Cinnamon evokes such fond memories of the Christmas season. From moreish Christmas cookies to spicy mince pies, cinnamon is the flavour of the season and is sure to spread the festive cheer. So what’s the deal with cinnamon and why is it a spice we’ve come to love? We decided to dig a bit deeper into where cinnamon comes from, as well as its benefits and usage.
First up, let’s have a short and sweet geography lesson
Harvested from the inner bark of evergreen tree variety (cinnamomum tree if you want to be scientific), cinnamon is farmed in the tropical regions of Sri Lanka, India, Philipines, West Indies, as well as parts of South America. The thick reddish-brown bark from the tree stems is stripped away to extract the inner bark. When the inner bark is dried, it curls to form cinnamon sticks, which are then ground into cinnamon powder.
Time for history class
Cinnamon has a long history of use dating back to 2 800 BC when it was used by Chinese Emperor Shen Nung (also known as father of Chinese medicine). Evidence also tells us that cinnamon was highly valued in Ancient Egypt (2000 BC) and referred to as the ‘gift of the kings’. The ancient Egyptians commonly used cinnamon to mummify the dead, as well as to to treat coughs, sore throats and arthritis.
Why we should be consuming cinnamon
- Rich in calcium, fibre and magnesium with antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, antiviral and antioxidant properties, recent studies have shown that cinnamon has many amazing health benefits.
- With a power punch of potent antioxidants, cinnamon fends off nasty free radicals!
- Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties to its name, and can put up a good fight against infections.
A helping hand for heart disease, cinnamon not only reduces bad cholesterol levels in the blood, it also maintains good cholesterol.
- Need to lower your sugar spike? Studies have shown that cinnamon not only lowers glucose levels in the blood; it also assists in regulating the metabolism and the rate at which our bodies transport glucose to the cells to be converted into energy. Cinnamon also shows face in the digestive system, slowing down the digestion of carbohydrates, maintaining stable glucose levels in the process.
- Sparking the brain back into action, components found in cinnamon restores brain function (which makes it highly beneficial for those suffering from Parkinson’s by restoring brain cell function). In addition, these components also help curb a build-up of the protein in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Cinnamon is great at kicking fungal respiratory infections to the curb and will stop bacterial growth in their tracks.
Spreading the cinnamon love
Rich in cinnamaldehyde, cinnamon has a distinct flavour and smell, which can add a touch of zing to your baked confectionery or savoury dish. So with the holiday season approaching, why not enhance your christmas cookies, healthy treats and even summer smoothies or cinnamon tea? As for your cooking, whole cinnamon sticks add a bold flavour to your curried dishes and compliments roasted pork or Asian style ribs excellently. A traditional South African all-time favourite, pumpkin fritters are certainly not the same without cinnamon (my mouth is literally watering at the thought).