Cinnamon is not only a warming, sweet and exotic culinary spice.It is used extensively in traditional systems of medicine for its therapeutic value. It’s been a part of the Ayurvedic system of medicine for thousands of years. In Hindi, it’s called Dalchini.
The particular flavor and fragrance is due to its essential oil and chief components – cinnamaldehyde and eugenol. In this article, we’re going to look at nearly every aspect of cinnamon. Keep reading. Got a question? Leave it in the comment below and one of our experts will reply.
Here’s what you’ll learn in this article.
Species Of Cinnamon
Cinnamon Botanical Description
Sanskrit Synonyms For Cinnamon With Their Meaning1
Varieties Of Cinnamon
What You Should Know
Ayurvedic Properties Of Cinnamon
Popular Ayurvedic Formulations With Cinnamon
Cinnamon Essential Oil
Ayurvedic Uses Of Cinnamon And Remedies
Chemical Constituents Of Cinnamon7
Research On Cinnamon7
Cinnamon Nutrition Value8
Cinnamon is the collective name given to various plant species in the genus Cinnamomum and family Lauraceae. Out of all these species only a few species are grown commercially for its bark.
The main species include Cinnamomum zeylanicum or Cinnamomum verum, commonly known as Ceylon.
Cinnamomum cassia or Chinese cinnamon is common as well. Cinnamomum tamale or Indian cinnamon, Cinnamomum citriodorum or Malabar cinnamon and Cinnamomum burmanni (Indonesian cinnamon) are other common varieties.
Cinnamomum zeylanicum has a new botanical name, Cinnamomum verum. The old name was originally derived from Sri Lanka’s former name Ceylon. It is found widely in Sri Lanka. But it also grows in Malabar, Cochin and China. It is also cultivated in Brazil, Mauritius, India and in many other countries.
These plants are grown for their inner bark. When dried, the bark rolls into a tubular stick which is commercially known as a quill.
Cinnamon is available in the market in stick form and in powder form. Cinnamon essential oil is also used widely for various purposes.
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Cinnamon trees are small evergreen trees with aromatic bark and leaves. They have an economic lifespan of approximately ten years.
Cinnamon trees usually grow up to 20 to 30 feet tall. In the wild however, they can grow up to 50 to 60 feet tall.
The bark is scabrous and has a smooth and yellow color and a distinct pleasant odor.
The leaves of the tree are thick and oval or lanceolate in shape and 3-7 inches long. They are dark green on top and lighter green underneath. When crushed, they produce a pungent smell.
The branches of the plant are strong, smooth and grey.
The tree produces small, yellow-white or green flowers on panicles. They have a distinct odor.
The fruit is purple in color. It is oval in shape and berry like and it contains one single seed.
These Sanskrit synonyms for cinnamon describe its various qualities.
Tvaka: It pacifies Vata dosha and covers Vata dosha in the body.
Daru sita: It is a wooden stick with a sweet flavor, like sugar candy.
Chocham: Its bark is of very good quality.
Vraangam: Every part of cinnamon is admirable and wonderful.
Bhringam: It has a hot property.
Saimhalam: It originates in the Saimhala region which today is the region of Sri Lanka.
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Different varieties of cinnamon are available. It’s classified based on where it’s been cultivated. Some common varieties include the following.
This variety is cultivated in Sri Lanka. Again, it is commonly known as Ceylon cinnamon. It has a thinner bark than Cassia cinnamon. It is sweeter than Cassia cinnamon and less bitter in taste.
It is considered the best variety among all varieties of cinnamon because it has a very pleasant smell and sweet taste.2
This variety is mainly found in the Himalayas at an altitude of three to eight thousand feet. In particular, it is grown in the regions of Assam and Sikkim.
It has a thick bark which is not very pungent. When it is ground with water it becomes mucilaginous.
