Humans have used Cinnamon for thousands of years. It is believed to have been widely used in China around 2000 B.C for its medicinal properties and was brought to Europe in the middle ages by Arab traders, quickly becoming very popular with the European elite
As it was transported by land Cinnamon became a rare and expensive ingredient, reserved exclusively for the richer member of society for whom the spice had become a validation of status. It was used to add flavour to food (especially when combined with ginger) and to preserve meat during the cold winter months. It was also seen as a digestive aid.
Different Types Of Cinnamon
There are actually hundreds of types of Cinnamon, but only four varieties are used for commercial purposes.
These are: Ceylon Cinnamon (Sri- Lanka), Cassia (China), Saigon Cinnamon (Vietnam) and Korintje Cinnamon.
Ceylon is the most common and dates back to the fifteen hundreds when Portuguese explorers invaded Sri Lanka, and started exporting the aromatic spice back to Europe. It has a subtle taste and aroma, and is widely used in cooking especially in sweet dishes, as it will not overpower the flavour.
Cassia originated in china, but is now cultivated in many South East Asian countries, including Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. It is a cheaper variety, which tends to be more pungent, less sweet, less delicate and has a slightly bitter flavour.
Saigon and Korintje cinnamon are of the Cassia type with only slight variations in colour, taste, and form to common Chinese cinnamon. Saigon Cinnamon is the most potent of the Cassia variety with a sweeter taste and stronger aroma. It is gaining in popularity, and of course is our personal favourite!
It is often said that some varieties are better than others, but in truth the differences are mainly in flavour rather than quality. For the best quality cinnamon, the secret has more to do with how fresh the spice is and it is not uncommon for some packaged supermarket varieties to be years old.
Cinnamon And The Health Benefits
This powerhouse of a spice is incredibly useful for our health and can be used daily.
Ceylon and Cassia cinnamon varieties, have been used historically to treat a variety of ailments such as headaches, loss of appetite, nausea, indigestion, the common cold, sore throat remedy, sinus blockage, inflammation, wounds, mild infection, and even diarrhea.
The high antioxidant properties of Cinnamon make it a beneficial addition to your diet, as it will help remove potentially damaging oxidizing agents in the body, as well as help promoting the following:
- Slows signs of aging, including of the skin, eyes, tissue, joints, heart and brain.
- Healthier, more youthful, glowing skin.
- Help reduce the risk of cancer.
- Detoxification support.
- Protection against heart disease and stroke.
- Less risk for cognitive problems, such as dementia.
- Reduced risk for loss of vision, or disorders like macular degeneration and cataracts.
- Antioxidants are also added to food or household products to prevent oxidation and spoilage.
Adding Cinnamon to dessert and cake recipes can also help reduce the amount of refined sugar you consume, by lowering the sugar content of a recipe and replacing with a few teaspoons of the delicious spice as an alternative sweetener.
Recent investigations indicate that it has a potent stabilizing effect on blood sugar levels, helping to slow or prevent the onset of Diabetes.
This particular benefit caught our attention four years ago when my wife, then seven months pregnant, was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. As well as adopting a strict diet, Cinnamon was added to her diet to help stabilize her blood sugar levels. It was used as an ingredient in general meals, but could be added to hot drinks, popcorn, porridge and many other dishes, to help satisfy her sweet cravings and make her condition much more bearable.
The extraction of cinnamon essential oil dates back to centuries ago, when it was used as temple incense in the East. It became an important trade commodity between India, China and Egypt. Egyptians used it for foot massage and as a remedy for excessive bile. It was also used as an ingredient for mulled wine, love potions and as a sedative during birth.
In Aromatherapy, diluted Cinnamon oil can be used for infection of the respiratory tract, rheumatism, arthritis and general pains. It calms an exhausted feeling of depression, tones the whole body and stimulates the glandular system, thus easing period pains.
Cinnamon essential oil is also used in the beauty industry as a component for perfumes, cleansers, moisturisers, and toothpaste. Next time you wash your face, brush your teeth of moisturise check the ingredient list you may spot that miracle worker!
Cinnamon In Food
From China to the Middle East, India to Turkey, Cinnamon appears to lend its distinctive flavour to cuisines all over the world.
In Vietnam it is an essential component of the famous national beef noodle soup, Pho Bo.
In Greece it’s added to the popular dish, Lamb Moussaka adding a hint of sweetness to the meat and an aromatic depth in flavour.
In Mexico it is often mixed with chocolate, to create delicious treats such as the addictive Churros con Chocolate.
In Europe and North America it’s added to hot drinks such as coffee, and is a vital ingredient in apple pies and biscuits.
Cinnamon is so popular that a whole season is associated with its heart-warming properties. Mulled wine and spiced cookies take centre stage at Christmas, the unique fragrance of cinnamon an instant reminder of the festive season. At Nom Living we have developed a range of products made from natural cinnamon bark, perfect as Christmas gifts.
You can view our unique collection of products here.
Check out our simple recipe for Cinnamon and Date Scones, to help convince you of the delights of this super spice!