Cinnamon Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

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Cinnamon Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Cinnamon Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

-T.V. Venkateswaran 

Tasting sweet and fragrant as well as, warm and aromatic, cinnamon is one of the ancient spices. Cinnamon, usually regarded as the bark of the Cinnamomum zeylanicum tree, (or ‘true cinnamon’) is native to Srilanka, parts of South India and the Tenasserim Hills of Burma. However another variety Cassia is widely prevalent in China. Like the spice itself the name of the spice too is ‘spicy’! In India and Iran, it is called darchini, meaning “wood from China”, which more accurately describes cassia; much of which came from China where large groves of trees grew around the city of Kweilin (now called Guilin). [“kwei” means cinnamon, and “lin” means forest in Chinese.] In Tamil and south Indian languages it is called as ‘lavanga pattai (bark of the lavangan)’; a mistaken notion that the bark is from the clove tree (lavang). The name in English ‘Cinnamon’ come from the Malay word, “kayumanis”, meaning ‘sweet wood’. In Italian it is ‘canella’ meaning “little cannon tubes” that the rolled up quills of bark resemble.
Cinnamon Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

History

In the Bible (exodus 30), there is a reference to cinnamon as an ingredient in holy anointing oil used in the ritual at the Tabernacle erected by Moses. The Roman Empire imported huge amounts of cinnamon, and it may have been used mostly in perfumes and fragrances and to flavor wines, but it was not favored as a cooking spice. It is reported that the (in) famous Nero burned year’s worth of cinnamon on his wife’s funeral pyre in 1 CE - that time wroth more than gold- as an extravagant gesture meant to signify the depth of his loss. Cinnamon was once more valuable than gold and has been associated with ancient rituals of sacrifice or pleasure in ancient Europe. In Egypt, it was sought for embalming, perhaps because cinnamic acid (and also myrrh) has antibacterial effects. In ancient China, cinnamon is related to the traditional Chinese religious myths- it is said that the mouth of Yellow river has a garden of paradise full of cassia trees. In Indonesia, a wine prepared from cinnamon is essential for completion of the marriage ceremony while in Mexico, Asiatic countries, Arabia and North Africa it was valued in cooking.

During the Middle Ages and subsequently, cinnamon, was sold in Europe by Arabian traders who obtained it from Ceylon. It became a favorite flavour in many banquet foods and was regarded as an appetite stimulator, a digestive, an aphrodisiac, and a treatment for coughs and sore throats. The cinnamon (or cassia) trade was controlled by Venice in the 13th and 14th centuries, and resulted in the city becoming very wealthy.

The demand for cinnamon was enough to launch a number of explorers’ enterprises. The Portuguese invaded Sri Lanka immediately after reaching India in 1536. The Sinhalese King paid the Portuguese tributes of 110,000 kilograms of cinnamon annually. An increasing demand for cinnamon led to the Dutch fighting the Portuguese, and in the mid-17th century Ceylon’ s cinnamon trade was taken over and controlled by Holland. The Dutch captured Sri Lanka in 1636, cinnamon was the most profitable spice in the Dutch East India Company trade. They established a system of cultivation that exists to this day. In its wild state, trees grow high on stout trunks. Under cultivation, the shoots are continually cropped almost to ground level, resulting in a low bush, dense with thin leafy branches. From these, come the finest quills.

The Dutch forcefully monopolized cinnamon; to keep up prices in 1760, they burnt huge amounts in Amsterdam to create a shortage. In 1795, the English seized control of Ceylon with a view to garner its profit. The British established cinnamon, tea and rubber plantations and thousands of Tamils from southern India were brought to Srilanka to work on these plantations. However, cinnamon saplings were transplanted by the Dutch for cultivation in Indonesia and by the French to plantations in Mauritius, Reunion islands and Guyana.

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The Plant

Cinnamon is the common name for the trees and shrubs that belong to the genus Cinnamomum. There are many different species, listed as variedly as from 50 to 250 types. The two main varieties are Cinnamomum cassia and Cinnamomum zeylanicum. C. zeylanicum is also known as ‘Ceylon’ cinnamon – zeylanicum in Latin means Ceylon. Best cinnamon grows along the coastal strip near Colombo. Cinnamon is a tropical evergreen tree of the laurel family (Lauraceae) growing up to 7m in its wild state; though in plantation it maybe pruned to look like a bush. Cultivated plantations grow trees as small bushes, no taller than 3 m, as the stems are continually cut back to produce new stems for bark. It has deeply-veined ovate leaves that are dark green on top, lighter green underneath. The bark is smooth and yellowish. Both the bark and leaves are aromatic. It has small yellowish-white flowers with a disagreeable odour that bear dark purple berries. It prefers a hot, wet tropical climate at a low altitude.

Eight to ten lateral branches grow on each bush and after three years they are harvested.

The Spice

Cinnamon is the inner bark of these trees. Stem bark of the plant is the commercially exploited part, though; cinnamon leaves may serve as a substitute for Indian bay leaves. Branches are cut from trees and bark is peeled off. The Sri Lankan farmer harvests his main crop in the wet season, cutting the shoots close to the ground. In processing, the shoots are first scraped with a semicircular blade, then rubbed with a brass rid to loosen the bark, which is split with a knife and peeled. They are left to dry. After few days the inner bark and the outer get separated and the outer bark, cork and the pithy inner lining are scraped off. Inner barks are left to dry further. As they dry, the inner bark curl inwards producing what is called as a quill. The peels are telescoped one into another forming a quill about 100 cm long and filled with trimming of the same quality bark to maintain the cylindrical shape. After four or five days of drying, the quills are rolled on a board to tighten the filling and then placed in subdued sunlight for further drying. Finally, they are bleached with sulphur dioxide. They are then cut into uniform lengths and graded according to thickness, aroma and appearance.