Its leaves are known as tej patra or bay leaves.2
This variety has also been used topically as an anti-inflammatory agent in traditional systems of medicine.3
This variety of cinnamon is mainly cultivated in China. Its has a thick bark.
It’s also used topically as anti-inflammatory agent in traditional systems of medicine.2
Its leaves are commonly used and are referred to as bay leaves.4 When these bay leaves dry they smell like cloves. If they do not have any fragrance and are missing their typical sharp taste then they should not be used in medicine.3
Among these three varieties of cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon is considered the best. It is sweeter in taste and has the best odor and aroma compared to others.5
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Cassia cinnamon has a strong and spicy flavor. It is often used in baking, especially cinnamon rolls.
Among cassia, Chinese cinnamon is generally medium to light reddish brown in color. It is hard and woody in texture.
It is thicker than others because all of the layers of bark are used.
Cassia cinnamon sticks are harder than others.
The Chinese variety or Cinnamomum cassia are always sold as broken pieces of thick bark because the bark is not supple enough to be rolled into quills.
With Ceylon cinnamon, only the thin inner bark is used. It has a lighter brown color and a finer, less dense and more crumbly texture.
It is more subtle and more aromatic in flavor than cassia. It loses much of its flavor during cooking.
Ceylon cinnamon sticks (quills) have many thin layers. It can easily be made into powder using a coffee or spice grinder
Indonesian cinnamon is often sold in neat quills made up of one thick layer. It is so hard, it’s capable of damaging a spice or coffee grinder.
The powdered bark of cinnamon is harder to distinguish between varieties. If it’s treated with a tincture of iodine (a test for starch), little effect is visible with pure Ceylon cinnamon. When Chinese cinnamon is present however, a deep-blue tint is produced.
In The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of Herbs, the following species are explained.
Botanical name:Cinnamomum zeylanicum
Rasa or taste:Katu (pungent), tikta (bitter), madhura (sweet)
Guna or qualities:Laghu (light), ruksha (dry), teekshna (piercing or sharp)
Viryaor potency:Ushna (hot)
Vipakaor post digestive taste:Katu (pungent)
Effect ondosha:Kapha Vata hara (Reduces Kapha and Vata dosha)
It pacifies Kapha dosha and Vata dosha because of its hot potency. Due to its hot potency, it increases Pitta dosha. Cinnamon which is more sweet in taste however, pacifies Pitta dosha.5
Parts used:Tvaka or stem bark, taila or oil and patra or leaves.6
Tvaka churna (powder) of stem bark: 1-3 grams
Powder of leaves: 1-3 grams
Oil: 2-5 drops
Sitopaladi churna is a popular Ayurvedic formulation to treat respiratory problems, cough, cold and anorexia.6
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The essential oil is extracted through steam distillation of the bark.It has a mild and sweet aroma that soothes the mind.
There are two types.
1. Cinnamon Leaf Essential Oil
This essential oil is derived from the leaves. It is dark brown in color and has a fragrance like cloves.
It is 70-85% eugenol
2. Cinnamon Bark Essential Oil
This essential oil is derived from the bark. It is light yellow in color but on storing, changes to red.
This oil contains 50-65% cinnamaldehyde and 60-75% eugenol.5
Apart from having different chemical compositions, both these essential oils mostly serve the same health benefits.
According to ‘The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of Herbs’5, it is helpful in increasing the metabolic fire. It improves appetite and relieves anorexia.
Other uses according to the Pharmacopoeia include the following.5
It is useful in digestion of food. It is useful in relieving flatulence, abdominal pain and improving liver function.
Cinnamon is helpful in diarrhea, hemorrhoids and irritable bowel syndrome.
It is also useful in fever due to intestinal problems.
Cinnamon has anti-microbial properties. It is helpful in improving cardiac problems, blood related problems, cough and cold.
It is useful in asthma and chronic respiratory problems.
Cinnamon helps in increasing ojas. According to Ayurveda, ojas is responsible for immunity, strength and vitality.
