Cinnamon bark (Cinnamomum verum, C. zeylanicum, C. cassica ) is harvested from a variety of evergreen tree that is native to Sri Lanka and India. The tree has thick, reddish brown bark, small yellow flowers, and its leathery leaves have a spicy smell. It grows to a height of approximately 20-60 ft (8-18 m) and is found primarily in tropical forests. Cinnamon bark belongs to the Lauraceae family. Related species are Cinnamomum cassia and Cinnamomum saigonicum (Saigon Cinnamon).
Cinnamon bark is cultivated in such tropical regions as the Philippines and the West Indies. It is not grown in the United States. Every two years the trees are cut to just above ground level. The bark is harvested from the new shoots, then dried. The outer bark is stripped away, leaving the inner bark, which is the main medicinal part of the herb.
The use of cinnamon dates back thousands of years to at least 2700 b.c. Chinese herbals from that time mentioned it as a treatment for fever, diarrhea , and menstrual problems. Indian Ayurvedic healers used it in a similar manner. Cinnamon was introduced around 500 b.c. to the Egyptians, who then added it to their embalming mixtures. Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans used it as a spice, perfume, and for indigestion . Moses included cinnamon in an anointing oil that he used. By the seventeenth century, cinnamon was considered a culinary spice by Europeans. American nineteenth century physicians prescribed cinnamon as a treatment for stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting , diarrhea, colic , and uterine problems.
Cinnamon bark is a common ingredient in many products such as toothpaste, mouthwash, perfume, soap, lipstick, chewing gum, cough syrup, nasal sprays, and cola drinks. A popular food flavoring, it is valued as one of the world's most important spices. It is also valuable in the treatment of various ailments. Modern herbalists prescribe cinnamon bark as a remedy for nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and indigestion. Chinese herbalists recommend it for asthma brought on by cold, some digestive problems, backache, and menstrual problems.
The medicinal value of the herb is attributed to the oil extracted from the inner bark and leaves. The cinnamon bark harvested from the young branches is primarily used for culinary purposes. In fact, the cinnamon sticks commonly used in cooking are actually pieces of rolled outer bark.
The active ingredients of the bark contain antibacterial, antiseptic, antiviral, antispasmodic, and antifungal properties. A study published in 2002 indicates that oil from cinnamon bark inhibits the production of listeriolysin, a protein released by Listeria bacteria that destroys healthy cells. Japanese research has shown cinnamaldehyde, one of the constituents of cinnamon bark, to be sedative and analgesic. Eugenol, another component, contains pain-relieving qualities.
Cinnamon bark is helpful in strengthening and supporting a weak digestive system. Research reports that cinnamon bark breaks down fats in the digestive system, making it a valuable digestive aid. It is used to treat nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach ulcers, acid indigestion, heartburn , lack of appetite, and abdominal disorders.
A traditional stimulant in Chinese medicine, cinnamon bark has a warming effect on the body and is used for conditions caused by coldness. The twigs of cinnamon enhance circulation, especially to the fingers and toes.
Cinnamon bark contains antiseptic properties that help to prevent infection by killing decay-causing bacteria, fungi, and viruses. One German study showed that the use of cinnamon bark suppressed the cause of most urinary tract infections and the fungus responsible for vaginal yeast infections. It is also helpful in relieving athlete's foot .
Cinnamon bark is a frequent ingredient in toothpaste, mouthwash, and other oral hygiene products because it helps kill the bacteria that causes tooth decay and gum disease . Inflammations of the throat and pharynx may be relieved through its use.
Cinnamon bark is also known to control blood sugar levels in diabetics. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) researchers have found that cinnamon bark may reduce the amount of insulin required for glucose metabolism. A dose of 1/8 to 1/4 tsp of ground cinnamon
per meal for diabetic patients may help to regulate their blood sugar levels.
