Cinnamon: useful properties of the “sweet tree”

Cinnamon: useful properties of the “sweet tree”
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In China, cinnamon was used as early as 2800 BC, as evidenced by the book on plants of the Emperor Shen Nung Kwai. Many Chinese inscriptions include this spice. It is still believed that it improves mood and makes you laugh, supports and strengthens the strength of the brain, heart and liver, and improves vision. It is rubbed on the forehead and temples for headaches of colds.

Eastern doctors believe that cinnamon has a diuretic effect, is useful for dropsy, heart palpitations, nervous disorders, wet coughs, loss of voice, non-healing and suppurating wounds. Cinnamon is widely used in pharmacy to improve the taste and smell of medicines.

The ancient Egyptians used it for embalming and fighting epidemics, it is mentioned in the Bible. Most likely, Egyptian cinnamon in the time of the pharaohs was mainly from China, where large thickets of trees were located around the city of Kweilin (now Guilin). In Chinese “ “kwei” means cinnamon, ” lin” means the forest.

The ancient Jews used it in religious ceremonies. The Roman Empire imported large quantities of cinnamon for making perfumes, perfumes, and wine flavoring, but it did not find widespread use in cooking. In the Middle ages, cinnamon was imported to European countries from Egypt, where it was brought by Arab merchants from Ceylon. The trade in cinnamon in the XIII-XIV centuries was controlled by Venetian merchants. The spice trade was one of the main sources of income that made Venice rich. The word “canella”, which means cinnamon in Italian, means something rolled into a tube. By the way, hence the name of one of the types of pasta – canelonne, which is a thick tube with meat, vegetable or mushroom filling.

The real Ceylon cinnamon was discovered for Europe by the Portuguese at the end of the XVI century, after the journey of Vasco da Gama and the capture of large territories in Southeast Asia. Portugal fiercely guarded its monopoly on the trade in cinnamon, which was grown on the plantations of Ceylon.

The increasing demand for cinnamon led to wars between the Dutch and Portuguese in the mid-17th century. As a result, the Ceylon cinnamon trade passed into the hands of the Dutch. In the 18th century, many Dutch settlers were wiped out as a result of an uprising by the local population, which allowed the Portuguese to regain control of the cinnamon plantations in Ceylon, making cinnamon more accessible. To save prices, the Dutch declared a state monopoly on cinnamon in 1760, for this they burned a large amount of raw materials in Amsterdam and this spice became available only for dishes of “Haute cuisine”.

In 1795, after the capture of Holland by Napoleon, the British captured Ceylon and its plantations. However, there was no longer a monopoly. Shortly before this, extensive cinnamon plantations were established by the Dutch in Indonesia, and by the French in Mauritius, reunion, and Guiana. The elitism of Ceylon cinnamon continued to fall and the fashion for it began to pass. After interest in it declined in France, it continued to be actively used in Quebec (the French part of Canada). Interestingly, cinnamon now grows in Egypt, where in the XIX century it was introduced by the French, who planted seedlings from the Paris Botanical garden.

It became a favorite spice for cooking festive dishes and was considered as a means to improve digestion and treat coughs and throat diseases. In the middle ages until the XVIII century. cinnamon was widely used as a means to stimulate digestive functions. It was believed that cinnamon increases the secretion of gastric juice, stimulates the respiratory system and circulatory system. It was especially valued as an aphrodisiac. After crossing the ocean, cinnamon became very popular in the manufacture of confectionery, flavoring tea and coffee and took root in Mexican cuisine.

Botanical description

Chinese cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia)

The name of the spice comes from the Malay “kayumanis”, which means “sweet tree”. Several species are used under the name “cinnamon”, so the distribution around the globe is quite extensive. However, the main center of origin of the genus Cinnamon (Cinnamomum) is generally considered to be Southeast Asia, India and the Pacific Islands. Cinnamon – evergreen trees and shrubs from the Laurel family with thick bark, bright green leathery leaves and small white flowers.

The most valuable raw material is the Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum ceylanicum Blume). It is an evergreen tree or, in culture, a shrub. Branches are cylindrical, three-sided to the top, with opposite leaves, on short petioles. Leaves are oval, blunt or short pointed, leathery, with 3-7 main veins.

Natural habitats of cinnamon Ceylon — Sri Lanka, South India, Burma, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, the Islands of Madagascar, reunion, etc.

