When it comes to nominating the world’s most popular spices, cinnamon is right there, next to peppercorn and cumin. It represents a staple spice in many households all around the world, but it originated in ancient Sri Lanka.
Treasured since thousands of years ago, cinnamon was a favorite amongst the Egyptians and the Romans who used it for practical purposes like burning the spice during funerals as well as for medicinal reasons.
One of cinnamon’s uses today and perhaps its main use is for baking and cooking. Cinnamon is also often added to warm drinks, most often coffee variations but also milk and hot cocoa.
In the past however, during the ancient times, people almost romanticized cinnamon; they assigned spiritual and even magical properties to it.
Bits of cinnamon history
Cinnamon use dates back to thousands of years ago, to the year 2000 B.C., but it is mentioned in Chinese writings from as early as 2800 B.C.
Historical evidence suggests that Egyptians used the spice to embalm the deceased and burned it during the funeral process to sanctify the environment.
The Romans appreciated cinnamon even more than gold and its value surpassed gold’s to such extend that when his wife passed away, the emperor Nero burned an enormous supply to mark the significance of the event and the great loss.
Throughout the years – since the ancient to the nowadays modern times – cinnamon has been used as a kitchen classic but also for ritualistic purposes. People who practice holistic healing and believe in the magical properties of herbs and spices recommend using cinnamon for protection and prosperity.
If to the Romans 350 grams of cinnamon were equal to five kilograms of silver and the spice was more luxurious to them than gold, cinnamon today is no longer an expensive spice. It is one of the most affordable and accessible to the majority of people.
Cinnamon is widely cultivated in tropical areas around the world and top producing countries include Indonesia that holds approximately 47% of the world’s production.
China follows with about 34%, Vietnam with 10% and Sri Lanka with 8% (according to data from 2014 gathered by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States).
Cinnamon goes hand in hand with centuries-old Chai and sweet cinnamon rolls, but there is a lot more to this spice than culinary use. Cinnamon boosts a number of medicinal properties and important nutrients.
Cinnamon – nutritional profile and health benefits
Vitamin A 22.9 IU
Vitamin C 0.3 mg
Vitamin E 0.2 mg
Vitamin K 2.4 mcg
Niacin 0.1 mg
Folate 0.5 mcg
Choline 0.9 mg
Betaine 0.3 mg
Calcium 77.7 mg
Iron 0.6 mg
Magnesium 4.7 mg
Phosphorus 5.0 mg
Sodium 0.8 mg
Zinc 0.1 mg
Manganese 1.4 mg
Selenium 0.2 mcg
Protein 0.3 g
Carbohydrates 6.2 g
Dietary fiber 4.1 g
Sugars 0.2 g
Omega-3 fatty acids 0.9 mg
Omega-6 fatty acids 3.4 mg
Phytosterols 2.0 mg
Cinnamon comes with a very particular pack of health benefits and here are the most relevant and important of them.
- It has anti-clotting properties brought forth by the cinnamaldehyde compound which acts as an inhibitor and prevents the arachidonic acid from releasing into the body.
- It prevents bacteria growth due to the presence of essential oils. Cinnamon essential oil can be added to broths to enhance flavor and also to prevent bacterial growth.
- It improves brain function and boosts brain power.
- It lowers glucose levels in cases of type 2 diabetes: research indicates that consuming one half teaspoon of cinnamon a day can reduce blood sugar and cholesterol by as much as 20%.
- It improves appetite and helps with indigestion.