The spice has also garnered quite a reputation as an aphrodisiac. A study at the Smell and Taste Research Foundation in Chicago tested medical students' reactions to various aromas by attaching measurement devices to the students' penises. The smell of hot cinnamon buns generated the most blood flow of all the scents.
Cinnamon bark promotes menstruation . It has been used to treat menstrual pain and infertility . Women in India take it as a contraceptive after childbirth .
Other conditions in which cinnamon bark may be helpful include fevers and colds, coughs and bronchitis , infection and wound healing, some forms of asthma, and blood pressure reduction.
More recently, cinnamon bark has been shown to be an effective natural snake repellent that is safer to use than synthetic pest management chemicals.
Cinnamon bark is available in several forms from Chinese pharmacists, Asian grocery stores, and health food stores: fresh or dried bulk, pill, tincture, and as an essential oil.
In Chinese medicine, cinnamon is usually taken in combination with other herbs. Below are some typical dosages for cinnamon alone.
- Tincture: Take up to 4 ml with water three times daily.
- Tea: Take 1 cup 2–3 times daily at mealtimes.
- Crushed: Take 1/2 tsp (2–4 g) daily.
- Cinnamon bark may cause an allergic reaction in some individuals.
- Cinnamon bark is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women.
- Do not take essential oil of cinnamon bark internally unless under professional supervision. Internal ingestion may cause nausea, vomiting, and possible kidney damage.
- Essential oil of cinnamon bark is one of the most hazardous essential oils and should not be used on the skin. External application of the oil may cause redness and burning of skin.
- Cinnamon bark should not be given to children under two years of age.
- Cinnamon bark is considered toxic if taken in excess.
- Cinnamon bark should not be given to persons with inflammatory liver disease; in large quantities, it can irritate the liver.
Mild side effects include stomach upset, sweating, and diarrhea. Large doses can cause changes in breathing, dilation of blood vessels, sleepiness, depression , or convulsions. Excessive use of cinnamon bark may cause red, tender gums; mouth ulcers; inflamed taste buds; and a severe burning sensation in the mouth.
Some interactions with other medications have been reported. Cinnamon oil may cause skin irritation if applied to the skin together with acne medications that contain retinoic acid. Cinnamon bark has also been reported to intensify the effects of medications given to lower blood pressure. Persons taking cinnamon bark should discontinue its use two weeks before any surgery requiring general anesthesia because of the herb's tendency to lower blood pressure.
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Pelletier, Kenneth R., MD. The Best Alternative Medicine. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.
Reid, Daniel. Chinese Herbal Medicine. Boston: Shambhala, 1996.
Clark, L., and J. Shivik. "Aerosolized Essential Oils and Individual Natural Product Compounds as Brown Treesnake Repellents." Pest Management Science 58 (August 2002): 775-783.
Lee, K. G., and T. Shibamoto. "Determination of Antioxidant Potential of Volatile Extracts Isolated from Various Herbs and Spices." Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 50 (August 14, 2002): 4947-4952.
Smith-Palmer, A., J. Stewartt, and L. Fyfe. "Inhibition of Listeriolysin O and Phosphatidylcholine-Specific Production in Listeria monocytogenes by Subinhibitory Concentrations of Plant Essential Oils." Journal of Medical Microbiology 51 (July 2002): 567-574.
American Association of Oriental Medicine. 5530 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 1210, Chevy Chase, MD 20815. (301) 941-1064. <www.aaom.org>.
Rebecca J. Frey, PhD
Cinnamon is a spice made from the dried bark of an evergreen tree that grows in Sri Lanka, Southern India, and China. The cinnamon grown in China is known as Cinnamomomum aromaticum and is the species used in cinnamon spices sold in the United States and in cinnamon supplements. Other names for cinnamon supplements include Cassia, Ceylon, and Cinnamomum vera.
Cinnamon is a common spice with a history of use that dates back to biblical times. In the past, cinnamon was used as a folk remedy for conditions such as diarrhea , stomach upset, flatulence, symptoms of menopause , high blood pressure , chest pain , and common infections. Many people still use cinnamon supplements to relieve discomfort from gas pains and abdominal bloating and to improve the appetite.
