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What is Cinnamon ?
Cinnamon is a spice that comes from the branches of trees of the "Cinnamomum" family. It is native to the Caribbean, South America, and Southeast Asia.
The History of Cinnamon
Cinnamon has been in use by humans for thousands of years—as early as 2,000 B.C. Egyptians employed it, as well as the related spice cassia, as a perfuming agent during the embalming process, and it was even mentioned in the Old Testament as an ingredient in anointing oil. Evidence suggests it was used throughout the ancient world, and that Arab traders brought it to Europe, where it proved equally popular. Legend holds that the Roman emperor Nero burned as much as he could find of the precious spice on the funeral pyre of his second wife Poppaea Sabina in A.D. 65 to atone for his role in her death. The Arabs transported cinnamon via cumbersome land routes, resulting in a limited, expensive supply that made the use of cinnamon a status symbol in Europe in the Middle Ages. As the middle class began to seek upward mobility, they too wanted to purchase the luxury goods that were once only available to noble classes. Cinnamon was particularly desirable as it could be used as a preservative for meats during the winter. Despite its widespread use, the origins of cinnamon was the Arab merchants’ best-kept secret until the early 16th century. To maintain their monopoly on the cinnamon trade and justify its exorbitant price, Arab traders wove colorful tales for their buyers about where and how they obtained the luxury spice. One such story, related by the 5th-century B.C. Greek historian Herodotus, said that enormous birds carried the cinnamon sticks to their nests perched high atop mountains that were insurmountable by any human. According to the story, people would leave large pieces of ox meat below these nests for the birds to collect. When the birds brought the meat into the nest, its weight would cause the nests to fall to the ground, allowing the cinnamon sticks stored within to be collected. Another tall tale reported that the cinnamon was found in deep canyons guarded by terrifying snakes, and first-century Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder proposed that cinnamon came from Ethiopia, carried on rafts with no oars or sails, powered by “man alone and his courage.” Struggling to meet increasing demand, European explorers set out to find the spice’s mysterious source. Christopher Columbus wrote to Queen Isabella, claiming he had found cinnamon and rhubarb in the New World, but when he sent samples of his findings back home, it was discovered that the spice was not, in fact, the coveted cinnamon. Gonzalo Pizarro, a Spanish explorer, also sought cinnamon in the Americas, traversing the Amazon hoping to find the “pais de la canela,” or “cinnamon country.” Around 1518, Portuguese traders discovered cinnamon at Ceylon, present-day Sri Lanka, and conquered its island kingdom of Kotto, enslaving the island’s population and gaining control of the cinnamon trade for about a century until the Ceylon kingdom of Kandy allied with the Dutch in 1638 to overthrow the Portuguese occupiers. The Dutch defeated the Portuguese but held the kingdom in their debt for their military services, so once again Ceylon was occupied by European traders, handing the cinnamon monopoly over to the Dutch for the next 150 years. Ceylon then was taken over by the British in 1784 after their victory in the fourth Anglo-Dutch War, but by 1800, cinnamon was no longer an expensive, rare commodity, as it had begun to be cultivated in other parts of the world, and other delicacies such as chocolate and cassia, which has a flavor similar to cinnamon, began to rival it in popularity. Today, we typically encounter two types of commercial cinnamon: Ceylon and cassia cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon is primarily produced in Indonesia and has the stronger smell and flavor of the two varieties. This cheaper variety is what we usually buy in grocery stores to sprinkle on our apple pies or French toast. The more expensive Ceylon cinnamon, most of which is still produced in Sri Lanka, has a milder, sweeter flavor popular for both baking and flavoring hot drinks such as coffee or hot chocolate.
The Top 4 Reasons You Need Cinnamon
1. Reduces inflammation "The antioxidants in cinnamon have anti-inflammatory effects which may help lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, brain function decline and more.
2."There are over seven kinds of flavonoid compounds alone in cinnamon, which are highly effective at fighting dangerous inflammation levels throughout the body."
3. Supports heart health "Cinnamon has been shown to reduce several risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease, including lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as blood pressure," Clark said. Some of the ways cinnamon helps heart health is by increasing coronary blood flow and potentially suppressing total serum cholesterol, triglycerides and phospholipids.
4. Stabilises blood sugar levels Naturally-occurring compounds found in cinnamon (Cinnamomon cassia), chromium and polyphenols, have been shown to improve the way our body reacts to insulin. "Cinnamon helps lower blood sugar levels and may assist in improving your body's sensitivity to the hormone insulin, which is the vital hormone to help keep your blood sugar levels balanced," Clark explained.
The Benefits of Cinnamon
1. Cinnamon Is High in a Substance With Powerful Medicinal Properties Cinnamon is a spice that is made from the inner bark of trees called Cinnamomum. It has been used as an ingredient throughout history, dating back as far as Ancient Egypt. It used to be rare and valuable, and was regarded as a gift fit for kings. These days, cinnamon is cheap, available in every supermarket and found in all sorts of foods and recipes. Cinnamon is made by cutting the stems of the cinnamomum tree. The inner bark is then extracted and the woody parts removed from it. When it dries, it forms strips that curl into rolls, called cinnamon sticks. The sticks can be ground to form cinnamon powder. The distinct smell and flavor of cinnamon is due to the oily part, which is very high in a compound called cinnamaldehyde (2).
