I can’t speak highly enough of cinnamon. To me, it is the queen of spices. Well, more than a spice, as I sprinkle it on just about everything – it’s so wonderfully versatile! For instance, I sprinkle it in my hot beverages, on my desserts, on my fruits salads, on my snacks and on savoury dishes, too. I could even just eat it on plain toasted bread!
I discovered this wonderful spice as a child whilst enjoying Mucenici – a traditional Romanian dessert, created to commemorate the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste. This is made of 8-shaped dough pieces (resembling garlands), cooked similarly to pasta, by boiling them in water and adding crushed walnuts, honey, vanilla, rum essences and the glorious ... cinnamon! So, I used to enjoy cinnamon only one day a year (on the 9th of March) on this occasion.
Years later, when I went on a diet, I sought an alternative to sugar that could enhance the taste of my drinks and desserts. In a light-bulb moment, my mind remembered how cinnamon would turn the above-mentioned, otherwise blatant dessert into a heart-warming bowl of goodness. So, I decided to experiment by sprinkling a bit of cinnamon in my drinks and that was when the magic happened. It was then when I realised that, thanks to cinnamon, I don’t need sugar or artificial sweeteners to enhance the taste of my meals. I realised that I could add it to just about everything to enrich flavours, whilst keeping my drinks, snacks and meals light and healthy.
The distinctive, nutty flavour of cinnamon enhances every dish, taking each taste to a higher level. Whilst doing so, it infuses an element of warmth, cosiness and well-being. This is probably why it has become associated with Christmas. However, don’t limit your consumption of cinnamon to the festive season. Enjoy it all year round, as there are so many benefits to it:
1. It lowers blood sugar levels
This research has shown that cinnamon has properties that curb blood sugar levels, helping those with insulin resistance.
2. Prevents cancer
Cinnamon oil may treat tumours, gastric cancers and melanomas, as shown in this study. Further research shows that sugar may be causing or sustaining cancer cells and cinnamon can combat this, by starving cancerous cells of the sugar needed to sustain them. Cinnamon has two chemical constituents – Cinnamaldehyde and Eugenol (from cinnamon oil). This study used these two constitutes of cinnamon to create nutraceuticals which have proven effective in fighting colon cancer cells (Eugenol) and hepatoma cells (Cinnamaldehyde).
3. Fights stomach bugs/flu
Cinnamon is a powerful anti-bacterial and therefore highly effective in fighting E–coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter (click on these links for the research). To prevent this bacteria from giving rise to diseases, mix cinnamon oil with hydrogen peroxide and spray it onto your kitchen sink, cutting board (especially after you have cut meats) and into your refrigerator. It’s safe and natural.
4. Has anti-bacterial properties and neutralises odours
If you’re after a natural disinfectant, dilute some cinnamon oil in water to clean any surfaces. Cinnamon leaf oil kills bacteria that creates bad odours (so it doesn’t just mask them) and will spread about a divine smell. Also, create your own home-purifying fragrance, by pouring 2-5 drops of cinnamon leaf oil mixed with water on a diffuser. What’s more, you can make your natural face cleanser by boiling a couple of cinnamon sticks in hot water and use it as part of your daily cleansing ritual.
5. Preserves food
As previously mentioned, cinnamon is effective in inhibiting bacterial growth. This may be one of the reasons why it has become so widely used in food preparation in hot Asian countries. In Sri Lanka, virtually every dish has a pinch of Cinnamon. Apart from adding a great flavour, cinnamon, combined with other spices like Turmeric and Chili, may have been an indigenous solution to preserving food in the absence of a refrigerator. This experiment found that a solution containing 6% cinnamon oil could inhibit mould in sliced-bread packaging, whereas this study found cinnamon oil to be effective in developing insect-resistant food packaging film. Cinnamon also came top of the list (compared to other spices) in this study as highly effective for making edible food film.
6. Combats Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Cinnamon reduces the uncomfortable feelings associated with IBS (e.g. bloating) by killing bacteria, enabling the gastric juices to work normally and healing infections in the GI tract. If you have stomach cramps, a cup of cinnamon tea 2-3 times per day will significantly reduce the discomfort.
