Cinnamon has been used since ancient times both as a culinary spice and for medicinal and other purposes. The ancient Egyptians included cinnamon in their embalming mixture. Moses combined cinnamon, cassia, and other spices with olive oil to anoint the Tabernacle and its furnishings.
During the Middle Ages, the Arabs carried cinnamon and other spices along the old caravan trade routes to Alexandria, Egypt. From there it was shipped to Europe. The Arabs constructed many exotic stories about the great difficulty of harvesting cinnamon to account for its scarcity and justify the high price of the spice.
In the ancient world, cinnamon was more precious than gold and was regarded as a gift fit for monarchs. In fact, Pliny the Elder in the first century AD valued cinnamon at 15 times the value of silver. Nero, emperor of Rome in the first century AD, burned 12 months supply of cinnamon at the funeral of his wife - an extravagant gesture to signify the depth of his loss.
A number of additional medicinal properties have been reported for cinnamon. In folk medicine it was used for treating rheumatism and other inflammations. Its mild anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, and anti-clotting properties are believed to be due to its content of cinnamaldehyde. Cinnamon extracts are active against Candida albicans, the fungus responsible for vaginal yeast infection, and also Helicobacter pylori, the bacterium responsible for stomach ulcers. The antimicrobial properties of cinnamon are thought to be due to eugenol and a derivative of cinnamaldehyde.
Cinnamon extracts have also inhibited the growth of cultured tumor cells. This effect may be due to the presence of procyanidins and eugenol in the bark extract. Cinnamon is also useful as a food preservative to inhibit the growth of common food-borne bacteria such as Salmonella and E coli.
The medical properties of cinnamon were utilized by ancient health practitioners such as Dioscorides and Galen in their various treatments. In medieval times, cinnamon was an ingredient of medicines for sore throats and coughs. Cinnamon has been used to alleviate indigestion, stomach cramps, intestinal spasms, nausea, and flatulence, and to improve the appetite, and treat diarrhea.
The active principles in the cinnamon spice are known to have anti-oxidant, anti-diabetic, anti-septic, local anesthetic, anti-inflammatory, rubefacient (warming and soothing), carminative and anti-flatulent properties.
Cinnamon has the highest anti-oxidant strength of all the food sources in nature. The total measured ORAC (Oxygen radical absorbance capacity) value for this novel spice is 267536 trolex equivalents (TE), which is many hundred times more than in chokeberry, apples, etc.
The spice contains health benefiting essential oils such as eugenol, a phenylpropanoids class of chemical compound, which gives pleasant, sweet aromatic fragrances. Eugenol has got local anesthetic and antiseptic properties, hence; useful in dental and gum treatment procedures.
Other important essential oils in cinnamon include ethyl cinnamate, linalool, cinnamaldehyde, beta-caryophyllene, and methyl chavicol.
Cinnamaldehyde in cinnamon-sticks has been found to have anti-clotting action, prevents platelet clogging inside the blood vessels, and thereby helps prevent stroke, peripheral arterial and coronary artery diseases.
The active principles in this spice may increase the motility of the intestinal tract as well as help aid in the digestion power by increasing gastro-intestinal enzyme secretions.
This spicy bark is an excellent source of minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, zinc, and magnesium. Iron is required for cellular metabolism as a co-factor and in RBC's production. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese and copper are chiefly used by the body as co-factors for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
It also contains very good amounts of vitamin A, niacin, pantothenic acid, and pyridoxine.
Further, it is also a very good source of flavonoid phenolic anti-oxidants such as carotenes, zea-xanthin, lutein and cryptoxanthin.
Around the world, cinnamon spice is widely used as a spice. It is principally employed in cookery as a condiment and flavoring base. It's used in the preparation of chocolate and in some kinds of desserts, such as cinnamon-apple pie and cinnamon buns as well as pastries, bagels, sweet rolls, spicy candies, tea, hot cocoa, and liqueurs.
Cinnamon pieces have been used in preparation of many popular dishes in Asian and Chinese cuisine since ancient times. Along with other spicy items, it is being used in marinating chicken, fish and meats.
Some Indian vegetarian and chicken curries and rice dishes (biriyani) contain small amounts of grounded powder. In the Middle East, it is used in meat and rice dishes.
It has also been used in the preparation of soups, barbecue sauces, pickling and as one of the ingredients in variety of curry powders.
One of the most-well known natural remedies for taking care of indigestion is drinking or eating cinnamon. The volatile oils in cinnamon are more potent than others, and these oils inhibit the spasms that cause the bile to rise back up through the esophagus and throat. Moreover, cinnamon helps calm the gag-reflex and allows the gastric juices to flow more easily through the stomach.