For more than a decade researchers have been investigating the effect of cinnamon on glucose metabolism in people with type 2 diabetes. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, several studies found that on the cellular level cinnamon did influence the body's ability to use glucose, especially when combined with insulin .A2003
study by the American Diabetes Association found that cinnamon had beneficial effects for individuals with type 2 diabetes. As little as one gram of cinnamon lowered blood glucose levels in study participants. A 2007 study found glucose levels were lowered in healthy individuals who had eaten a meal that included six grams of cinnamon when compared with individuals who had not eaten the cinnamon.
The active ingredient in cinnamon is called hydroxychalcone. It is believed that this compound may affect insulin receptors in the body making them more sensitive to insulin and helping the body use insulin more effectively. Some studies found that people with type 2 diabetes who take cinnamon supplements reduced their serum glucose, triglyceride, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels. This reduction may help prevent heart disease and other long term complications of type 2 diabetes.
Cinnamon may also delay the time it takes for the stomach to empty after eating. This effect may explain why people report the benefits of cinnamon in relieving discomfort from bloating and stomach pains.
The amount of cinnamon supplement taken depends on what, if any, other medications an individual is taking and the reason for using the supplement. One study found benefits with few, if any, side effects from taking one to six grams of cinnamon per day. (One gram of cinnamon is approximately one-half a teaspoon.) Soaking a stick of dried cinnamon in a cup of coffee or tea delivers approximately one gram of cinnamon into the beverage.
A healthcare professional should be consulted for dosage of this supplement. All packaging directions should be followed for the type of cinnamonsupplement taken. Do not exceed the daily recommended dose.
Precautions People with type 2 diabetes should talk to a doctor before taking any supplements. Because cinnamon may affect the body's ability to metabolize glucose, taking cinnamon supplements may increase the risk of developing hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. People taking diabetes medication may need to adjust the dosage of this medication.
For healthy individuals, there are no serious side effects of taking cinnamon supplements. Minor skin irritation may occur if cinnamon oil is applied to the skin, and mouth sores may develop from using cinnamon gum or toothpaste. For individuals with type 2 diabetes who take insulin, cinnamon may cause the medication to become too effective and may lead to hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.
It is possible to be allergic to cinnamon. Ingesting too much cinnamon may cause increased heart rate, dizziness , shortness of breath, or redness of the face.
Contact a doctor immediately if any of the following occurs after taking cinnamon:
- chest pain or tightness
- difficulty breathing
- tightness or swelling in the throat
- skin rash or hives
Because cinnamon supplements can cause the body to metabolize glucose more effectively, medications taken to regulate glucose levels may need to be adjusted. Individuals with type 2 diabetes should consult a physician before taking cinnamon supplements.
It is important for care givers to be aware of all supplements a family member or friend may be taking. Cinnamon supplements may be beneficial for individuals with type 2 diabetes. This supplement may reduce the risk of long term complications for heart disease and may allow individuals to reduce the amount of medication they must take. As with many supplements, some associated risks are possible. For individuals with type 2 diabetes, cinnamon supplements can cause diabetes medication to work too well and may cause blood sugar to drop suddenly causing hypoglycemia.
Diarrhea —Frequent loose or liquid bowel movements.
Flatulence —Excess gas in the intestines that may cause bloating, pain, and fowl smelling discharge.
Hydroxychalcone —The substance found in cinnamon that may cause insulin receptors in the body to metabolize glucose more effectively.
Hypoglycemia —A medical condition in which blood sugar or glucose levels in the body drop to low levels and the body does not have enough energy or fuel to perform normal functions.
LDL cholesterol —Sometimes called bad cholesterol, low density lipid (LDL) cholesterol is found in the blood and can contribute to formation of plaque in the walls of blood vessels. Plaque in blood vessels may cause heart attack or stroke.
