Your Complete Guide to Cinnamon

There’s a reason why cinnamon stars in all sorts of pies and cakes: it is a warming spice, excellent for balancing the winter chill and “waking up” the sluggish Kapha dosha.

In traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, cinnamon has been used for centuries along with honey, ginger and tea to cure cold and flu.

Regular use of cinnamon improves the body’s ability to utilize blood sugar. In fact, just one gram of cinnamon taken daily can reduce fasting blood sugar, triglycerides, total cholesterol and LDL (“bad’) cholesterol. Researchers are now recommending that Type 2 diabetics take up to 1 tsp of cinnamon daily.

In a study, participants were exposed to four scents: zero odor, peppermint, jasmine, and cinnamon. Guess what? Cinnamon emerged the clear winner in boosting brain function, especially memory and motor co-ordination. Just chewing cinnamon-flavored gum or smelling the spice does the trick. Inhale some cinnamon essential oil and feel the alertness kick in.

Cinnamon zaps germs. Small amounts of cinnamon were added to apple juice contaminated with the deadly E. coli bug. Within three days, the spice killed 99.5 per cent of the bacteria. Studies are now on to see if cinnamon can do the same to salmonella.

The cinnaldehyde in cinnamon helps prevent unwanted clumping of blood platelets, making it an excellent anti-inflammatory agent.

More Cinnamon Marvels

Mix 1 to 3 tsp Cinnamon into 1 cup hot water. Steep for 10 to 15 minutes, then strain and drink. It’s a proven home remedy for an upset stomach.

Heal small cuts faster with cinnamon. Wash the cut thoroughly, pat dry, and sprinkle with powdered cinnamon before bandaging.

Brew a fragrant potpourri with a teaspoon each of cinnamon, orange peel and allspice. Simmer the ingredients together, and let the fragrance fill your home.

Put cinnamon around plants to kill mold.

Sprinkle cinnamon on stored potatoes to keep them from sprouting.

Choosing Cinnamon

Sticks or powder? The choice is easy–the sticks can be stored for almost a year, the ground powder stays fresh only for six months. The powder has a stronger flavor than the stick.

To check to see if it is still fresh, smell the cinnamon. If it does not smell sweet, it is no longer fresh and should be discarded.

Cinnamon loses flavor quickly, so buy it in small quantities.

Cinnamon is best stored in a tightly sealed glass container to retain fragrance.


Drizzle hot toast with marmalade and powdered cinnamon. For regular use, powder some cinnamon, mix it with sugar and put it in a shaker.

Just a pinch of ground cinnamon will perk up your beans and stews.

Sprinkle a little cinnamon in your coffee grounds before brewing.

Cinnamon tastes great on mashed potatoes and baked sweet potatoes. But you knew that!

Sprinkle halved apples with a little brown sugar & cinnamon. Microwave 1-2 minutes or just until tender. The lovely fragrance enhances the taste manifold, doesn’t it?

Dust sweet buns very lightly with cinnamon. Mmmm.

If doing a pie crust in the microwave, use cinnamon on your fingers when crimping the edges. The crust will look browned and yield that much more flavor.

Cinnamon: The A-B-C

Both spice and medicine, cinnamon is the brown bark of the cinnamon tree. The spice has nearly 75 different names! For example, in Cantonese, it is known as Sek laahn yuhk gwai…try that on your tongue!

Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices known. It was mentioned in the Bible. Ancient Egyptians used it lavishly, and the Chinese mentioned it in one of their earliest botanical texts, dated 2,700 B.C. Cinnamon was one of the first commodities traded regularly between the Near East and Europe.

The two most popular varieties of cinnamon are Chinese cinnamon (also called cassia) and Ceylon cinnamon (also called ‘true’ cinnamon). Both are fragrant, sweet and warm, but Ceylon cinnamon is more refined and subtle. The best cinnamon in the world grows along the coast near Colombo.

To obtain cinnamon, the outer bark, cork and the pithy inner lining are scraped off. The remaining bark is is curled and dried into quilla by sunshine. Every bunch of quills is graded for its own thickness, aroma and appearance. The best cinnamon sticks are pale and parchment-thin.


In the ancient world, cinnamon was more precious than gold. Nero, emperor of Rome in the first century AD, burned a year’s supply of cinnamon on his wife’s funeral pyre – an extravagant gesture meant to signify the depth of his loss.

The demand for cinnamon launched a thousand ships. The Portuguese invaded Sri Lanka immediately after reaching India in 1536. The Sinhalese King paid the Portuguese tributes of 110,000 kilograms of cinnamon annually.

The Dutch captured Sri Lanka in 1636 and controlled the cinnamon trade. They used a cunning way to dominate the market: if the price of cinnamon fell too low in Amsterdam, they would burn it up to increase demand.


By Shubhra Krishan for


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