As a naturopath, herbal medicine has always been Georgia Harding’s preferred therapeutic aid. She believes herbal medicine to be very powerful – nature’s greatest gift for supporting the human body to heal.
One of my most favourite medicinal herbs happens to be my most favourite culinary spice – cinnamon. Not only does cinnamon bring a beautiful depth of flavour and sweetness to both sweet and savoury dishes, it has a growing bounty of evidence to support its powerful medicinal action. As the weather cools down and we head into the cooler months here in Australia, its warming qualities make it an essential ingredient in your spice rack.
Cinnamon is made by harvesting the stems of the cinnamomum tree. The inner bark is extracted and the outer woody parts removed from it. As it dries, it forms strips that curl into the rolls we know as cinnamon sticks (or quills). These sticks may then be ground to form cinnamon powder.
Cinnamon is a powerful antioxidant to rival the most super of ‘super foods’. It is also a wonderful anti-inflammatory. Given the role chronic inflammation (and oxidation) plays in so many common diseases (such as heart disease and various cancers), cinnamon is proving to be more ‘super’ by the minute.
However, the area that has really drawn the attention of medical researchers is in cinnamon’s capacity to improve glycemic control (stabilise blood sugar levels). This is of obvious interest given the growing rates of type 2 diabetes worldwide. There is still more work to be done on understanding the value of cinnamon (cassia cinnamon) in type 2 diabetes, but the results of recent studies strongly support its inclusion as part of a herbal protocol for this insidious disorder. Cinnamon has also exhibited beneficial effects on blood lipids (fats) which are an added bonus, as type 2 diabetes is strongly linked to an increased incidence of arterial disease.
Cinnamon has shown promising results in treating fungal respiratory infections and its antibacterial properties make it a herb to consider for treating respiratory and gastrointestinal infection, including the common cold. Preliminary studies are also assessing its potential for improving the outcome of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, various cancers and HIV. Stay tuned.
I think a little cinnamon is also the perfect ‘first spice’ for baby. You can give older kids the cinnamon jar and let them smell and add their own amount of spice to a simple base like natural yoghurt or a slice of apple. My kids always thought that the smell of cinnamon meant that fairies were around.
So, in the words of the great Hippocrates – “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” If you love the flavour of cinnamon, you now have even more reason to include it where you can. If you feel you may need therapeutic doses of cinnamon, please discuss this with your healthcare practitioner (especially if you are diabetic).