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Interesting Cinnamon Facts – Health, History & Trivia

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Cinnamon is one of the most popular spices used around the world. With its sweet, spicy flavor and aroma, cinnamon has been used for cooking, medicine, and embalming for thousands of years.

Beyond adding flavor to foods and drinks, modern research shows cinnamon offers an array of health benefits. From antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial effects to blood sugar control and brain function support, science continues uncovering new medicinal properties of cinnamon.

Read on to learn 12 fascinating facts about the history, uses, health benefits, and nutrition of cinnamon.

A Brief History of Cinnamon

Cinnamon Sticks
  • Cinnamon has been used and traded for over 4,000 years. Some of the earliest mentions of cinnamon date back to Ancient Egypt, where it was used both for embalming mummies and for cooking. Cinnamon was also used medicinally in Ancient China and by traditional Ayurvedic practitioners in India.
  • Cinnamon got its name from the Greek word for tube or pipe. The rolled bark shape of dried cinnamon sticks resembles tubes or pipes.
  • Arab traders initially kept the cinnamon origin a secret. For centuries, Arab traders were the main suppliers of cinnamon to Europe and Asia. They fabricated fanciful stories around its origins to protect their monopoly on the spice trade.
  • The search for cinnamon’s origins led to the Age of Exploration. Eventually, Portuguese and Spanish explorers discovered the source of cinnamon and broke the Arab monopoly by sailing directly to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and establishing trade routes for cinnamon and other spices.
  • Today, Indonesia produces the most cinnamon. Cinnamon remains an important export for Sri Lanka, but Indonesia now dominates production. Cassia cinnamon, which has a stronger flavor, accounts for most of the “cinnamon” sold globally.

Types of Cinnamon

The cinnamon family has over 250 species, but some main varieties include:

  • Ceylon cinnamon – From Sri Lanka, it has a mild, sweet flavor. Considered “true cinnamon.”
  • Cassia cinnamon – From southern China, it has a stronger flavor. Most common commercially.
  • Saigon cinnamon – A type of cassia cinnamon with an exceptionally strong flavor.
  • Korintje cinnamon – A type of cassia cinnamon from Indonesia with rich flavor.

Ceylon and cassia cinnamons have slightly different nutritional values and compounds, leading to some differences in health effects.

Health Benefits of Cinnamon

Modern scientific research has uncovered many health benefits of cinnamon:

  • Blood Sugar Control – Multiple studies show cinnamon improves insulin sensitivity and can lower fasting blood sugar levels. This makes it useful for people with diabetes or pre-diabetes.
  • Anti-Inflammatory – The antioxidants in cinnamon have anti-inflammatory effects in the body and brain. This may help lower risk of illness.
  • Antimicrobial – Research shows cinnamon oil and extracts can inhibit bacterial and fungal infections. This includes antibiotic-resistant strains.
  • Brain Function – There’s early evidence cinnamon may support brain plasticity and cognition. More research is still needed in this area.
  • Cancer Fighter – Lab studies found components in cinnamon inhibit cancer cell growth and tumor formation. Further human studies are still needed.
  • Heart Health – Some compounds in cinnamon may benefit factors related to heart disease like cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.

While promising, more studies are still needed to confirm some of cinnamon’s proposed health effects. But used as part of balanced diet, cinnamon is a safe, versatile ingredient with a long history of medicinal benefits.

Nutrition Facts of Cinnamon

Bowl Of Cinnamon Sticks

Cinnamon offers an impressive nutrient profile considering its small serving size.

Just 1 teaspoon (2 grams) of ground cinnamon contains:

  • 19% Daily Value Manganese
  • 3% DV Calcium
  • 2% DV Iron
  • Trace amounts of fiber, magnesium, and vitamins K and E

It’s also very low in sugar, fat, carbohydrates, and sodium.

The unique phytochemicals and antioxidants in cinnamon include:

  • Polyphenols
  • Phenolic acid
  • Proanthocyanidins
  • Catechins
  • Cinnamaldehyde

These compounds give cinnamon its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and blood sugar lowering effects.

They also provide cinnamon’s signature spicy-sweet flavor and fragrance.