Cinnamon is helpful in purification of blood. It is helpful in tuberculosis and has a diuretic property.
It is helpful in painful micturition and cleanses the urinary bladder.
It has a uterine contractive property. It is an aphrodisiac.
Cinnamon helps in maintaining oral health and relieves bad breath.
It helps in strengthening the teeth. For this purpose, it is advised to keep a small stick in the mouth and chew it.
It’s helpful in amenorrhoea and delayed periods.
It acts as a pain killer. It has a scraping property and is useful in nervous system problems.
It’s helpful in nausea and vomiting.
In hyper pigmentation, it is advised to apply a thin mask over the affected area.
In headache and other body pains, a thin mask is applied over the affected area.
Where there is pain due to inflammation, it can be applied locally.
In toothache and cavities, one to two drops of the oil can be placed on a piece of cotton and kept on the affected tooth area.
In premature ejaculation, cinnamon oil is applied over the penis or it is powdered and then applied locally after making a paste.
Cinnamon oil is applied externally over an insect bite and scorpion sting. It helps in relieving the stinging pain.
In tubercular ulcers and wounds, cinnamon oil is applied locally. It helps in cleaning and healing of wounds.
Cinnamon is used in weakness of the nervous system and it is useful in paralysis.
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This wonderful spice consists of a variety of resinous compounds. It includes cinnamaldehyde, cinnamate, cinnamic acid and numerous essential oils.
The spicy taste and fragrance are due to the presence of cinnamaldehyde and occur due to the absorption of oxygen.
As it ages, it darkens in color improving the resinous compounds.
It also contains a wide range of essential oils. They include trans-cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, eugenol, L-borneol, caryophyllene oxide, b-caryophyllene, L-bornyl acetate, E-nerolidol,α-cubebene,α-terpineol, terpinolene, andα-thujene.
The chemical constituents of the different parts of cinnamon are as follows.
Cinnamaldehyde – 1 to 5%
Eugenol – 70 to 95%
Cinnamaldehyde – 65 to 80%
Eugenol – 5 to 10%
Camphor – 60%
Cinnamyl acetate – 42 to 54%
Caryophyllene – 9 to 14%
Cinnamomum zeylanicum Buds
Terpene hydrocarbons – 78%
alpha-Bergamotene – 27.38%
alpha-Copaene – 23.05%
Oxygenated terpenoids: 9.00%
Cinnamomum zeylanicum Flowers
(E)-Cinnamyl acetate -41.98%
trans-alpha-Bergamotene – 7.97%
Caryophyllene oxide – 7.20%
Many clinical studies have been done and many still are ongoing. The main properties are demonstrated in the following clinical studies.7
It has antioxidant activity.
Antioxidants play a vital role in human life. They act as health protecting agents.
Antioxidants have been considered the most important drivers in the progress and existence of humans. They respond to free radicals and damage in metabolic diseases and age-related syndromes of humans and other animals.
Various extracts as ether, aqueous and methanolic extracts have shown antioxidant activities.
A study on rats reported that the administration of the bark powder of Cinnamomum verum (10%) for 90 days produced antioxidant activities as indicated by cardiac and hepatic antioxidant enzymes, lipid conjugate dienes and glutathione (GSH).
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It has anti-inflammatory activity.
Various studies reported the anti-inflammatory activity of cinnamon and its essential oils.
Many compounds contained in Cinnamomum ramulus (one of the species of cinnamomum) showed its anti-inflammatory effects by suppressing the expression of inducible nitric oxide synthesis, cyclooxygenase-2 and nitric oxide production in the central nervous system (CNS).
By this mechanism, Cinnamomum ramulus could be a potential source for the therapeutic treatment or prevention of inflammation-mediated neurodegenerative diseases.
Also the aqueous extract of cinnamon decreases the lipopolysaccharide-induced tumor necrosis factor-α levels in the serum.
Cinnamon is helpful in neurological disorders.
