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The cold weather in winter causes us to contract many ailments. Cinnamon is a spicy, warm medicine that helps our bodies fight cold and it provides many other benefits, as well.
Cinnamon’s scientific name is Cinnamomum loureirii Nees in the family Lauraceae. Its commercial names are Chinese cassia, Chinese cinnamon, and Chinese cassia leaf oil.
Vietnam produces and exports hundreds of tons of cinnamon sticks and dozens of tons of cinnamon oil. The best cinnamon, called “Ngoc quan,” is found in Thanh Hoa province and was once used as a precious gift for royalty.
The plants grow in the humid topical forest at an altitude of up to 800 meters and are harvested after five years. Layers are best peeled after 20-30 years.
Cinnamon branches are harvested in summer and dried. Cinnamon leaves and peel are distilled to produce essential oil.
Cinnamon powder and aromatic essential oil are used to marinate foods. They are also used in baking and to spice various dishes such as pho.
According to Oriental medicine, cinnamon is divided into many types depending on the drugs in the cinnamon.
- Que chi: Spicy and sweet taste, warm property, cure coldness without sweat and rheumatism, aches in legs and arms. Use 5-10 grams or combine with other tastes.
- Que tam: Cure heartache with a dose of 4-8 grams or combine with other tastes.
- Que thong: Cure coldness in organs
- Que nhuc: Spicy and sweet taste, hot property, circulates blood vessels, strengthens cardiovascular system, increases heat, cures coldness, coma and heart failure.
The essential oil concentration is quite high (1- 4%) in cinnamon bark, and low (.3 – .8%) in cinnamon leaves and young branches. Cinnamon essential oil distilled from bark is light yellow-brown, sticky, spicy, aromatic, sweet, hot, and heavier than water. Main components include (E)-cinnamaldehyd (70-95%) and 100 other compounds. Cinnamon essential oil from the leaves is dark brown and contains mainly (E)-cinnamaldehyd (60-90%). The (E)-cinnamaldehyd concentration decides the quality of the cinnamon essential oil.
Western medicine considers cinnamon bark and essential oil a medicine that boosts the respiratory system, intestine peristaltic, digestion, emunctory, uterus pulsation, immune system, widens vessels, and fights against histamine and bacteria.
In Oriental medicine, cinnamon is used as an emergency drug for coldness, coma, heart failure, stomach ache, digestion problems, dysentery, urination difficulties, backache, sore knees, frozen body, coughing, asthma, and cancer.
The medicinal value of cinnamon depends on where it is grown, type, age at harvest, bark placement on the tree, and bark thickness.
Age at harvest: Good cinnamon if older than 15 years; special cinnamon if older than 30 years.
Bark placement on the tree: the best position is the bark from 1.2 meters to the first branch (Thuong chau cinnamon), eastern direction. From 20 centimeters above the ground to 1.2 meters is called Ha can cinnamon (lower quality than Thuong chau). Bark of big branches is called Thuong bieu cinnamon; bark of small branches is called Que chi.
Bark thickness: Nhuc que (bark of body and big branches) has 4 types:
- Special type: thicker than 6 mm, sometimes up to 10 mm, contains 2 layers of oil, black brown, thicker than 2 mm
- Type 1: thick from 4.5 to 6 mm with an oil layer of 1.5 to 2 mm, black brown.
- Type 2: thick from 3 to 4.5 mm with an oil layer of 1 to 1.5 mm, black brown.
- Type 3: thick from 2 to 3 mm with an oil layer of 1 mm, black brown.
Cardiovascular health: Helps strengthen the cardiovascular system. Add a small amount of cinnamon while cooking for people with heart disease and high blood pressure.
Thrombosis: Cinnamaldehyde in cinnamon is very effective in preventing blood clots and is good for people with heart disease.
Boost blood circulation: Helps clean blood veins and increase blood circulation. Easy blood circulation improves health by providing enough oxygen to cells. It also increases metabolism and decreases risks of heart disease if used daily.
The brain: Stimulates brain activities as a supplement, releases stress and aids those with dementia. Research has found the scent of cinnamon can increase cognition, and improve memory and concentration.
Headaches: Headache caused by going out in the wind can be cured by applying a thin mixture of cinnamon powder and water on the forehead and temples.
Blood sugar: Helps control blood sugar and type II diabetes. Research shows that a half tablespoon of cinnamon every day helps improve insulin sensitivity and adjusts glucose in blood. When insulin sensitivity becomes better, weight and heart diseases will be controlled. This is very good because the higher insulin concentration, the heavier the body weight.
Weight loss: Cinnamon helps you keep in shape because it saturates the fats in cells. Currently, many producers process cinnamon into powder for easy use. Since cinnamon smells spicy, many factories add sugar to make it easier to drink, which might affect a diet. Buy the organic, non-sweetened cinnamon if you want to use it everyday. The best choice is cinnamon tea bags. Add a small amount of cinnamon to yogurt, cheese, oatmeal, yam, or vegetables.
Reduce cholesterol: Nutritionists say that ½ a tablespoon of cinnamon powder (about 2 grams) everyday helps reduce cholesterol LDL and triglycerids.
Respiratory system: People who have flu, sore throat, a long lasting cough and sinusitis should eat 1 spoonful of honey mixed with ¼ spoonful of cinnamon daily for 3 days.
Infectious diseases: Very effective anti-inflamatory both inside and outside the body because of its anti-bacterial and anti-virus capabilities. Cinnamon also helps cure vaginal yeast infections, adenoids, stomach ulcers and lice.
Immune system: A mixture of honey and cinnamon is very good to boost the immune system, for relaxation, and to slow down the aging process.
Digestive system: Add to meals to help indigestion, nausea, gastric disorder, diarrhea and abdominal gas. Cinnamon can reduce gas in the stomach and intestines.
Unrinary infections: Lowers the risk of urinary infections.
Arthritis: Anti-inflamartory compounds help ease the pain caused by arthritis. A Copenhagen University study found that eating ½ a teaspoon of cinnamon powder and 1 teaspoon of honey every morning helped alleviate discomfort significantly after one week.
Sweet breath: Chew a small piece of cinnamon or gargle with cinnamon water for a clean mouth and fresh breath.
Insect bites: Apply a paste of honey and cinnamon to soothe the itch.
Acne and blemishes: Mix cinnamon powder with a few drops of lemon juice and apply on blemishes.
Foot odor: Press cinnamon powder on the insoles to keep feet warm in winter and prevent odor.
Preserve food: Add a small amount of cinnamon while cooking to prevent the development and growth of bacteria.
General preventative use: Mix 3-4 grams of cinnamon powder with hot water and drink. Don’t boil since the essential oil will evaporate and reduce the effects. Or put 1-2 drops of essential oil in hot water to drink.