Cinnamon is one of the most ancient spices. The first written mention of the seasoning, dated 2700 BC, was found in China. The spice was loved by the ancient Egyptians: it was added to drinks, used in the treatment of diseases and for embalming. In biblical times, Christians used cinnamon, about which there are lines in the Old Testament.
The demand for spice was huge. Its delivery from the places of its growth to Europe is difficult, dangerous and long. In order to deliver the cargo without losses, the caravans were accompanied by military guards. Therefore, cinnamon was expensive: 7 kilograms of spice were given for 1 kilogram of gold. When it was not enough, the price soared even higher. Because of it, wars were waged, people and entire countries were enriched and ruined.
Queen of Spices
The homeland of the plant is Asia: Sri Lanka, China, India, Laos. In its original form, cinnamon is an evergreen tree with a height of 15 meters.
For the production of spices, the inner layer of the bark of the trunk and branches of a young plant is used. During drying, the raw material is twisted into tubes, which are cut into pieces up to 10 cm long. The spice goes on sale both in the form of cinnamon sticks and in a crushed state.
The quality of the product depends on the area of growth. On this basis , the spice is divided into three main categories:
- Ceylon noble cinnamon. Most in demand, the taste is thinner and better than other varieties. It grows in Sri Lanka both in the wild and on plantations. Now they are grown in India and other places. It is characterized by a small amount of coumarin in the composition, a subtle aroma and a bark thickness of less than 1 mm. It is twisted into a tube on both sides.
- Chinese cinnamon (cassia). Her homeland is Southern China. It has been known for a long time, the first mention in manuscripts dates back to 2700 BC. Due to the high content of phenolic compounds, it has a sharp smell and taste.
- Malabar (brown, woody) cinnamon. It grows in India, differs from the first two species up to 3 mm thick. It looks like real pieces of bark, does not curl into tubes. The taste is sharper and bitter than that of cassia, the color is brownish-brown.
A distinctive feature of all types is a specific aroma, both sweet and burning, with a tart bitterness. As it turned out later, this is not the only advantage.
Biologically active substances contained in the seasoning have a beneficial effect on digestion, improve a person’s well-being at any age.
Cinnamon contains many useful components in unique combinations. The value of a product is determined not only by proteins, fats and carbohydrates. The spice also contains:
- Minerals: potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, copper, selenium, zinc.
- Vitamins necessary for a person: group B, retinol (A), ascorbic acid (C), tocopherol (E), niacin (PP).
- Other biologically active ingredients: dietary fiber, alcohols, essential oils, polyphenol, coumarin.
All these components affect the properties of the spice and have a therapeutic effect.
The benefits of cinnamon are antioxidant, antimicrobial and analgesic capabilities:
- The essential oil contains phytoncides and eugenol, an antiseptic of vegetable origin. Due to this, the spice has a depressing effect on many types of bacteria and viruses.
- Tannins, characterized by an acidic nature, have astringent, anti-inflammatory and hemostatic properties. Favorably affect the condition of the intestinal mucosa.
- The polyphenol in the spice makes it an analogue of insulin, so cinnamon is recommended for diabetics.
- The interaction of the spice components prevents thrombosis and reduces blood viscosity.
- Cinnamon is able to normalize lipid metabolism and reduce cholesterol. This property stimulates weight loss.
- Vitamin C in a composition with essential oils and alcohols fights colds. This allows you to use the spice for flu, bronchitis and cough.
- Vitamins E and A in combination with cinnamon oil are a powerful antioxidant. When used, the immune system is strengthened, the blood is purified, the whole body and the skin in particular are toned.
- Dietary fiber eliminates cramps in the intestines, relieves flatulence. Cinnamon contributes to the normalization of metabolic processes.
- B vitamins have a positive effect on the nervous system, increase stress resistance, and have an antidepressant effect. Vitamin B6 is responsible for the production of serotonin, improves mood, and B12 prevents senile dementia. That’s why cinnamon is so useful for the elderly.
The positive effect on the body makes the spice in demand. However, before use, it is necessary to take into account the possible negative consequences.
Cinnamon, like any product, can be both a poison and a medicine. It all depends on the dose. Oriental spice benefits with limited consumption: no more than 7 grams daily for a healthy person. In case of health problems, it is necessary to take into account the main contraindications:
- It should not be consumed in its pure form and on an empty stomach. This has an irritating effect on the gastric mucosa, up to ulcers. The best option is to take it as part of a meal or drink.
- In case of arrhythmia, use cinnamon with caution. The spice has the ability to increase the number of heartbeats.
- When treating with medications, it is worth refraining from using spices. It is able to interact with drugs, change their pharmacological properties and influence treatment.
- External and internal bleeding is a categorical contraindication due to the ability of cinnamon to dilute blood.
- The presence of coumarin in the spice limits its use. Feature of this component: useful if the amount does not exceed 0.1 mg per 1 kg of body weight. Then the harmful effect on the liver begins, up to cirrhosis. Taking into account the fact that cassia is mainly represented on the market (the coumarin content is 100 times higher than in Ceylon cinnamon), the average permissible dose is 6 mg per day.
- Spice is categorically contraindicated for pregnant women. It can cause uterine contraction followed by miscarriage.
- The tendency to allergic reactions and intolerance to the components, as well as the age of children, are reasons to abandon the spice.
The aroma and taste of cinnamon are attractive, but it is necessary to take into account the existing contraindications and the principle of use – moderation.
The fields of application of oriental spices are determined by the properties. It is used in three main directions:
- In cooking.
- As a therapeutic agent.
- In cosmetology.
Cinnamon is widely used in cooking. Its aroma is associated with childhood memories, with the smell of fresh warm buns. Spice is seen in the cuisine of many peoples of the world. It is readily used by confectioners to flavor products. Cinnamon is added to drinks, fruit salads, pastries. What are the famous Cinnabon buns worth. Its use is not limited to sweets. Meat dishes, porridges, canned vegetables and fruits are prepared with cinnamon.
The most famous and successful culinary combinations: coffee and baked apples with cinnamon. In the first case, the spice softens the bitterness of the drink, and in the second – enhances the aroma of the fruit.
As a medicinal remedy, oriental spice was highly valued in the old days. It was used for diseases related to digestion. They knew about antiseptic properties, about the ability to lift the mood. For modern medicine, cinnamon has lost its importance, but it remains in folk recipes. She is treated for a cold. The combination of honey and cinnamon is popular in this sense. It is believed that such a mixture prevents the formation of blood clots and lowers cholesterol.
The property of the spice to stimulate blood circulation is used by cosmetologists to improve the condition of the skin and hair with masks. On an industrial scale, cinnamon oil is used in the manufacture of perfumes. It is necessary to create various perfume compositions and fragrance durability.
It is better to purchase the product in the form of sticks that cannot be forged, and the shelf life is longer. If necessary, they are crushed in a special spice mill. It is preferable to buy Ceylon cinnamon, but there is little of it on the market. Sellers bring cassia: it costs less.
To find places where such an expensive and sought-after spice grows, sea expeditions were sent from Europe. As a result, new lands and peoples, the Pacific and Indian Oceans were discovered. Trade relations have emerged between the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The beginning of the creation of European colonies was laid. This circumstance has determined the appearance of the modern world. That’s how cinnamon influenced the course of history.