Interesting Ways Cinnamon Is Used

Beyond cooking, cinnamon has been used in many creative and practical ways:

  • Potpourri – Cinnamon sticks and powder are used in potpourri and pomanders for fragrance.
  • Air Fresheners – Cinnamon scent is popular for candles, reed diffusers, sachets, and other home fragrances.
  • Mouthwash – Cinnamon oil is added to some mouthwashes and toothpastes for flavor and antibacterial benefits.
  • Candy – Many gums, mints, hard candies, and sweets feature cinnamon for flavor.
  • Incense – Powdered cinnamon or sticks are burned as incense for spiritual rituals in some religions.
  • Textiles – In history, cinnamon leaf oil was used for cleaning and scenting textiles.
  • Beverages – Cinnamon goes well with coffee, tea, wine, liqueurs, cider, and other drinks.
  • Potpourri – Cinnamon sticks and powder are used in potpourri and pomanders for fragrance.

Cinnamon oil is also used in some perfumes and scented products.

The warm, spicy aroma and flavor of cinnamon lends itself well to many unique applications – both in the kitchen and beyond.

Unusual Cinnamon Facts

Beyond its rich history and many uses, cinnamon has some little known facts:

  • Cinnamon is harvested from the inner bark of tropical evergreen trees in the genus Cinnamomum. The harvested bark curls into rolls or “quills” when drying.
  • The Cinnamomum verum trees used for Ceylon cinnamon take about two years to yield a harvestable amount of bark. Expert harvesters select and cut only small strips of bark from the trees every 2 years allowing the trees regrow and reuse for future harvests.
  • Approximately 75% of Mexican Cascabel hot chocolate recipes call for a touch of cinnamon.
  • Due to cinnamon’s anti-clotting abilities, people prone to bleeding disorders are advised to moderate consumption of strong medicinal doses.
  • Ancient Egyptians not only used cinnamon for mummification and perfumes, cinnamon scented oils were used to anoint royalty and nobles placing them “above” others.
  • A study on mosquito control in rice fields found cinnamon essential oil to be an affordable natural pest management technique resulting in significantly less mosquito larvae.

The inner bark, leaves, flowers, fruits, and roots of the cinnamon tree can all be used – almost nothing is wasted.

From fighting insects to anointing royalty, cinnamon proves itself a versatile spice even thousands of years after first discovery.

FAQ About Cinnamon

Is cinnamon good for you?

Yes! Cinnamon is highly nutritious and has many potential health benefits. When taken moderately as a part of balanced diet, cinnamon is considered very healthy.

Where does cinnamon come from originally?

Cinnamon first originated from tropical regions of South and Southeast Asia, including Sri Lanka and parts of India and China. It’s harvested from over 250 different species of evergreen trees in the genus Cinnamomum.

Is Ceylon cinnamon better?

Ceylon cinnamon contains more antioxidants than cassia cinnamon, and has lower levels of potential liver-toxins called coumarins. So it’s considered more “true” cinnamon. But both Ceylon and common Cassia cinnamon have health benefits when used moderately. Cassia has a stronger flavor.

Can cinnamon help you lose weight?

Some early studies suggest compounds in cinnamon may slightly boost metabolism. Cinnamon may also help regulate blood sugar levels which aids fat burning. While not a magic bullet for weight loss, using cinnamon to spice up healthy foods as part of a balanced diet can support easier weight management.

How much cinnamon per day is healthy?

Around 1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon (1-2 grams) of cinnamon powder a day appears safe for most adults. Up to 1 tablespoon (6 grams) daily may be fine for temporary use but taking high doses long term is not recommended due to potential liver risks from coumarins in cassia cinnamon varieties.

Of course, individual sensitivities can vary so start small and see how you tolerate cinnamon. Combining cinnamon with plenty of water generally helps the body process and flush excess cinnamon safely if higher doses are consumed.

Key Takeaways: Core Benefits of Cinnamon

Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices known to humans. Beyond adding flavor, the health benefits of cinnamon make it a valuable addition to our diets and medicine cabinets including:

  • Regulating blood sugar and increasing insulin sensitivity
  • Powerfully fighting inflammation
  • Inhibiting bacterial and fungal infections
  • Protecting brain function and cognition
  • Supporting cardiovascular health factors
  • Potentially protecting against some cancers

Cinnamon’s unique phytochemicals give it many medicinal properties – from wound healing to blood sugar control and mental boosts – while also creating cinnamon’s wonderful spicy-sweet taste and scent.

When buying cinnamon, aim for Ceylon (“true”) cinnamon if possible which is higher in antioxidants, lower in coumarins, and more potent than the cheaper Cassia varieties. But both types offer proven health benefits.

A sprinkle of cinnamon can perfectly flavor and finish all sorts of meals while helping you feel your best inside and out!

Hopefully these fascinating highlights gave you a helpful overview of cinnamon’s unique history, impressive health benefits, and unusual facts that make it such a beloved spice worldwide.

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