Learn about the uses and health benefits of ground cinnamon.
For people who like to add a little extra spice to their life, ground cinnamon is the perfect seasoning. It is especially popular for use during the winter months, but is tasty, healthy and available throughout the year and throughout the United States.
Ground cinnamon has its beginnings in the world's tropical regions, most notably Sri Lanka, Burma, Brazil, Jamaica, Madagascar, Martinique and the East Indies. It comes from shrubs and trees of the laurel, or Lauraceae, family (Cinnamomum zeylanicum). Cinnamon laurel trees can reach as tall as 20 or 30 feet. These trees have oval leaves that are quite large, complemented by numerous small, pale yellow flowers that are bunched closely together and have an acorn-shaped dark-purple fruit.
Typically, cinnamon trees are harvested primarily for their bark; therefore, commercially-grown trees are purposely kept short by cutting them close to the lowest buds on the tree. The bark of cinnamon trees is usually peeled during the tropical rain season between April and November. The bark is then dried out, at which time it begins to curl up and turn a pleasant shade of light brown. These pieces of curled-up bark eventually become the cinnamon sticks with which many people are familiar, and are used in tea and other beverages and recipes.
The sticks can be ground into a fine powder, which is the equally familiar ground cinnamon found in grocery stores and on kitchen spice racks around the world.
Ground cinnamon has a sweet taste and is used in a wide variety of recipes such as pastries, breads and curries.
Applesauce, apple cider and apple pie are among the most frequent recipe uses for ground cinnamon. Ground cinnamon is also used in pumpkin pies, chocolate, pastries and cinnamon buns, and is often mixed with sugar as a topping for toast and breakfast cereals. Probably an unknown use for ground cinnamon is in tomato sauce; the spice is added to balance the acidity of the tomatoes.
In addition to its tasty zing, ground cinnamon has also been proven to contain significant health benefits, including:
According to the Champaign-Urbana Herb Society, there also are several other health benefits of cinnamon, including its use in fighting sore throats, infections, fever, coughs, colds, indigestion and bronchitis. Ground cinnamon can be used to help lower blood pressure, increase circulation, restore a lost appetite or calm a person down.
The United States Department of Agriculture indicated in a recent study that people who eat a half-teaspoon of cinnamon per day find "dramatic improvements" in their levels of blood sugar, triglycerides and both types of cholesterol. In fact, the study reported, at that level of consumption, there are no health side effects. However, consumers have to be cautious about choosing and using products that contain water-soluble components of cinnamon. When taken at large levels, these could be very dangerous.
In addition, cinnamon is a good source of nutrients such as manganese, dietary fiber, iron and calcium.