7. Prevents arthritis/osteoporosis
Cinnamon has high levels of Manganese (approx. 73% in 2 sticks of cinnamon) which is used to strengthen bones, blood and connective tissues.
8. Helps brain function
This study showed that those taking Cinnamon experienced improved alertness, memory & cognitive development.
9. Acts as a powerful anti-oxidant
Cinnamon is one of the best anti-oxidants, reducing the formation of free radicals, thus repairing any cell damage and helping to prevent cancer. In this sense, this study cites the potential anti-microbial and antioxidant properties of the volatile oils and oleoresins of the cinnamon leaf and bark.
10. Helps with weight loss
In two ways: 1) it has a blood-thinning property that increases blood circulation which boosts your metabolism and 2) it decreases blood's sugar levels, preventing your body from storing fat.
11. Great for massages
Cinnamon is a warming agent and mixed with a carrier oil is highly effective in relaxing muscles. So, next time you enjoy a bath, put a few drops of cinnamon oil.
12. Combats athletes’ foot
Cinnamon leaf oil acts as a powerful anti-fungal agent, great for treating toenail fungus or athletes’ foot, either internally (drink cinnamon tea or sprinkle powder in your meals) or externally (soak your feet in water infused with cinnamon leaf oil).
13. Lowers LDL cholesterol & triglycerides
This review found that the consumption of cinnamon decreases total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels and increase HDL-C levels (the good cholesterol).
14. Prevents tooth decay and gum disease
The anti-bacterial properties of Cinnamon eliminate harmful bacteria without damaging teeth or gums. I just love the cinnamon mouthwash range from JĀSÖN brand, which cleverly combines cinnamon with peppermint and orange oils to help maintain a healthy mouth, a fresh breath, protect the enamel and control tartar, without using alcohol or harsh chemicals. With an amazing taste and smell, these original products make me look forward to my daily teeth-cleaning routine. So, if you have been reticent to using mouthwash because of its off-putting taste, you should definitely try these delicious mouthwashes.
15. It beams with nutrients
Only one teaspoon of cinnamon powder has 0.33mg Manganese (16%), 0.76 mg Iron (4%), 24.56 mg Calcium (2%).
16. Combats colds, sore throats and coughs
Treat the first signs of a cold with cinnamon tea, which will stop an impending illness from developing. This is due to cinnamon’s anti-bacterial and warming properties and its propensity to increase blood flow and thereby improve blood oxygen levels to fight illness. For this reason, Chinese traditional medicine has been using cinnamon extensively for treating coughs.
17. Combats Alzheimer’s disease
Two compounds found in cinnamon — cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin — may be effective in fighting Alzheimer’s. According to this research, cinnamon has been shown to prevent the development of the filamentous “tangles” found in brain cells that characterise Alzheimer’s. Moreover, this article concludes that cinnamon can delay the effects of five aggressive strains of Alzheimer’s inducing genes. Another study also found that cinnamon extract administered orally has managed to combat cognitive impairment.
18. Parkinson's Disease
Cinnamon can reverse the biomechanical, cellular and anatomical changes that occur in the brains of those suffering from Parkinson’s disease, according to this study.
Thanks to its high levels of Manganese, cinnamon is highly effective in mitigating the effects of PMS. According to the University of Maryland Medical Centre, women who had 5.6 mg of manganese in their diets each day had fewer mood swings and cramps compared to those who ate only 1 mg of manganese.
20. Acts as mood enhancer
Folklore says that the smell of Cinnamon is the best cure for the winter blues. Some evidence suggests that certain types of gut bacteria may make you more susceptible to depression. Therefore, as a powerful anti-bacterial, cinnamon may help fight depression, by removing bacteria from your gut. So, try uplifting your mood by infusing some cinnamon oil in your diffuser. I love the way it smells - in my view, it creates the best aromatherapy experience.
21. Fights viruses
Cinnamon can help fight a variety of viruses, from adenovirus thanks to Cinnamaldehye (the primary ingredient in cinnamon bark oil), to fighting herpes due to Eugenol (found in cinnamon leaf oil), all the way to turning HIV-infected people into HIV controllers (those who carry the virus but do not develop AIDS) due to the cinnamon-derived procyanidin polymer.