Spice produced from Zeylancicam are light brown or tan in colour with delicate taste. Cassia that grows in China, Indonesia and several Southeast Asian countries produce darker reddish brown with stronger pungent flavour. Cinnamon from Zeylancicam is considered by the commercial world as far superior and from Cassia as essentially adulterant, though in most homes distinction is not made. Cinnamon comes in ‘quills’, strips of bark rolled one in another. The pale brown to tan bar strips are generally thin, the spongy outer bark having been scraped off. The best varieties are pale and parchment-like in appearance.

Main Constituents

trans -Cinnamaldehyde (C9H8O) is a major constituent of cinnamon bark, and it provides the distinctive odor and flavor associated with cinnamon. Two phenylpropanoids; cinnamic aldehyd (3-phenyl-acrolein) and eugenol (4-(1-propene-3-yl)-2-methoxy-phenol dominates the essential oil of the cinnamon bark. Other phenylpropanoids (safrole, coumarine, cinnamic acid esters), mono- and sesquiterpenes, although occurring are only in traces; yet they do significantly influence the taste of cinnamon. Another trace component relevant for the quality is 2-heptanone (methyl-n-amyl-ketone). The slime content of the bark is rather low at 3%.

Culinary Uses

Since Ceylon cinnamon is native in South Asia, it is not surprising that the cuisines of Sri Lanka and India make heavy use of it. It is equally suited for the fiery beef curries of Sri Lanka and the subtle, fragrant rice dishes (biriyanis) of the Imperial North Indian cuisine. It is also widely in use for flavouring tea. Cinnamon is also popular in all regions where Persian or Arab influence is felt: West, South West and Central Asia, Northern and Eastern Africa. Although cinnamon was very popular in Europe in the 16th to 18th centuries, it’s importance is now rather shrunken: the main application for cinnamon in Western cooking are several kinds of desserts; stewed fruits, for instance, are usually flavoured with a mixture of cloves and cinnamon.

Currently, cinnamon is regarded as a wonderful aroma in baked goods, but its taste is of limited appeal in the western world. In India, cinnamon is applied as a whole; the bark pieces are fried in hot oil until they unroll. As they unroll in hot oil they release the fragrance; not to over burn and spoil, temperature is quenched by adding other components, like tomatoes, onions or curd. In most other countries, powdered cinnamon is preferred. The powder should be added shortly before serving, as it turns slightly bitter if cooked for long. Powdered cinnamon is contained in several spice mixtures, like North Indian garam masala, curry powder and Arabic baharat, further it is an optional ingredient for the classical French mixture quatre é pices. In Kutch region it is reported that “cinnamon buds” that is the unripe fruits harvested shortly after the blossom are also used as a spice.

Medicinal Uses

Cinnamon is one of the oldest herbal medicines known, having been mentioned in Chinese texts as long as 4,000 years ago. In traditional herbal remedies Cinnamon is said to have properties of astringent, warming stimulant carminative, antiseptic, antifungal, anti-viral, blood purifier, and digestive aid. Cinnamon is considered to be mildly carminative and used to treat nausea and flatulence. It is also used alone or in combination to treat diarrhea. The oil in cinnamon is a type of phenol, which is anti-fungal and anti-bacterial, and is said to slow meat to spoil, so its use as spice for meat dishes, especially in warmer climates seems sensible. However, principal pharmacological use today is as an aromatic to cover the disagreeable taste of other drugs.

Yet, cinnamon may hold out some promise. Studies have indicated that intake of cinnamon probably reduces serum glucose, triglyceride, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes and suggest that the inclusion of cinnamon in the diet of people with type 2 diabetes will reduce risk factors associated with diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. However, further investigations are required for conclusive assertion. Another study reports that chewing-gum laced with cinnamon oil reduces by more than 50 percent the concentration of anaerobic bacteria in the saliva. Microbiological analysis showed that it was particularly effective against anaerobic bacteria residing at the back of the tongue, reducing the population by 43 percent. These bacteria produce volatile sulfur compounds through the putrefaction of proteins and are considered the major contributors to halitosis, or bad breath. When cinnamon is in, Escherichia coli is out; reports another study and cinnamon may be able to help control it in unpasteurized juices.

Cinnamaldehyde is also used as an agricultural fungicide. Cinnamon oil shows promise as a great-smelling, environmentally friendly pesticide, with the ability to kill mosquito larvae, according to a new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry . Despite being widely used in food and pharmacy it is also important in the cosmetic and perfumery industries. Cinnamon oil is also used in preparation perfumes.

The various terpenoids found in the spices essential oil are thought to be the reason for cinnamon ’ s medicinal properties. Eugenol and cinnamaldehyde are two very important terpenoids found in cinnamon. Cinnamaldehyde and cinnamon oil vapors act as potent antifungal agents. The diterpenes found in the cinnamon oil have shown antiallergenic activity. Antibacterial actions have also been demonstrated for cinnamon. The diterpenes in the volatile oil have shown anti-allergic activity as well.

Nonetheless concentrated cinnamaldehyde can irritate the skin and mucous membranes, and typical scented products contain only a few tenths of a percent of this compound. Along with the medicinal effects come the side effects and interactions that medicinal cinnamon causes. Some people may be sensitive or allergic to cinnamon. Also, some people may develop dermatitis after exposure to it. Chronic chewing of cinnamon gum or use of cinnamon flavored toothpaste can cause inflammation of the mouth, and lead to pre-cancerous growth. keywords: cinnamon information, cinnamon information facts, cinnamon nutrition information, cinnamon tree information, cinnamon benefits for body, cinnamon benefits for hypothyroidism, cinnamon benefits for diabetes, cinnamon benefits for face, cinnamon benefits for hair

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