, often with many side effects. Herbs and spices, on the other hand, have many positive effects that can support the body to heal itself in a more durable way.
In the 1800s, cinnamon began to be grown in many different parts of the world and became more common and less expensive. Despite its low prices and availability in almost any food store today, cinnamon’s many health benefits make it a precious spice to have not only in your kitchen but in your diet as well.
Cinnamon has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for several thousand years. Today, medical research takes an interest in TCM, which relies heavily on medicinal herbs, because it offers an alternative to the way drugs are created in modern medicine. Instead of targeting one symptom, which often fails to fully cure complex diseases, TCM offers more comprehensive solutions, helping the body’s overall health.
For example, cinnamon has historically been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to prevent type 2 diabetes. The positive effects of this spice in regards to this disease are backed up by recent studies. Diabetes occurs when blood sugar controls do not take place properly in the body. Cinnamon helps lower blood sugar levels, and prevents their elevation1.
In addition, cinnamon has long been used as a neuroprotective agent in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Indeed, it has been shown to help prevent and delay the progression of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Activating certain proteins, this spice protects the brain cells from damage and mutations that cause these illnesses2.
Cinnamon can also help prevent the colds and flus that might creep into your life in the winter. A natural anti-microbial and anti-biotic agent3, it’s a double win: not only will cinnamon bring you comfort on long winter days, adding its rich flavor to your coffee, hot chocolate or savory dishes, it will also allow you to enjoy the coziness of winter with a clear nose and mind.
Furthermore, cinnamon is a potent source of antioxidants, which have many health benefits. The hydrogen-donating ability of cinnamon makes it a free radical inhibitor. Free radical damage can accelerate the aging process and generally weaken the immune system. In addition, the antioxidant properties of cinnamon also prevent the proliferation of human cell cancer, including cervical, leukemia and skin cancer. Cinnamon has also been shown to help manage muscle soreness, as well as menstrual pain, thanks to the anti-inflammatory effects of its antioxidants4.
Cinnamon can easily be incorporated into sweet and savory dishes alike, adding spice and flavor to your life, and numerous health benefits to support your body in healing itself. So, enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!
Lisa Darmet is a freelance writer, whose passions include, not only eating, but also food and cooking and their connections to health, culture and society. She is a graduate of Hampshire College, Amherst, MA, USA with a specialty in “Cultivating Resiliency and Food Justice Through Community”. She is truly a citizen of the world and continues to explore cultures through world travel.