Along with Ceylon cinnamon, Chinese cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia (L.) C. Presl.) is used, which is found only in culture – in southern China, Brazil, Madagascar, etc. Chinese cinnamon is an evergreen tree up to 15 m tall. The lower leaves are alternate, the upper ones are opposite, drooping, on short petioles. The leaves are broadly oval, whole-edged, leathery, shiny green on the upper side, with deepened main veins, and bluish — green on the lower side, covered with short soft hairs. The flowers are collected in paniculate inflorescences, small, yellowish-white, with a simple separate pericarp. The fruit is a berry.

What they use

Cinnamon of Ceylon (Cinnamomum ceylanicum)

Bark is collected from both species. The bark of Ceylon cinnamon is valued higher than that of China. The best varieties are obtained exclusively from cultivated plants. The bark is collected from pruned bushes, when the new shoots reach 1-2 m in length. The bark is cut off with a copper knife and its outer parts (periderm and primary bark up to the sclereid layer) are removed. After that, the bark is rolled into double or triple tubes and dried in the sun. The bark has a light brown color, it is very thin, often no thicker than a sheet of paper (0.2-0.5 mm).

Chinese cinnamon is a bark in the form of tubes or grooves 1-3 mm thick, dark brown on the outside, sometimes covered with a layer of cork, but more often it is removed; the fracture is smooth. The smell is fragrant, pleasant; the taste is sweet, pleasant and slightly astringent.

As substitutes for cinnamon, other wild types of cinnamon are also used, the bark of which is thicker and coarser and has a less pleasant aroma: Cinnamomum obtusitolium Nees and C. laureirii Nees from the Northern regions of Vietnam. These types of cinnamon are less important than the previous two, used mainly in Vietnam and considered to be of lower quality. The raw material is quite thick, rough to the touch, small pieces of dark brown bark. Practically does not happen in the form of tubes.

Vietnamese cinnamon

Cinnamomum burmannii (Nees et T. Nees) Blume is imported from FR. Java, etc. White cinnamon bark is imported from the Antilles — Cortex Canellae albae or Cortex Winterani (Canella alba Murr., family Canellaceae).

Removed from the branches of the tree, the bark is freed from the cork layer and is a grooved piece, reddish-white on the outside; the inner surface is white; on the cut under the magnifying glass, numerous secretory receptacles are visible. The aroma is similar to the smell of cinnamon, the taste is spicy, bitter. Contains essential oil (up to 1.3%), resin (about 8%) and other substances. It is used in the same way as cinnamon.

What does cinnamon contain

Ceylon cinnamon

The flavor of Ceylon cinnamon is thinner than Chinese, so it is valued much higher. Essential oil (about 1%, but can reach even 4 %) consists mainly of cinnamic acid aldehyde (65-75%) and eugenol (up to 10%). The presence of small amounts of fellandren, cymol, pinene, linalool, furfural, phenylpropanes (safrol and coumarin) makes the aroma of the oil more delicate and refined. To obtain essential oil, first of all, cuttings and other waste are used. In addition to essential oil, the raw material contains mucus (about 3 %).

In the bark of Chinese cinnamon contains phenylpropiolate, various terpenoids – concessioni and their glycosides. It also contains 1-2% of essential oil (in which at least 80, and more often 90% or more of cinnamon aldehyde), tannins of the condensed group and mucus, neutral polysaccharides containing L-arabinose and D-xylose.

Vietnamese cinnamon can contain from 1 to 7% essential oil, which is a record for cinnamon. Like Chinese cinnamon, the oil consists mainly of cinnamon aldehyde and only traces of eugenol are found.

Cinnamon essential oil

Basic action: Externally, mixed with vegetable oil (2-3 drops per 10 ml of base), it is used for rheumatism, lice, scabies, fungal skin lesions and wasp and bee stings. It has good antiseptic properties. Use for colds, flu, laryngitis, tracheitis, pneumonia. Externally, the oil is used for warts and papillomas, applying only to the affected area. It stimulates the gastrointestinal tract and improves digestion. The perfect remedy for fermentative dyspepsia. Improves peripheral blood circulation and is a good remedy for cold extremities.

Contraindications: pregnancy and chemotherapy treatment of tumors. For external use, be sure to use in a dilute state, since it has a strong irritating effect. It should be noted that cinnamon has long been known as the cause of contact dermatitis in bakers and confectioners. High irritating activity of cinnamon aldehyde is also shown when using cinnamon in toothpaste.

For all its good taste, numerous undesirable reactions are observed during prolonged contact with a large amount of cinnamon. A group of 40 workers who had constant contact with cinnamon dust was monitored for four years. The results were somewhat discouraging – 90% of them showed symptoms of intoxication: asthmatic disorders (25%), skin irritation (50%), hair loss (38%), burning in the eyes while working (23%), weight loss (65%). Naturally, we are not talking about a single bag in the kitchen Cabinet.

