The Chinese already knew about the cinnamon tree as far back as 2500 B.C., and it was just as valuable as gold. Also, the Ancient Egyptians used it for embalming mummies. Cinnamon was also appreciated among Israelites. Moses was told to use it and other spices to make the holy ointment that the sanctuary’s objects and priests were anointed with.
Cinnamon was one of the spices that indirectly contributed to the Discovery of America since Colombus sailed towards the west to make the journey to India shorter. It was the cinnamon tree, and other appreciated Eastern products that were brought from India. During the 17th and 18th centuries, cinnamon became the most profiting spice for Dutch traders.
Cinnamon, which is still highly valued in modern cuisine, has remarkable medicinal properties. Some people consider it an aphrodisiac. However, having no scientific evidence of this fact, we think that cinnamon acts by suggestion.
Cinnamon Tree Scientific Facts
- Other names: Ceylon cinnamon, Laurus Cinnamomum L.
- French: Cannelier du Ceylan.
- Spanish: Canelo, cinamomo.
- Environment: It grows wild and is cultivated in southeast Asia, especially in Sri Lanka (the former Ceylon), India, Madagascar, and the tropical regions of South America.
- Description: Tree of the Lauraceae family, growing up to 10 m high, from whose young branches an inner dun bark is obtained. It has large, oval-shaped leaves and white or yellow flowers. The whole plant has a pleasant scent.
- Parts of the plant used medicinally: The inner bark of young branches, which once fermented is known as cinnamon.
Healing Properties and Indications
The bark of the cinnamon tree contains essential oils, cinnamal dehide, tannin, terpenes, calcium oxalate, starch, and traces of mucilage. The combined action of all these substances gives the bark digestive, stomachic invigorating, and appetizer properties. It increases the secretions of gastric and intestinal juices, as well as stomach motility.
As a result of this stimulating action of cinnamon on the body, an increase of appetite and an enhancement of the whole digestive functioning is produced. It is especially recommended for people suffering from lack of appetite, bloated stomach caused by gastric atony (dilated stomach), and flatulence caused by lack of gastric juice.
On the other hand, its use is advised against gastro-duodenal ulcer sufferers since a feature of this ailment is an excess of gastric juice, which is a determinant for ulcer formation. Its content in tannin gives cinnamon a mild astringent effect. Cinnamon can produce skin allergies in sensitive people.
How to use cinnamon
- Seasoning: Both cinnamon sticks and ground cinnamon are used as a seasoning in different cookery recipes.
- Infusion: When a more intense effect is required, prepare an infusion with one or two cinnamon sticks of about 10 cm long per cup of water. Add a couple of lemon slices, if wanted. It is more effective when not sweetened. Drink a cup after each meal.
Besides true Ceylon cinnamon, Chinese cinnamon is obtained from the bark of a similar tree, the Chinese cinnamon tree, with a more spicy, less delicate flavor. However, it has the same medicinal properties as Ceylon cinnamon. In his book Book of Nature, John Russell wrote in the 15th century: “Cinnamon is for noble classes and Chinese cinnamon for village people.”
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. vols. 2 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 442,443. Print. [Cinnamon tree]