By Thiyagarajan Sivapriya, M.Sc, M. Phil
Cinnamon is one of the most popular spices used by humankind, as a glance through any cookbook will indicate. From breakfast rolls to spiced cookies, pudding and pies to quick breads and chutneys, cinnamon finds its way into recipes for standard family fare as well as special treats. Cinnamon is the second most important spice (next to black pepper) sold in U.S. and European markets. Cinnamon occupied a pre-eminent position in the ancient world and was much sought after.
Recent emerging studies have shown the potentially benefits of cinnamon on health as treatment for digestive problems, anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic, anti-microbial, anti-diabetic, reducing cardiovascular diseases, boosting cognitive function, reducing cancer risk, antithrombotic and aphrodisiac.
Among the various species of cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum Zeylanicum) called true cinnamon and Chinese cinnamon (Cinnamomum aromaticum) called Cassia are popular. The principle constituents that give positive health to cinnamon are polyphenols like cinnamaldehyde, cinnamic acid, cinnamate, eugenol, etc.
One important difference between true cinnamon and cassia is the content of coumarin. The level of coumarin in cassia seems to be high which may pose health problems if consumed regularly. So it’s better to consume true cinnamon at effective levels to stay healthy. Less than half a teaspoon of cinnamon can be consumed along with tea decoction, can be sprinkled over porridge, added in salads, with yoghurt and taken with honey.
Now how to select true cinnamon? Here are a few tips:
Ceylon cinnamon is typically more expensive than any of the cassia versions. In case of cinnamon stick, cassia is thick and appears as one stick whereas true cinnamon is thin and has multiple layers. True cinnamon is also sweet in taste while cassia is slightly bitter.
- Cinnamon significantly lowers LDL or “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides and total cholesterol.
- Reduces blood sugar levels and treats Type 2 Diabetes
- The calcium and fibre which are present in cinnamon provides protection against heart diseases and high blood pressure.
- Cinnamon being an excellent antioxidant, reduces risk of cancer.
- Cinnamon is a useful home remedy for respiratory tract infections.
- Cinnamon boosts the activity of the brain and hence acts as a good brain tonic. It helps in removing nervous tension and memory loss. It also works as an aphrodisiac.
- It possess excellent antimicrobial activity and helps in fighting against infections.
- Cinnamon spice contains anti-inflammatory compounds which can be useful in reducing pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.
- Cinnamon is very effective for indigestion, nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, diarrhoea and flatulence. It is very helpful in removing gas from the stomach and intestines.
- The Cinnamaldehyde in cinnamon helps as blood thinner and prevents clotting of blood.
So as said by Hippocrates “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”, to keep diseases at bay let’s take true cinnamon at effective levels.
 According to the US Food and Drug Administration spices are “aromatic vegetable substances, in the whole, broken, or ground form, whose significant function in food is seasoning rather than nutrition. They are true to name, and from them no portion of any volatile oil or other flavouring principle has been removed” [US Food and Drug Administration, Office of Regulatory Affairs. Internet:http://www.fda.gov/ora/compliance_ref/cpg/cpgfod/cpg 525-750].
 Maridass M and Victor B, Ethnobotanical Uses of Cinnamomum Species,
Ethnobotanical Leaflets 2008, 12: 150-155.