Cinnamon is an ancient spice that comes from the bark of several species of the Cinnamomum genus of evergreen trees, which belong to the laurel family. The most popular types of cinnamon are native to Sri Lanka and China, though cinnamon is grown throughout Asia, Europe, and North America.
In antiquity, cinnamon was prized as much for its sweet, sharp, and sensuous fragrance as it was for its taste. The ancient Egyptians used cinnamon along with myrrh to embalm the dead, and the Romans burned it on funeral pyres. It was used in religious ceremonies by the ancient Hebrews and is mentioned in the Bible as an ingredient in the preparation of a holy anointing oil.
During the Middle Ages in Europe, cinnamon was a status symbol ingredient in cuisine enjoyed by the elite, brought west from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) by Arab traders. The Portuguese took over the cinnamon trade in Ceylon during the 15th century, and centuries of fighting over the spice ensued between them, the Ceylonese, and Dutch and British colonizers. In time, cultivation of the sought-after spice spread across the globe. Today, cinnamon is more likely to evoke feelings of comfort rather than bloodlust.
The cinnamon you have in your kitchen cabinet is most likely to be Cinnamomum cassia, which is native to China and the most common type sold in the United States and Canada. Cinnamomum verum, also known as true cinnamon or Ceylon cinnamon, comes primarily from Sri Lanka. It is more delicately flavored than cassia and more highly prized, though less widely used. Other commercially available types of cinnamon include Cinnamomum burmannii (also called Indonesian cinnamon) and Cinnamomum loureiroi (also known as Vietnamese cinnamon). Many lesser-known species of the cinnamon tree exist, too
There are four main types of cinnamon:
- Ceylon cinnamon: Also known as "true" cinnamon.
- Cassia cinnamon: The more common variety today and what people generally refer to as "cinnamon."
- Indonesian cinnamon
- Saigon cinnamon
- Cinnamon is made by cutting the stems of cinnamon trees. The inner bark is then extracted and the woody parts removed. When it dries, it forms strips that curl into rolls, called cinnamon sticks. These sticks can be ground to form cinnamon powder. The distinct smell and flavor of cinnamon are due to the oily part, which is very high in the compound cinnamaldehyde.
- Cinnamon is harvested from the peels of the inner bark of a Cinnamomum tree. The peels are left out to dry and curl up naturally into quills, also known as cinnamon sticks. The quills can then be ground into powder or processed to make cinnamon oil, cinnamon extract, and other cinnamon products.
- You can tell the difference between Ceylon and cassia cinnamon quills by the way they curl: The former are like a telescope in shape, and the latter curl inward from both sides, like a scroll. Ground Ceylon cinnamon is tan, with a delicate and sweet flavor, while cassia is reddish brown, coarser in texture, and more pungent in flavor and aroma.
- Scientists believe that this compound is responsible for most of cinnamon's powerful effects on health and metabolism. Cinnamon is loaded with powerful antioxidants, such as polyphenols. Antioxidants protect your body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. In a study that compared the antioxidant activity of 26 spices, cinnamon wound up as the clear winner, even outranking "superfoods" like garlic and oregano. In fact, it is so powerful that cinnamon can be used as a natural food preservative
Cinnamon's unique healing abilities come from three basic types of components in the essential oils found in its bark. These oils contain active components called cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, and cinnamyl alcohol, plus a wide range of other volatile substances
- Anti-Clotting Actions and Anti-Microbial Activity
- Blood Sugar Control
- Cinnamon's Scent Boosts Brain Function and Boost Metabolism
- A Traditional Warming Remedy
- Help to Get Rid of a Yeast Infection
- Regulate Menstrual Cycles for PCOS
- Improves Your Dental Health
- Cinnamon Enhances Your Skin Health
- Helps In Hair Growth
Popularly enjoyed forms of cinnamon:
- Quills Rolled-up pieces of cinnamon bark are great for steeping in a cup of tea, coffee, or hot cider, or throw them into a slow cooker with meat. The true cinnamon variety of quills are known as Ceylon sticks. Cinnamon sticks can impart flavor to a dish or sauce during the cooking process and then be discarded before serving. Ground cinnamon can be mixed into foods or sprinkled atop baked goods, desserts, savory dishes, and beverages. Used sparingly, cinnamon extract can live in all manner of dishes. The possibilities are endless!
- Essential oil can be prepared by roughly pounding the bark, macerating it in sea water, and then quickly distilling the whole. It is of a golden-yellow colour, with the characteristic odour of cinnamon and a very hot aromatic taste. The pungent taste and scent come from cinnamaldehyde (about 90% of the essential oil from the bark) and, by reaction with oxygen as it ages, it darkens in colour and forms resinous compounds.
- Cinnamon bark is used as a spice. It is principally employed in cookery as a condiment and flavouring material. It is used in the preparation of chocolate, especially in Mexico.
- In the United States, cinnamon and sugar are often used to flavour cereals, bread-based dishes, such as toast, and fruits, especially apples; a cinnamon-sugar mixture is sold separately for such purposes.
- Cinnamon is often used in savoury dishes of chicken and lamb It is also used in Turkish cuisine for both sweet and savoury dishes.
- Cinnamon can also be used in pickling and Christmas drinks such as eggnog. Cinnamon powder has long been an important spice in enhancing the flavour of Persian cuisine, used in a variety of thick soups, drinks, and sweets.
- Cinnamon is used as a flavouring in some alcoholic beverages, such as cinnamon-flavoured whiskey in the United States, and rakomelo, a cinnamon brandy popular in parts of Greece.
- An Indian food staple, curry is a blend of spices that can bring the heat depending on the type. Try curry in scrambled egg whites, brown rice or quinoa, and tuna salad. It can even liven up sautéed vegetables and baked chicken. Spices are a great way to add flavor without extra calories, fat, sugar, or salt.
Use "True" Cinnamon:
Ceylon ("true" cinnamon) is much better in this regard, and studies show that it’s much lower in coumarin than the Cassia variety (39). Unfortunately, most cinnamon found in supermarkets is the cheaper Cassia variety
Ceylon cinnamon, also known as True Cinnamon or Mexican Cinnamon, is the safest type of cinnamon. But how can you identify it? You cannot tell the difference when you buy cinnamon in powder form. But when you buy cinnamon sticks, the one with the thin layer is Ceylon cinnamon. Not all cinnamon is created equal. The Cassia variety contains significant amounts of a compound called coumarin, which is believed to be harmful in large doses. All cinnamon should have health benefits, but Cassia may cause problems in large doses due to the coumarin content.
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Disclaimer: The contents of the blog are for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.