Herb of the Month - Cinnamon!
Author: Lia Pellizzeri Date Posted:5 May 2017
Cinnamon is one of the world’s oldest known spices, dating back to the ancient Egyptians who used it not only as medicine but as an embalming agent along with other spices. Traditionally used for digestive ailments among many other things, today it is one of the most beloved and ubiquitous of culinary spices. It’s used all around the world to enhance the sweetness and warmth of dishes. However, it is also incredibly therapeutic, and science continues to verify many of the earlier traditional uses for it.
What Makes Cinnamon so Special?
There are two types of Cinnamon, one is often referred to as ‘true’ Cinnamon which is the Cinnamomum verum cultivated in Sri Lanka, and the other is Cinnamomum cassia which is usually what we find when we purchase it in our supermarkets, or eat on our Cinnamon doughnuts. There has recently been some controversy over the superiority of ‘true Cinnamon’, however both types contain very similar amounts of the main active constituent Cinnamaldehyde, which makes up approximately 80-90% of the spice and is the main contributor to its therapeutic action. Both types also contain cinnamic acide, cinnamate, and volatile oils comprising of several polyphenols such as anthocyanidins and epicatechins.
Soothes an Upset Stomach:
Cinnamon is a carminative herb - this refers to its ability to break down air or gas that has become trapped in the intestines, thus helping to relieve mild abdominal discomfort caused by excess gas. Its traditional use as a digestive herb has uncovered its beneficial effects on a wide range of ailments including flatulence, bloating, loss of appetite, and diarrhoea. These carminative properties can be of further significant use when working synergistically with Cinnamon’s anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial actions – making it a wonderfully effective digestive tonic.
A Blood Sugar Regulator:
Time and time again, cinnamon has demonstrated significant blood glucose modulating effects through a substance called ‘insulin-potentiating factor’, which increases glucose utilization. It has been suggested that the regular intake of cinnamon can help reduce serum glucose, as well as triglycerides and LDL cholesterol in healthy individuals, thus having the ability to improve the whole metabolic picture and solidifying its traditional use as a hypoglycaemic agent.
A Potent Antioxidant:
I like to think of antioxidants as ‘rust preventers’, it’s a little simplistic but the idea being that by prohibiting the actions of free-radicals and oxidation, you can prevent damage and deterioration to organ systems within the body. It has been shown that various extracts of cinnamon exert considerable antioxidant activity, namely via the activation of super-oxide dismutase. The various aqueous and alcoholic extracts of cinnamon also show inhibition of fatty acid oxidation and lipid peroxidation in vitro, most likely due to the different flavonoids present in both types of cinnamon.
One of the little known yet important actions of cinnamon is actually its potent anti-inflammatory action. This mechanism of action is thought to be an inhibitory effect on nitric oxide production, by interfering with the potentiation of certain inflammatory pathways as well as immune cell modulation.
Deadly to Microbes:
Both types of Cinnamon have shown great antimicrobial properties due to their almost equivalent content of cinnamaldehyde, as well as the polyphenols anthocyanidins and epicatechins. These constituents demonstrate significant antibacterial and antifungal activity.
Due to its comforting sweetness, cinnamon is an easy inclusion to make regularly to your diet, start off the day by adding half a teaspoon to your coffee, or sprinkling some over your toast or muesli in the morning. Help curb sugar cravings by sipping on cinnamon tea throughout the day, or fold some through thick Greek yoghurt with a squeeze of honey for a creamy, gut-loving dessert that will hit the spot!
|Written by Lia Pellizzeri|
Lia is a qualified Naturopath who believes in the power of nature to heal many of today’s acute and chronic conditions. She’s not only passionate about living a healthy lifestyle, but about educating people on nutrition and the amazing benefits of herbs and supplements in addressing symptoms and their underlying issues.
Lia loves to cook, bake and read… when she isn’t busy telling people to enjoy their egg yolks and other healthy fats, she can most likely be found on the lounge with a latte and a tattered copy of Lord of the Rings.