Cinnamon

CINNAMON

Surely the most sweet and delicious of all the spices, cinnamon not only delights our taste buds but also acts as a wonderfully invigorating tonic to enliven body and mind and as an immune- enhancing aid to the body’s perennial fight against infection. By invigorating the nervous system, cinnamon can improve our resistance to the stresses of everyday life. It is wonderful for lifting fatigue and chasing away low spirits and apathy and at the same time can have a relaxing effect and reduce tension and anxiety. It is well worth using for people suffering from chronic fatigue or ME.

This familiar inhabitant of our kitchen cupboards is made from the dried inner bark of the cinnamon tree, native to India and Sri Lanka where it has been highly prized for thousands of years, in fact at times it was more valuable than gold. It is mentioned in ancient Indian, Chinese, Egyptian and Greek medical texts going back centuries before Christ, and is often referred to in the Old testament mainly for anointing purposes.  It is highly popular in Indian cuisine, for adding fragrance to simple fare like rice and lentils, for flavouring fish and cheese and for baked goods and sweets including those offered in ritual ceremonies to the gods. Mixed with cardamom and honey, cinnamon tea forms the basis of a hot drink which was popular with the British colonials in India, who added rum and lemon peel to make their favourite Anglo-Indian punch.  In Ayurvedic medicine cinnamon occurs in many medicines both for disguising the taste of other more unpleasant tasting remedies and for enhancing the absorption of other remedies. It is given as a remedy for bladder problems, for anorexia, and as an expectorant for coughs and chest infection. In inhalations it is popular as a decongestant for relieving colds, sore throats, coughs and catarrh. It is also prescribed to strengthen the heart, restore strength to the weak and debilitated and to enhance “agni” which is digestive fire. The Crusaders brought Cinnamon to Western Europe not only to flavour foods and medicines, but also for perfumes and love potions. In Medieval Europe cinnamon had a reputation as an aphrodisiac, a strengthening tonic to dispel fatigue, debility, melancholy, winter lethargy, poor circulation, impotence and nervous problems and a remedy for coughs and sore throats. Until the discovery of modern antibiotics, cinnamon was prescribed as a remedy for cholera, and infections such as mumps. It was also given as an inhalants to treat TB.

By warming and invigorating while at the same time relaxing  the digestive tract, cinnamon enhances digestion and absorption and helps to prevent and relieve symptoms such as indigestion, colic, nausea, distension and wind. The astringent action of the tannins in cinnamon has a toning and drying effect on the mucous membranes throughout the body. In the respiratory tract this helps to clear catarrhal congestion, in the uterus it helps to curb heavy bleeding, and in the gut it helps to protect the lining of the stomach and intestines against irritation and infection and to prevent inflammation and ulcers. It also stems diarhoea and bleeding, in fact ground cinnamon in milk is an old English country cure for diarrhoea and dysentery. Interestingly cinnamon helps to reduce the mucus forming properties of milk. By enhancing the effectiveness of insulin, cinnamon may help to prevent a decline in glucose tolerance that can predispose to adult-onset diabetes.

Cinnamon has a gently warming effect throughout the body and makes a perfect remedy for winter. A steaming cup of cinnamon tea is a great way to start the day in cold weather helping to dispel all sorts of conditions associated with the cold – poor circulation, colds, coughs, fevers and catarrh as well as the lethargy that tends to plague us in cold damp weather. These warming and stimulating properties can be given direction in the body by combining cinnamon with other remedies: with thyme, hyssop or elecampane for bronchial congestion and infection; with angelica or rose as a uterine remedy to treat irregular or painful periods, heavy bleeding and infections. By stimulating the circulation and enhancing sweating it is a good remedy for throwing off fevers, flu and other winter infections. Particularly helpful in this respect, the essential oil in cinnamon that gives it that exquisite taste and aroma, is one of the strongest natural antiseptic agents known. Its antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties make cinnamon an excellent medicine to prevent and resolve a wide range of infections, both acute and chronic. It is highly effective for treating respiratory and gastro-intestinal infections and has been shown in laboratory tests to inhibit the growth of E. Coli and Typhoid bacilli. A few drops of the oil in a bowl of hot water is excellent for clearing head colds, sinusitis and for relieving coughs and chest infections. Its antifungal properties help to combat thrush and systemic candidiasis. A decoction of cinnamon, made from simmering a stick of cinnamon in a cup of water for ten minutes, makes a good antiseptic wash for cuts, wounds, bites and stings and infective skin complaints.

Eugenol in the volatile oil acts as an anaesthetic and helps to relieve pain such as that associated with arthritis, rheumatism, as well as toothache, headaches and muscle stiffness and pain. A few drops of the essential oil (no more than 2 drops per 5 mls of base oil) can be added to liniments to be used for massage. Its warming and relaxing effect is really very soothing to tense, tight and aching muscles.

So if you are someone who tends to feel the cold, who is prone to infections and  feeling tired and lethargic in cold weather, who even falls prey to the blues or SAD (seasonal affective disorder) why not start in autumn as the weather gets colder to remedy this with cinnamon. A delicious hot cup on cinnamon tea each morning, and again in the afternoon if you wish, will certainly warm and revitalise you, enhance your immunity, increase your physical stamina and your mental energy, concentration and motivation and hopefully keep you smiling through the cold dark months.  For a little variety you can always add other warming and invigorating spices to your brew such as a few cardamom pods, cloves, black peppercorns and slices of fresh ginger.