Author- Dr Ranjeet Singh
Cinnamon ( Cinnamomum zeylanium, and Cinnamon cassia), the eternal tree of tropical medicine, belongs to the Lauraceae family. Cinnamomum is one of the most important spices and used daily by people all over the world. The warm, sweet fragrance of the cinnamon is unmistakable, evoking visions of the hot cinnamon rolls and mulled cider. Cinnamon primarily contains vital oils and other derivatives such as cinnamaldehyde, cinnamic acid and cinnamate. In addition to being an antioxidant, anti inflammatory, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, anticancer, lipid lowering and cardiovascular disease lowering compound, cinnamon has also been reported to the activities against neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Ancient history of Cinnamon ( dalchini)
True cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) is native to the Island of Sri Lanka, cassia or Chinese cinnamon is a close relative cultivated in Vietnam, China and Indonesia. Both varieties come from the fragrant inner bark of a tree belonging to the Laurel family. Cinnamon was a precious commodity that was traded extensively throughout the ancient world. The Egyptians prized it as an essential ingredient embalming mixtures used to perfume and preserve the dead. Moses of the Old Testament added it to a holy oil for anointing. In Rome during the first century (A.D.), cinnamon was at least 15 times more expensive than silver and centuries later it was still closely. Only the very wealthy in mediaeval Europe could afford this expensive Spice, for which demand was high and supply low.
Uses of Cinnamon ( dalchini)
Cinnamon is mainly used in the aroma and essense industries due to its fragrance, which can be incorporated into different varieties of food stuff, perfumes, and medicinal products. The most important constituent of cinnamon are cinnamaldehyde, and trans-cinnamaldehyde, which are present in the essential oil, thus contributing to the fragrance and to the various biological activity is observed with Cinnamon.
In addition to being used as a spice and flavoring agent, cinnamon is also added to flavor chewing gums due to its mouth refreshing effects and ability to remove bad breath. Cinnamon can also improve the health of the colon, thereby reducing the risk of colon cancer.
Cinnamon may be especially important to people with diabetes. Mainly the bark is used medicinally. A polyphenol compound with the tongue twisting name methylhydroxychalcone is found in cassia cinnamon. It is this compound that may be responsible for cinnamon’s main medical benefit; lowering blood sugar in people with diabetes. The compound seems to affect insulin receptors and aid in the formation of glycogen, or stored sugar.
Cinnamon also has antibacterial effect ( from the Essential oil) and antioxidant effects (from the polyphenols), the latter probably helping with some of the complications of diabetes.
Cassia cinnamon has been studies in clinical trials, primarily by looking at fasting blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Although one study found improvements in fasting blood sugar ( as much as 29% in some cases) and cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes, other studies have found no effect. It may be that cinnamon works better in people whose diabetes is poorly controlled, but there may be other factors, such as genetics and medications, that explain why sometimes cinnamon help and other time it doesn’t.
How to use ?
For diabetics, powdered cinnamon is an option; but for positive effects on the blood sugar levels it is necessary to use approximately one tablespoon daily. The common spices purchased in grocery stores is not necessarily cassia cinnamon.
Cinnamon capsules range in dose and suggested use; studies on Type 1 Diabetes and type 2 Diabetics used 1 to 6 grams cinnamon aday, taken in divided doses.
Cinnamon is well tolerated, through the volatile oil can cause a skin rash. Cassia and others cinnamons contain small amounts of coumarin; blood thinning and liver problems generally occurs with this compound only if range amounts are taken over long periods. To be safe, caution is advised for anyone with liver problems due to its blood thinning effects, people should stop taking cinnamon in quantities greater than used as a Spice at least one week prior to surgery. Medicinal doses are not recommended during pregnancy. Close monitoring of the blood sugar levels in Diabetics is warranted to avoid unsafe lowering of blood sugar.
(Ref; National Geographic, 36 healing herbs)