Cinnamon and its close relative cassia (sometimes sold interchangeably, the thin layered quill is true cinnamon while the thicker bark is usually cassia) were once one of the stars on the spice route. Beyond its use as a culinary herb, the Egyptians used it in embalming and the Romans often burnt cinnamon on funeral pyres. Other than masking malodours this may be hinting to its antiseptic qualities.
Like ginger, cinnamon is considered to be generally warming to most internal organs – such as the lungs, digestion and uterus. Since medieval times there are accounts of using cinnamon for respiratory problems, something that many modern herbalists do today. While it is both antimicrobial and warming to the lungs, combined with another home remedy herb – thyme, these are both good weapons against the current round of nasty respiratory infections.
Adding a cinnamon quill to a herbal tea may ease the symptoms of irritable bowel. It is also useful for diarrhoea. This would go well with another popular carminative (eases GIT spasms) chamomile. Due to its bug fighting activity, cinnamon may be of use when these symptoms are a result of an infection in the stomach or bowel.
In 2003 some exciting new research found a modern role for cassia – in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. In this double blind, placebo controlled trial it not only reduced blood glucose levels but also other circulatory related markers that may herald diabetes such as triglycerides, LDL and total cholesterol. A 3 month study in adolescents with type 1 diabetes saw no significant change in blood sugar levels, however it should be noted that the lowest dose of cinnamon was used.
Other uses for cinnamon include treating urinary tract infections (it may reduce e. coli levels) and in toothpaste (also for the antimicrobial action).
Of course you can always just add a stick or two to the teapot and drink it, or grind up some bark to put on top of your porridge, in apple muffins or in a decadent hot chocolate. Who knows – a sprinkle or two of cinnamon a day may keep the gastroenterologist, endocrinologist and cardiologist away!