Thursday, April 10, 2014


CINNAMON-Cinnamomum Zeylanicum, Cinnamomum Camphora, Cinnamomum Cassia, Cinnamomum Burmannii, Cinnamom Iners, Cinnamomum Loureiri, Cinnamomum Tamala

Parts Used:  bark, twigs, branches

Meridians/Organs affected:  spleen, liver, urinary, kidneys, lungs, heart, circulatory, immune, digestive

Properties:  stimulant, analgesic, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, stomachic, aromatic, antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, antispasmodic, anti-parasitic, aphrodisiac, diuretic, tonic, demulcent, anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic

Cinnamon is a member of the Laurel family.  It is an evergreen tree that can get up to 60 feet tall but is most commonly 20-30 feet in height.  The leaves are oval like and shiny and when it blooms it has yellow cluster flowers that are tiny and very aromatic.  The whole tree exudes a spicy scent.  It is native to the Far East, mainly Sri Lanka and India.  It needs a tropical setting in order to thrive.

Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices known to man.  It is an unusual tree as it has a double bark.  The cinnamon comes from the inner bark.  It has been known since Biblical times and was often used with aloe and myrrh as a perfume.  It also was used as incense in the temples.

Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka) is believed to be the oldest seaport and was called 'Tarshish' in the Bible, which was the domain of the Phoenician traders at that time.  Cinnamon was a major draw as it was prized by many civilizations at that time (roughly 4000 BC).  Sri Lanka (Ceylon) has been the cinnamon capital of the world since Biblical times.  In fact, many civilizations fought wars over its control.  First came the Portuguese in 1505, then the Dutch in 1658, and then the English in 1796 until 1948 when it was given its own status as a country.  While under British rule, the East India Company was formed.  This company became very powerful and had seaports all over the world, including Boston.  The Americans learned from the British to put cinnamon in their 'winter warmers'-hot drinks made of rum, hot water, butter, spices and cinnamon sticks.

Cinnamon was mentioned in Emperor Shen Nung's treatise in 2700 BC and called 'kuei' and then also in the first compendium of 'Materia Medica' called 'Pen Tsao', where it was referred to as 'ten-chu-kwei'.  The Chinese have used cinnamon for millennia as a stomachic, cardiac tonic, tranquilizer and an antidepressant.  

Cinnamon is spoken of in the book of Exodus as one of the things Moses was to take with him when he left Egypt (along with myrrh, olive oil and bulrushes).  The Egyptians had long used it for any epidemics that were looming and for embalming (along with cedar, juniper, frankincense, balsam and pine).  The Arabs took it to the Greeks and Romans.  Pliny used it as a perfume for men and many times it was used to scent linen, potpourri and in herb pillows and bags to keep moths away.  It is also one of the ingredients of Carmelite water.

When the trees are 6-8 years of age, the bark is removed in long strips and left to dry in the sun.  The inner bark then curls up into what we know as cinnamon sticks.  The bark is removed every 2-3 years and will produce for almost 200 years.  The cassia comes from the leaves and young twigs.  Cinnamon essential oil is made from the steam distillation of the bark.  It is a very potent oil and shouldn't be administered unless by someone who KNOWS how to use it; it is a hot oil and can cause blistering and burns on the skin if not used correctly.

Cinnamon has a high phenol content (5-10%), which makes it one of THE strongest antivirals and antiseptics in nature.  One source said that cinnamon oil places in a culture killed the typhoid strain in less than 30 minutes.  It has also been shown to inhibit candida, staph, and E. Coli.

For centuries it has been used for colds, chest congestion, diarrhea, cramps, spasms and as a stimulant for the circulatory system.  It enhances the immune system and has shown benefit for cardiovascular and pulmonary illnesses including bronchitis and asthma.  It contains components that are expectorant in nature as well as being an antihistamine and anti-carcinogenic. Some of the elements that make up cinnamon have also been found beneficial against HIV.

Cinnamon stimulates the vital functions, raises vitality, relieves abdominal cramping, stops diarrhea, improves digestion, blood circulation and immune function and breaks up congestion.  It is the second most widely used warming herb in Chinese medicine.  It is used to warm the organs, which helps with coughing, wheezing, lower back pain and a host of other issues.  It is used as a tincture for uterine bleeding (given every 15 minutes until it stops) and when cinnamon is simmered in milk and sweetened with honey it is very effective for gas, indigestion, diarrhea and dysentery.

Cinnamon has been a staple in many cuisines throughout the world.  It is used a lot in Indian and Arab meat dishes.  It is part of many garam masalas and the famous Chinese 5 spice blend along with anise, cloves, star anise and fennel seeds.  In the West it is used mostly in desserts and pastries, creams, syrups, and mulled ciders and wines.  Try using this herb more often in your kitchen! 

As is customary for my posts I am including some links below for your benefit. Use them wisely and stay healthy!

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