Serum glucose —Glucose or sugar in the blood.
Triglyceride —The chemical name for fat in the blood.
Type 2 diabetes —Formerly called non-insulin dependent diabetes, it is the most common form of diabetes and occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or cannot metabolize insulin the body produces.
The symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
- irregular heart beat
- difficulty speaking
Hypoglycemia can be dangerous. If a care giver notices any of these symptoms in a patient, the patient should be given a food or beverage containing sugar such as fruit juice, candy, or glucose tablets.
Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healing: The A to Z guide to Supplements. New York: Penguin Putnam Inc., 2002.
Heroics, J., et al. “Effects of Cinnamon on Postprandial Blood Glucose, Gastric Emptying, and Satiety in Healthy Subjects.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (June 2007): 1552–1556.
Jarvill-Taylor, K. J., R. A. Anderson, and D. J. Graves. “A Hydroxychalcone Derived from Cinnamon Functions as a Mimetic for Insulin in 3T3-L1 Adpocytes.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 20, no. 4 (2001): 327–336.
Khan, A., M. Safdar, M. M. Ali Kahn, and R. A. Anderson. “Cinnamon Improves Glucose and Lipids of People With Type 2 Diabetes.” Diabetes Care 26 (2003): 3215–3218
Deborah L. Nurmi MS
Cinnamon is the dried bark from several varieties of small evergreen trees or bushes of the laurel family that provide similar flavors. Early cinnamons—such as Cinnamomum burmanni, which originated in Burma (Myanmar) and grows in southern China, South Asia, and Southeast Asia—were actually harvested from other varieties of evergreen laurel trees, known as cassia. Cassia bark is peeled into strips that curl into a "quill" shape when dried. Because the exterior bark is left on, the strip is thick, coarse, and dark brown.
True cinnamon, or Cinnamomum zeylanicum, is native only to Sri Lanka. It possesses a more delicate flavor and aroma than cassia. It is handled in the same manner, with an important exception—the coarse, first bark is removed by scraping, leaving a thinner, paler, light red-brown quill. The variation in handling cassia and true cinnamon sounds slight, but consumers perceived a difference and were prepared to pay for it.
Cinnamon was found in the wild and was not exploited on plantations in Sri Lanka until the later half of the eighteenth century. Multiple efforts were made in the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries by different colonial powers (the Portuguese in Brazil; the Spanish on Mindanao in the Philippines; the Dutch on Sumatra; and the French on Mauritius and Réunion and in Guyana) to transplant true cinnamon. They were less successful than with other spices, in part because of the extra semiartisanal handling required in its peeling. Some colonial powers and others, such as the Chinese, chose to increase deliveries of false cinnamon, which found market acceptance on the basis of price. Their efforts to break the Dutch and subsequent British monopoly of true cinnamon met with success in the nineteenth century.
The Portuguese, from 1506 until 1658, actively commercialized the commodity in Europe and Asia, but they did not establish an effective monopoly. The Dutch East India Company from 1658 to 1796, and later the English East India Company, did establish a monopoly over cinnamon.
The Dutch controlled deliveries and prices. From 1658 to 1760, the total volume of cinnamon delivered to them on Sri Lanka approximated 27,670 metric tons (about 30,500 short tons). Three-quarters of this volume was exported to Europe. The other quarter was ostensibly meant for sale in Asia, but most of it was sold to intermediaries or directly to the Spanish in the Philippines for transshipment to markets in the New World; only a small fraction was sold and consumed in Asia. Approximately one-half of the cinnamon sold in Europe was destined for Spain and its empire. Other major markets were France, the Netherlands, and the early political configurations of modern Italy and Germany.
From 1650 to 1700 the Dutch doubled the price of cinnamon in Europe from 1.50 to 3 guilders per pound. By 1750 they had doubled it again, to 6 guilders. In the 1780s it neared 9 guilders. It returned to an average of 6 or 7 guilders in the 1790s. The profits were considerable. A precise calculation is not possible because colonial administrative expenditures were kept separate from cinnamon income.
