Cinnamon – The Exotic Spice

Blog written by: Dr Anju Balakrishnan

Cinnamon is nothing but Cinnamon zeylanica, which belongs to the Lauraceae family. It is known as true cinnamon and grows as an evergreen native to India, Sri Lanka etc. It is called "Twak" in Ayurveda. It is widely used as a spice and flavouring agent in many of the traditional food items in South Asian countries for ages. The bark and leaf of the drug are used for the purpose.

The drug possesses abundant essential oil, which is responsible for the aroma and flavour. Apart from Cinnamaldehyde, the principle component, it also contains cinnamic acid and cinnamate. Cinnamaldehyde is responsible for the aroma and pungent taste. Cinnamon bark contains procyanidin, which is proven to have antioxidant activity. Essential oil is extracted using steam distillation of either leaf or bark of cinnamon. This derived oil has a calming aroma which helps to soothe the mind. The cinnamon essential oil has antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, antidepressant and analgesic action. It also improves brain function, relieves anxiety and improves concentration. It is rich in antioxidants. Hence it can be used to treat skin diseases and even cancer. Antioxidants are very much beneficial in metabolic diseases and age-related syndromes. The essential oil derived from cinnamon can also cure respiratory diseases. It is very much beneficial and effective for cold and sore throat. Cinnamon is also incorporated into perfumes because of its aroma. It is added to flavour chewing gums since it has a mouth-refreshing effect and hence can be used to reduce bad breath (Halitosis). Cinnamon is a coagulant and thereby prevents bleeding. It enhances blood circulation and advances tissue regeneration.

The drug possesses katu (pungent), tiktha (bitter) and madhura (sweet) rasa with laghu (light to digest), ruksha (dryness) and tikshna (sharp) properties. It has hot potency as well, which improves digestion. It is beneficial for high cholesterol levels and even for diabetes. The drug is also proven to have anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic action.

Classically, the drug is used in many conditions. In Ayurveda, it is considered as vishapaha (antitoxic), shiroruk hara (relieves headache), kanta vaktra rujahara (relieves oral and throat conditions), basthi shodhaka (cleanses urinary bladder), pinasa (useful in rhinitis), kandu (itching), amavatahara (useful in rheumatoid arthritis), kasahara (relieves cough), etc.

Research studies have proved the efficacy of cinnamon oil against E-coli, staphylococcus etc. Cinnamaldehyde, the component of the drug, is responsible for antimicrobial action. The drug is also reported to play a role in neurological disorders like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Cinnamon has helped in the management of the glycemic index in diabetic conditions. Studies have demonstrated that when cinnamon is taken at a dose of 120mg/day for 4 months, there was a significant decrease in the levels of fasting plasma glucose along with an improvement in lipid profile. Even the study evaluated the cognition-enhancing capacity of cinnamon, which may be beneficial in conditions of dementia. The phytochemicals present in cinnamon boost the brain’s ability to utilize glucose and improve insulin resistance. The active components cinnamaldehyde and cinnamic acid show cardioprotective action associated with anti-inflammatory properties.

Home remedies:

For cold and cough, cinnamon tea can be prepared by boiling 2 glasses of water with 1 tsp of cinnamon powder. Can add jaggery if needed. If you are opting for honey, wait till the decoction cools down.

In case of a toothache or bleeding gums, cinnamon powder can be used instead of toothpaste.

To heal acne and skin rashes, cinnamon powder can be mixed with honey and applied because of the antimicrobial action of the drug.

To heal arthritis pain, cinnamon powder can be mixed with lukewarm water and applied. Even intake of kadha prepared out of it or taking the cinnamon powder with honey can serve the purpose.

Cinnamon is also very much beneficial in maintaining gut health. Cinnamon powder can be taken along with lukewarm water.

This shows the significance of the spice cinnamon. It can be used on daily basis in proper doses and can surely provide many health benefits.

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