Cinnamon in aromatherapy

If you are interested in aromatherapy, then pay attention when buying cinnamon oil, so that there is an indication of which part of the plants it is obtained from. The raw material for obtaining essential oil can be the inner part of the bark, which is collected during the rainy season, when it is easily separated, and young shoots. The aroma of this oil will resemble the smell of cinnamon rolls. Essential oil is obtained by hydrodistillation, that is, distillation with water vapor. It is a yellow liquid with a spicy aroma. The world produces about 5 tons of essential oil per year.

Sometimes leaves or shoots are used for distillation. Leaf oil contains mainly eugenol (up to 96%), cinnamon aldehyde (up to 3%), a small amount of benzyl benzoate, linalool and β-caryophyllene, and is characterized by a yellow or brown color and a warm spicy aroma.

Accordingly, these two products will differ greatly in their properties and application in aromatherapy. Leaf oil is a good skin and gum care product. Helps with dermatomycosis and insect bites. It is used for scabies and pediculosis, that is, its properties are closer to cloves, as a substitute for which it is sometimes used.

The essential oil of the root bark consists of 60% camphor and has no industrial value. And fruit oil consists mainly of TRANS-cinnamyl acetate and β-caryophyllene.

Medicinal properties of cinnamon

Chinese cinnamon

Cinnamon preparations were effective in the treatment of resistant forms of oral candidiasis (thrush) in HIV-infected patients. In a limited clinical trial, the efficacy of oral administration of alcoholic cinnamon extract as a monopreparation against Helicobacter pylori – a microorganism that causes stomach ulcers was proved. A clinical study has shown that oral consumption of 1-6 g of cinnamon for 40 days reduces the concentration of glucose, triglycerides, cholesterol complex with low-density lipoproteins and total cholesterol in the blood serum of patients with type 2 diabetes, which confirms the effectiveness of including cinnamon in the diet to reduce risk factors for this disease. Due to the high concentration of cinnamon aldehyde, Ceylon cinnamon essential oil in vitro has a high fungicidal activity against 17 species of micromycetes.

Cinnamon is recommended as a tonic for fatigue and loss of appetite, for asthenia after the flu. When mixed with warm wine, it acts as a medicine that strengthens and accelerates blood circulation and can protect against flu or colds. Hypertension folk healers recommend taking cinnamon with honey or yogurt.

In traditional Chinese medicine, drugs from the bark of trunks are prescribed for impotence, frigidity, a feeling of cold, pain in the lower back and knees, shortness of breath with kidney failure syndrome. In addition, it is used for dizziness, inflammation of the eyes, ulcers in the throat, as the Chinese believe caused by a lack of “Yan”, as well as for heart and abdominal pain, accompanied by a feeling of cold, vomiting, diarrhea and neurotic flatulence, as well as for amenorrhea and dysmenorrhea.

Cinnamon bark is included in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia and is used in European medicine. It is used as a spice,as well as as an antispasmodic, tonic, digestive, antiemetic and antiseptic.

It is used as a means to stimulate the activity of the digestive organs, as an antiseptic and to correct the smell of medicines.

Cinnamon is part of a dietary SUPPLEMENT designed to facilitate the cessation of Smoking.

Home recipe

In French herbal medicine, along with other spices, cinnamon is considered an aphrodisiac, i.e. a means that can enhance sexual desire. A good remedy for asthenic, anxiety and depressive States, and also helps to overcome the consequences of a feast with a large amount of alcohol. Inside, take 1-2 drops of oil with a spoonful of honey or herbal tea for colds and flu.

When spasms of the gastrointestinal tract relaxes the smooth muscles. Take when feeling bloated and overcrowded. The infusion is prepared from 1 g of powder and 150 ml of boiling water. Insist for 10 minutes, filter and take before eating. The daily dose should not exceed 2-4 g depending on the patient’s weight.

This same infusion with lemon and honey is very effective for colds and viral diseases.

For foodies

Currently, cinnamon is very widely used in European cuisine, in the near and Middle East, North Africa from Morocco to Ethiopia.

In India, vegetable oil is flavored when frying vegetables. First, pieces of cinnamon bark are thrown into the heated oil and warmed to release the flavor, and then the vegetables are fried.

The bark is widely used in mixtures: curry (India), Galat Dagga (Tunisia), RAS El hanut (Morocco). In China, cinnamon is part of the traditional five-spice mix.