Dalby, Andrew. Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.
Glamann, Kristof. Dutch-Asiatic Trade, 1620–1740. Copenhagen: Danish Science Press, 1958.
Stobart, Tom. Herbs, Spices, and Flavorings. Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 1982.
CINNAMON (Heb. קִנָּמוֹן, kinnamon; also called in the Bible keẓi'ah and kiddah), a spice. Kinnamon or kinneman besem ("sweet cinnamon") was one of the ingredients of the "holy anointing oil," used for anointing the tent of meeting and its vessels as well as the high priest Aaron and his sons (Ex. 30:22–32). According to a baraita dating from the Second Temple period (Ker. 6a and parallel passages), cinnamon was one of the ingredients of the incense used in the Temple, although it is not included in those enumerated in the Bible (Ex. 30:34ff.). The woman of loose virtue perfumed her bed "with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon" to entice her lovers (Prov. 7:17). Cinnamon was a costly spice and its source was a closely guarded secret. Many legends were woven around its origin, as for example that it was produced by the fabulous phoenix (ii Bar. 6:13). Cinnamon comes from the bark of the Cinnamomum zeylanicum. There are two varieties, the genuine Ceylon cinnamon (C.z. Breyne), and the Chinese (C.z. var. cassia = C. cassia Blume), most scholars being of the opinion that the former did not reach the Mediterranean area before the Middle Ages and hence the references in early literature is to the latter. Keẓi'ah is mentioned among the spices used for perfuming the clothes of the king (Ps. 45:9) and as an ingredient of the incense used in the Temple (Ker. 6a). It has been identified with some part of the Chinese C. cassia tree, and by I. Loew with its dried flowers, known among the Romans as flores cassiae. It may, however, refer to some other layer of the bark of the cinnamon tree, which produces different kinds of cinnamon. The name keẓi'ah is apparently connected with the Chinese kuei-chih (in Latin cassia) meaning the bark of the cinnamon. Kiddah is mentioned with kinneman besem among the ingredients of the anointing oil, and identified by Onkelos with keẓi'ah. According to Ezekiel (27:19), Tyrian merchants imported kiddah from a place called Me'uzal (av: "going to and fro"). An interesting parallel is given by the naturalist Dioscorides (De Materia Medica, 1:13), who mentions a species known as kitto or mosylon and similar to Cassia, on which Galen commented that the reference was to cinnamon coming from Me'uzal on the African coast. According to Pliny and others, it yields several products: a thin and a thick bark, flowers, and branches. The cinnamon is a tropical tree, which, an aggadah declares, grew in Ereẓ Israel: "Goats fed on the cinnamon tree and Jews used to grow it" (tj, Pe'ah 7:4, 20a; Gen. R. 65:17). R. Judah stated: "The (fuel) logs of Jerusalem were of cinnamon trees, and when lit their fragrance pervaded the whole of Ereẓ Israel. But when Jerusalem was destroyed they were hidden" (Shab. 63a). The cinnamon tree was included among the trees of the Garden of Eden (Gen. R. 33:6).
J. Feliks, Olam ha-Ẓome'aḥ ha-Mikra'i (1957), 263–7; Loew, Flora, 2 (1924), 107ff., 278.
cin·na·mon / ˈsinəmən/ • n. 1. an aromatic spice made from the dried bark of a Southeast Asian tree. ∎ flavored with cinnamon, or having a similar flavor. ∎ a reddish- or yellowish-brown color resembling that of cinnamon. 2. (also cinnamon tree) the tree (genus Cinnamomum, family Lauraceae) that yields this spice.ORIGIN: late Middle English: from Old French cinnamome (from Greek kinnamōmon), and Latin cinnamon (from Greek kinnamon), both from a Semitic language.