Cinnamon is one of my favorite spices. However, until recent I never thought of finding more information on this intruiging spice. Now that I have, I thought it would be nice to make a blogpost about this spice.
Humans have a very long history of using cinnamon, dating back from around 2700-1000 BC. These dates are based on ancient Chinese texts and cinnamon is also mentioned in the Bible (for example in a recipe for anointing oil and in a poem). Cinnamon is in fact the inner bark of the cinnamon tree. The cinnamon tree is a tropical tree and originally found in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Nowadays they are also grown in for example China, Tanzania and Brazil. As it is a tropical plant it needs a warm and moist climate to survive.
The harvest of cinnamon requires some effort, which explains why it used to be very expensive (worth more than gold!) before industrialization. The trees are grown for 2-3 years and then they are chopped down to just above the ground. The trees will then form multiple shoots (let them grow for about a year). The inner bark of these shoots are obtained and laid to dry. When the inner bark has dried up (this takes about 5 hours), it can be ground to get a powdery substance or cut into smaller pieces to get sticks. As a spice it may be added to a variety of recipes ranging from pancakes, desserts and pies to chicken and lamb dishes, soup and drinks (cinnamon tea, anyone?).
As with a lot of other spices, it wasn’t only used as a spice but also as incense and medicine. In the past, people believed that cinnamon could relieve kidney problems, colds, digestive problems and bad breath. Recently, scientist rediscovered the medicinal use of cinnamon. So far it has been found to allievate symptoms of diabetes, it has antiviral (some species are found to be effective in inhibition of HIV and Herpes virus in cells), antimicrobial properties (used as a natural way of preserving food by repelling bacteria), it might somewhat inhibit proliferation of cancer cells (because it contains antioxidants) and is good for the brain as well (inhibits Alzheimer in mice and increases cognitive functions such as short-term memory). Some of the results look very promising, but are still researched before actual medication can be created out of cinnamon. Therefore, it is always good to be careful!
In case you want to read more on cinnamon:
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=68 (detailed description of medical working of cinnamon)
http://www.sacredearth.com/ethnobotany/plantprofiles/cinnamon.php (detailed account of the history of cinnamon with recipes at the end)
Comments are always welcome!