Herb of the Month – Cinnamon

  Cinnamon

 “Cynamomum is very hot and it’s powers and great. It holds a bit of moisture, but it’s heat is so strong that it suppresses that dampness.”

-Hilddegard von Bingen

 

Latin: Cinnamomum spp.

Folk Names: Sweet wood, cinnamon bark, Ceylon cinnamon, cassia cinnamon, Chinese cinnamon

Family: Lauraceae (laurel)

Parts Used: Bark & twigs

Energy and Flavors: Pungent, sweet, hot

Element: Fire

Systems Affected: Immune system, digestive system, respiratory system

Primary Biochemical Constituents: Aldehydes, phenols, sesquiterpenes, cuminal

Properties: Antiviral, anti-bacterial, anti-depressant, diuretic, sexual stimulant, astringent, demulcent, immune stimulant and carminative

Cautions: Avoid therapeutic doses of cinnamon in pregnancy, especially the essential oil, as the herb is a potential uterine stimulant.  It is recommended to use the herb with care in overheated or feverish conditions.

 

Introduction: Cinnamon comes from the bark of trees native to China, India, and Southeast Asia. A popular cooking spice in many cultures for centuries, cinnamon also has a long history of use as a folk or traditional medicine. For example, many ancient societies used cinnamon for bronchitis. Additional folk or traditional uses include gastrointestinal problems, loss of appetite, and control of diabetes, as well as a variety of other conditions.

Cinnamon bark is used to make powders, capsules, teas, and liquid extracts. Although there are many kinds of cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon (sometimes referred to as “true” cinnamon) and cassia cinnamon (also known as Chinese cinnamon) are the most familiar.

Traditional Uses:The origin of cinnamon was a highly-guarded secret of the Arabs, who first brought cinnamon to the West. They concocted a number of magical myths to hide the location of the crops and enhance the mystique of this spice fit for a king.  Herodotus III wrote of the large Phoenix bird gathering the priceless spice sticks. Gatherers would lure the bird with heavy pieces of meat which the bird would laboriously haul to their nest. As legend would have it, the  weight of the meat would cause the nest to fall, allowing the valuable sticks to be harvested. Cinnamon was once deemed as rare as frankincense and as costly as gold, and the desire of it made it very desirable among ancient spice traders.

Native to China, the medicinal bark and leaves have been used for 4,700 years.  The bark has been used traditionally for female systems.  It invigorates the blood and help regulates the menstrual cycle and eases menstrual cramps.  There has also been research on the barks’ hypoglycemic properties and its usefulness in treating diabetes. In Chinese medicine, Cinnamon Bark (Rou Gui) is used for Cold conditions, to tonify Yang Qi, and to restore vitality. It is used as a warming therapy indicated for certain types of vomiting, abdominal pains, weak pulse, and feelings of coldness.  Oriental herbalists use the bark mainly as a dispersing stimulant.  Cinnamon is used for poor circulation of blood and energy, arthritis and rheumatic complaints.  It also adds sweetness to foods with a cool energy.  Cinnamon is one of the best antidotes to the mucus-forming properties of dairy products.  Simmered in milk and taken with a little honey, cinnamon is very effective for indigestion, gas, diarrhea, gas, and dysentery.  It is believed that daily use makes one look and feel younger.

New Mexico Herbal Traditions: Although not a native New Mexican plant, Canela, has been used as a tea by the Hispanic people to settle and relax the stomach.  The hot tea will usually help break a fever, especially with a little Ajenjibre added. It is best to use the sticks or flakes not the powder.  In childbirth, cinnamon is used in helping delivery and lessening post-partum bleeding.  A strong cup or two is used for this purpose.

Aromatherapy:Indicated in exhaustion especially following infection such as flu. Will help digestion and stimulate the heart. It is a strong antiseptic and makes a good inhalation.  For abdominal colic, stomach chills, and diarrhea-dilute 1 ml of cinnamon oil into 25ml of almond or sunflower oil and massage onto abdomen.  One can also dissolve 5 drops in boiling water and inhale the steam for coughs and respiratory irritation. For some; repeated use can result in extreme contact sensitization.  Diffuse with caution-may burn nasal membranes if inhaled directly from diffuser.  The essential oil should not be used on children under 6 years old.

 

Magical Uses:Cinnamon when burned as incense, raises high spiritual vibrations, aids in healing, draws money, stimulates psychic powers and produces protective vibrations.  Cinnamon oil was used by the Hebrews in part of a holy anointing oil and by the Egyptians in the mummification process.

 

Culinary Uses:

Modern Research: Cinnamon bark contains an oily chemical called cinnamaldehyde that kills a variety of illness-causing bacteria, including Escheerichia coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus aureus. Research shows that cinnamon can also be used to combat strains of the Asian flu virus.

A study from VIT University in India examined cinnamon’s effect on diabetic rats and demonstrated that cinnamon bark is effective in reducing post-meal high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) levels. A meta-analysis of clinical studies on cinnamon published in the Journal of Medicinal Food concluded that cinnamon lowers fasting blood glucose levels in people with Type II diabetes.

Another study led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Department of Human Nutrition, involved 60 people and concluded that cinnamon reduces serum glucose, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol in people with Type II diabetes. It also suggested that adding cinnamon to the diet of people with Type II diabetes will reduce risk factors associated with diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

 

Side Effects and Cautions: Cinnamon appears to be safe for most people when taken by mouth in amounts up to 6 grams daily for 6 weeks or less. Some people may have allergic reactions to cinnamon or its parts.Cassia cinnamon contains coumarin, the parent compound of warfarin, a medication used to keep blood from clotting. Due to concerns about the possible effects of coumarin, in 2006, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment warned against consuming large amounts of cassia cinnamon.Cinnamon should not be used in place of conventional medical care or to delay seeking care if you are experiencing symptoms that are of concern; this is particularly true if you have diabetes.

***Tell all your health care providers about any complementary health practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

 

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