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The Spice Series: Cinnamon, Part One

The Spice Series: Cinnamon

cinnamon

 

Welcome to my Spice Series! This is my information on Cinnamon.

This is probably one of the most common and most popular spices in the world. If you ask around, it is difficult to find people who do not care for the taste of cinnamon.

Cinnamon has been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Here’s what God said to Moses in Exodus 30:23: “Take the finest spices: of liquid myrrh 500 shekels, and of sweet-smelling cinnamon half as much, that is, 250, and 250 of aromatic cane…”

Any spice that has been used for so long deserves recognition and a better understanding. This blog post focuses on everything I could learn about cinnamon: the types, the medicinal benefits, the culinary uses, and even how to grow it.

I could not put all of the information into one post, so this post is about the types, the medicinal benefits, and the culinary uses. Part Two is about how to grow it.

 

I could not have gathered all of this information without poring through books and online articles. Check out my reference page for a list of sources that I have been using for my research. If you know of any other potential sources for me to read, let me know in the comment section! Also, feel free to ask questions, suggest more information, or just comment in general. I love hearing from you all!

Enjoy!

 

 

Types

**You know that stuff you sprinkle on your food called cinnamon? It’s not true cinnamon. It’s cassia. Cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) and true cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) belong to the same botanical family (Cinnamomum).

 

**The differences between the two are very small.  First, they differ slightly in flavor. Cassia is the sweeter and stronger of the two and the one preferred throughout most of the world (including the US) as a culinary spice. While sweet at first, cassia often has a bitter aftertaste.  True cinnamon has a flavor that is more subdued, less bitter and has a decidedly sweet finish in the after taste. Another difference between the two is in their appearance. Cassia has a double curl when it dries, is hard and strong, and ground cassia has a reddish brown color. Meanwhile, true cinnamon has a single spiral curl when it is dried and is almost brittle, and the bark of true cinnamon is pale yellowish brown.

Cassia vs. True Cinnamon
Cassia vs. True Cinnamon

 

**Cassia cinnamon is commonly used in the United States, Europe, China, and Southeast Asia. True cinnamon is found in kitchens in Mexico, Latin America, India, and other nations in South Asia.

 

**In some parts of the world it’s actually illegal to refer to cassia as cinnamon. In the US, both are legally sold as cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon is also called Chinese cinnamon. True cinnamon also goes by the names Ceylon and Sri Lankan cinnamon.

 

**You can find cassia cinnamon everywhere. Virtually all of the cinnamon imported into the United States is cinnamon cassia. If you want to find “true cinnamon,” you need to take a trip to an Indian marketplace, specialty store, or shop online (like here).

 

 

Medicinal Benefits

 

**Maybe it’s ironic that cinnamon, the spicy-sweet favorite that cooks use to give sugary confections extra flavor, can help control blood sugar problems.

 

** In one study, 30 people with type 2 diabetes took one to six grams of cinnamon a day (about ¼ to ½ teaspoon). After 40 days, they had decreases up to 29 percent in fasting blood sugar—and decreases up to 27 percent in “bad” artery-clogging LDL cholesterol, up to 26 percent in total cholesterol, and up to 30 percent in triglycerides (another blood fat, with high levels linked to heart disease). The researchers also noted that the study participants had lower levels of blood sugar and blood fats even after 20 days without taking any cinnamon—“indicating that cinnamon would not need to be consumed every day” for health benefits. (This statistic was taken from: HEALING Spices: How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease, by Bharat B. Aggarwal, PhD, with Debora Yost)

 

**Cinnamon also has the power to fight disease-causing microbes such as bacteria and fungi. For example, scientists used cinnamon to preserve food and to help prevent food poisoning in a kitchen experiment with two pots of vegetable broth. They added cinnamon oil to one pot but not the other and let the two sit in the refrigerator for two months. When they took off the lids, the pot without the cinnamon was teeming with bacteria. The pot with cinnamon in it was still good enough to eat. (Taken from: HEALING Spices: How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease, by Bharat B. Aggarwal, PhD, with Debora Yost). Please do NOT try this at home!

 

**In addition to treating diabetes and fighting bacteria and fungi, I also learned that Cinnamon may help prevent and/or treat: Cancer, Cholesterol problems, Food poisoning, Heart disease, High blood pressure, Insulin resistance (prediabetes), Metabolic syndrome, Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), Stroke, Ulcers, and Vaginal yeast infections. Inhaling the spicy scent of this spice is even believed to help boost brain activity! For more details on how, check out some of the books located on my reference page.

 

**In general, Cinnamon possesses various biological factors such as antioxidant, antimicrobial, antidiabetic, antiallergic, and anti-inflammatory activities that all aid the body. It is a truly fascinating spice that is full of potential for medicinal purposes.

**If you are interested in Cinnamon essential oil or to learn how to use essential oils, check out my post on How to Buy Essential Oils.

 sweet-smelling-cinnamon-is-medicinal-powerhouse

 

Culinary Uses

 

**Of course, cinnamon is more than medicine. It is also a popular ingredient in cuisines around the world. All the studies on the health benefits of cinnamon were done on cassia cinnamon, the spice most used around the world.

 

**Culinary experts generally agree that cinnamon cassia also has the best flavor for cooking, because it is considered more robust than that of true cinnamon. However, whatever form of cinnamon you choose and use, just make sure you don’t overcook it. Cinnamon turns bitter if it is cooked for too long.

 

**When buying cinnamon (either type) for your kitchen, it is best to buy whole sticks (called quills) (like these) and to grind them as needed. Since the quills are strong, you will probably need a good quality spice grinder (like this one). Once cinnamon is ground, it loses the fragrance that comes from its volatile oils. While whole quills will keep for three years (if not located by heat), ground cinnamon begins to fade in flavor after just a few months.

 

**Looking for some creative ways to cook with cinnamon? Here are some ideas to help get more cinnamon in your diet:

• Put a cinnamon quill in beef or vegetarian stews, or in lentil soup.

• Make spiced wine: Put a bottle of wine in a large pot and gently simmer it with ½ cup of sugar, a cinnamon stick, and a lemon studded with cloves for 15 minutes.

• Make spiced tea: Put a quart of brewed tea in a pot, add two cups of apple juice, and gently simmer it with a sliced lemon and two cinnamon sticks for 10 minutes.

• Sprinkle some cinnamon into pastry dough for pies and quiches.

• Sprinkle cinnamon on apples, bananas, melons, and oranges.

• Mix cinnamon with mint and parsley in ground beef for burgers or meatloaf.

• Combine equal parts of cinnamon, cardamom, and black pepper and rub it into pork tenderloin or lamb before baking.

• Mix cinnamon into rice pilaf.

 

 

**Do you have any creative recipes that use cinnamon? I am looking for unique recipes (that is, not apple pie or recipes that always have cinnamon in it, like snickerdoodle cookies, etc.) that use cinnamon. If you have any recipes that you are willing to share, please add links to them in the comment section below. I would love to add them to my blog to share with others!

 

Check out Part Two of my Spice Series as well!

 

 

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5 Comments

  1. Thank you, this information has been very helpful to show me I was on the right track with my composting adventure! And gave me some much needed info about not flooding.

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