Cinnamon is a favourite household spice, and has been used around the world for centuries. This spice has a pleasant flavour and warm smell that has made it popular in cooking, particularly in baking and curries.
The spice comes from the inner bark of a small evergreen tree. The bark is peeled and laid in the sun to dry. Cinnamon is also available in a powdered form.
Cinnamon is thought to have many medicinal property, and is used frequently in Chinese herbal medicine. The distinctive smell and flavour of cinnamon comes from the essential oils contained in the bark, called cinnamaldehyde. Cinnamaldehyde displays antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Cinnamon also contains large amounts of polyphenol antioxidants. Antioxidants can help protect the body from disease and are found in fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. The antioxidants in cinnamon have been found to have anti-inflammatory effects. Some spices, including cinnamon, have prebiotic properties that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria and help suppress the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Therefore, including spices regularly in your diet may help improve gut health.
Cinnamon is also a useful source of manganese and contains small amounts of calcium and fibre.
Benefits of cinnamon powder to our health
There is some evidence to suggest that the consumption of cinnamon is associated with a short-term reduction in blood pressure.
Blood sugar and type 2 diabetes
It has been suggested that cinnamon can have a moderate effect in improving glycaemic control and supporting the management of type 2 diabetes.
Cinnamon extract has been used to alleviate gastrointestinal problems in both Eastern and Western medicine for years. It has been described as a carminative, renowned for its digestive, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, cinnamon bark oil is used for treating flatulence and digestive imbalance. It is believed that the warmth of cinnamon increases blood flow and improves blood oxygen levels to help fight off illness. To alleviate digestive symptoms, cinnamon is taken as part of a hot drink (much like a tea).
How to store and use
Cinnamon needs to be kept in an airtight container in a dark place. Whole cinnamon lasts for about a year, but cinnamon that has been ground will start to lose flavour after a few months.