2. Cinnamon Is Loaded With Antioxidants Antioxidants protect the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Cinnamon is loaded with powerful antioxidants, such as polyphenols (3, 4, 5). 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 (6). In fact, it is so powerful that cinnamon can be used as a natural food preservative (7).
3. Cinnamon Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties Inflammation in the body is incredibly important. It helps the body fight infections and repair tissue damage. However, inflammation can become a problem when it is chronic (long-term) and directed against the body's own tissues. Cinnamon may be useful in this regard, because some studies show that the antioxidants in it have potent anti-inflammatory activity (3).
4. Cinnamon May Cut the Risk of Heart Disease Cinnamon has been linked with reduced risk of heart disease, the world's most common cause of premature death. In people with type 2 diabetes, 1 gram of cinnamon per day has beneficial effects on blood markers. It reduces levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while HDL cholesterol remains stable (8). More recently, a big review study concluded that a cinnamon dose of just 120 milligrams per day can have these effects. In this study, cinnamon also increased HDL (the "good") cholesterol (9). In animal studies, cinnamon has been shown to reduce blood pressure (3). When combined, all these factors may drastically cut the risk of heart disease.
Why Cinnamon Is The #1
One of the biggest benefits of consuming cinnamon is its ability to help regulate blood sugar. Interestingly, if you season a higher carbohydrate food with cinnamon, it can help ease the effect of the food on your blood sugar. (10) I typically recommend clients use cinnamon to help with blood sugar issues, since diabetes may have a better insulin response when consuming cinnamon. Interestingly, studies have shown that compounds in cinnamon cause a response in insulin receptors and also stop an enzyme that blocks them, effectively making the body’s cells better able to use the sugar taken in via the food. Cinnamon is also a very strong antioxidant. In fact, in some studies, cinnamon beats out chemical antioxidants and most other natural spices. (13) Cinnamon also helps stop the growth of bacteria as well as fungus. Depending on your level of expertise around fungus, you may already know cinnamon is potent, since it is very effective against the common candida yeast. As if the benefits of cinnamon weren’t already overwhelming, one scientific study found that cinnamon seemed to enhance cognitive processing! (15) This amazing research found that multiple parts of the brain were enhanced, resulting in an overall better memory. However promising this research though, we must remember that this was only one small study. The benefits of cinnamon may be even greater – we simply do not have all the answers yet.
Top 3 Questions People Ask About Cinnamon
1.Where is coumarin used? Synthetic coumarin is used in cosmetics. It smells of fresh hay. Coumarin is also used formedicinal purposes to treat oedemas. Isolated coumarin may not be added to foods. If it iscontained in parts of plants added to flavour foods (as is the case with cinnamon), theamount of coumarin is limited to 2 milligrams per kilogram food in accordance with the Flavourings Ordinance.
2.What happens when maximum levels are exceeded? The food control authorities of the federal states monitor whether maximum levels are compliedwith. Examinations of cinnamon-containing foods by individual monitoring bodies in thefederal states in the spring revealed cases where the admissible coumarin levels had beenconsiderably exceeded. Based on the Flavourings Ordinance products of this kind would notbe suitable for sale or consumption.It is down to the monitoring authorities of the federal states to decide whether to take stepsdesigned to protect consumers from possible damage to their health and from foods that areunfit for consumption.
3.How much coumarin does cinnamon contain? A rough distinction can be made between two types of cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon only contains low levels of coumarin which are safe from the risk assessment perspective. By contrast,cassia cinnamon contains high levels of coumarin and large amounts of this cinnamon should not, therefore, be eaten.
Tips for a Cinnamon
1.Recipe Tips: Cinnamon powder and sticks are both commonly used in cooking and baking of many diverse cultures. They add a whole new dimension to the flavour of main dishes, desserts, ice-cream, puree, mousse, and salads, etc. There are various ways to spice up your day - breakfast toast sprinkled with cinnamon and drizzled with honey offers a potential metabolism boost, a dash of cinnamon stirred into a cup of coffee or tea adds a dynamite flavour, and a cinnamon stick at the bottom of your cup brings a delightful finale to a hearty meal. You can also make a DYI healing mask for your face with a teaspoon of cinnamon powder and two teaspoons of raw honey.
2. Storage Tips: Like all other spices, cinnamon loses its strength in fragrance and color over time. Store your cinnamon powder or sticks in air-tight bottles in a cool place, away from any moisture, sunlight or heat. Racks above the stove or near a window are poor storage choices. Refrigerating spices without any tight sealing is not recommended due to the high humidity level in fridges. For large quantities of spices, you may want to store them in air tight containers in the freezer compartment. The shelf life of properly stored cinnamon is about 4-5 years for whole cinnamon and 2-3 years for ground cinnamon.