Best known for its unmistakable flavor, cinnamon is a spice that is derived from the bark of several trees in the genus Cinnamomum. Cinnamon trees were first cultivated in Sri Lanka; today, they are native throughout Southeast Asia. The trees thrive in tropical countries, such as Mexico. Cinnamon trees, which can grow to heights of 30 feet, are harvested after three years. The trees grow for the first two years. Then, they are pruned in the third year before the tree’s shoots are stripped on the thin, inner bark, the part of the tree that contains cinnamon. When cultivated, cinnamon is peeled into sticks; however, it is often sold in ground form.
Cinnamon’s primary use is as a sweet and savory food additive. Its history as a spice dates back to 2000 BC; cinnamon is even mentioned in the Bible. For many years, cinnamon was a highly sought after spice often used only by the upper class. It was even used as a gift for ancient monarchs and gods. Only in time did middle-class citizens begin to use cinnamon, considered a luxury, as a spice.
In the food industry, cinnamon is used in many desserts, including pies, doughnuts, cookies, and cinnamon buns. Some manufacturers use cinnamon to make chocolate. It is a popular spice to add to coffee, cocoa, tea, and liqueurs. Its varied functions make cinnamon a popular spice, one that is often combined with sugar to flavor a range of foods.
Cinnamon’s use extends beyond its traditional one as a spice. It also has a history of being used in Ayurvedic medicine, which is Indian traditional medicine, as well as other Asian medicines. As an herbal therapy, cinnamon can help to treat a number of ailments. Research has indicated that cinnamon can treat upset stomach and diarrhea as well as gastric ulcers. It can help treat bronchitis, coughs, and respiratory ailments. Loss of appetite and hypertension can be remedied by cinnamon as well. It is even believed to help couples conceive when used alternately with damiana.
Individuals suffering from specific health conditions often turn to cinnamon as a natural remedy. Cinnamon’s anti-inflammatory properties encourage arthritis sufferers to combine it with honey and warm water to create a paste to apply directly to aching or itching body parts. A similar combination of honey, cinnamon, and water in liquid form can help ease cold symptoms. Diabetics turn to cinnamon to reduce triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
In essential oil form, cinnamon can be used in aromatherapy to promote blood circulation. In aromatherapy, cinnamon creates a warm, safe feeling and encourages contented and uplifted feelings. The essential oil also has antifungal and antibacterial properties. In fact, cinnamon can be applied directly to wounds to kill bacteria and prevent infections. Cinnamon has aromatic qualities—it works well as a room freshener by warming cinnamon essential oil or ground cinnamon. Cinnamon’s spicy, warming scent can even serve as an aphrodisiac for some.
Cinnamon’s properties prove beneficial in the beauty and skin care industries as well. Research indicates that cinnamon can improve collagen production in skin cells. A protein found in the skin that reduces with age, collagen loss can result in less skin elasticity and strength, making skin look older. When applied topically, studies indicate that cinnamon can encourage collagen production, which can have long-lasting effects on the skin’s elasticity. Thus, cinnamon-based skin care products can help skin look healthier and younger.
Cinnamon’s antibacterial properties make the spice useful as an astringent in skin care products. Cinnamon is an effective ingredient in many acne treatments; often, acne sufferers can combine cinnamon with other natural ingredients that they can find at home, such as honey, to create a mask that helps combat blemishes, redness, and irritation caused by acne. Rich in antioxidants, cinnamon is an ideal skin care ingredient, and it can help reduce skin inflammation caused by a number of conditions.
In addition, cinnamon is a common ingredient in shampoos and conditioners, body washes, bubble baths, soaps, and lip balms. In these products, cinnamon is primarily used for its warming, enticing aroma. Added to a range of beauty and skin care products, cinnamon can alter the scent of beauty and skin care products, making them more appealing.