Cinnamophilin is isolated from Cinnamomum philippinensis (a species of cinnamomum).
A study reported that cinnamophilin confers protection against ischemic damage in rat brains when administered at 80 mg/kg at different time intervals (2, 4, and 6 hours) after insult.
The effects were found to have a considerable effect (by 34–43%) on abridged brain infarction and further enhance neurobehavioral outcomes.
Cinnamophilin also dramatically condenses the oxygen glucose deprivation-induced neuronal damage in experimental rats.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second major widespread neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s disease. It has a prevalence of 2% in people 65 years and older. Cinnamon and its metabolite are helpful in Parkinson’s disease.
Another study reported that the aqueous extract of Cinnamomum zeylanicum can reduce tau aggregation and filament formation. These two are the main features of Alzheimer’s disease.
The extract can also encourage the complete fragmentation of recombinant tau filaments and cause the considerable modification of the morphology of paired helical filaments from Alzheimer’s disease brain. It indicates that cinnamon can be useful the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
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It’s helpful in diabetes.
A substance from cinnamon has been isolated and it is named as insulin-potentiating factor (IPF). While the anti-diabetic effects of cinnamon bark have been shown in diabetic rats.
A study comparing the insulin-potentiating effects of many spices revealed that the aqueous extract of cinnamon was 20-fold higher than the other spices.
In one study, suitable doses of cinnamon (5, 10, and 20 mg/kg) were found to help with glycemic control in diabetics due to enhanced insulin secretion.
Cinnamon has anti-microbial activity. Many studies have shown the several antimicrobial activities of cinnamon and its oils till now .
For example, the effects of cinnamon oils on different bacterial species like staphylococcus aureus, fungal species like aspergillus flavus and yeast species like candida lipolytica indicating that cinnamon is a natural antimicrobial agent.
Overall, the essential oil from cinnamon is more potent than other tested plant extracts, such as Azadirachta indica (neem) and Syzygium aromaticum.
Some studies show that it can be helpful in cancer.
Cinnamon has anti-cancer activity. A study on the aqueous extract and the fraction of cinnamon show that it could potentially be helpful in cancer prevention.
Cinnamaldehydes have been synthesized and tested as inhibitors against angiogenesis. Studies reported that CB403, a chemical that can be synthesized from cinnamaldehyde, can inhibit tumor growth.
Overall, the anti-tumor and growth-inhibitory properties of CB403 in animal-based studies as well as in cell culture-based studies indicate the potential of cinnamon to be used as an anticancer agent.
It’s helpful in cardiovascular diseases.
Several studies have reported the protective effects of cinnamaldehyde on the cardiovascular system.
Cinnamophilin is one important constituent isolated from Cinnamomum philippinensis (a species of cinnamon). Studies have shown that it can be helpful in problems like platelet aggregation. It can be used in the prevention of vascular diseases and atherosclerosis.
Cinnamaldehyde produces hypotensive effects, which are mainly due to peripheral vasodilatation in anesthetized dogs and guinea pigs.
The vasodilatation induced by cinnamaldehyde in dogs lasted and remained over the recovery period of the fall in blood pressure to the baseline.
A recent study shows that cinnamaldehyde expands rat vascular smooth muscle in an endothelium-independent manner.
The ability of cinnamaldehyde to support vasodilatory function may be because it impedes both Ca2+ influx and Ca2+ release.
Cinnamaldehyde averts the progress of hypertension in types 1 and 2 diabetes by abridging vascular contractility, in addition to its insulinotropic effect in insulin deficiency.
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It has cholesterol and lipid lowering effects.
Administration of cinnamon at one, three, and six gram doses per day caused a reduction in serum glucose, triglyceride, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels in humans.
The significant health benefits of numerous types of cinnamon have been explored. Further investigations are necessary to provide additional clinical evidence for the traditional uses of this spice against cancer and inflammatory, cardio-protective, and neurological disorders.
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