With winter just about to sink its cold claws into us, the thought of cinnamon baking filling the house with its warmth and spicy scent, is filled with nostalgia. The smell of cinnamon evokes my childhood memories of arriving home to a freshly baked cinnamon rolls at the end of a stressful school day. Yes, back then I thought school was stressful, how little did I know. The warm smell of cinnamon still beings me comfort however, even though my days might be slightly more busy now. I set about to find out more about this most humble spice.
Cinnamon is a pantry staple in most households but how many of us are aware of all its health benefits? In this blog you will find out how this common baking ingredient, which has a very high nutritional value, can be used around the home. It can help keep your clothes safe from moths and plump up your lips. All the 'recipes' included in this blog can be put together in no time with just two or three household products. Have you been putting the cinnamon in your pantry to good use?
The Origins of Cinnamon
Cinnamon has been around for thousands of years and is used by many cultures worldwide. It dates back as far as Ancient Egypt when it was used as a perfume in the embalming process. It is also mentioned in The Bible as an ingredient in anointing. Arab traders took it to Europe where it was highly prized for its preservation of meat during winter and health benefits. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries cinnamon was the most sort after spice. By the early nineteenth century cinnamon was being grown in a number of countries and it became widely available.
The cinnamon we buy in the supermarket is made by cutting the stems of cinnamon trees and extracting the inner bark whilst removing any woody parts. It is then left to dry. Once it is dry it forms strips that curl into rolls, this we know as cinnamon sticks. These sticks can then be ground into powder.
The distinct smell and flavour is due to the oily part of the cinnamon. The oily part is a compound called Cinnamaldehyde. Scientist believe that Cinnamaldehyde is responsible for most of the powerful nutritional effects that cinnamon has on health and metabolism.
Two Main Types of Cinnamon
There are hundreds of different types of cinnamon but the two most widely available are; Cassia and Ceylon.
Cassia Cinnamon is the most common of all and is the one you are most likely to find in your local supermarket. It comes from the Cinnamomum tree and orginates from southern China. It is darker in colour than Ceylon Cinnamon and its sticks are rougher. It has a stronger flavour also and it handles baking conditions well. The taste and scent comes from the cinnamaldehyde which makes up 90% of its oil. Testing has found that Cassia also contains Coumarin which can be toxic in large doses and lead to liver damage and effect coagulation (blood clotting).
Ceylon Cinnamon is less common, more highly prized and more expensive. It comes from the Cinnamomum Verum tree which originates from Sri Lanka and southern parts of India. It is light tan in colour and forms tight sticks with soft layers. Ceylon Cinnamon is more aromatic but loses its flavour in cooking. Cinnamaldehyde makes up just 50-60% of its oil. Ceylon Cinnamon has been found to only have traces of Coumarin so is less toxic.
- Cinnamon is loaded with powerful antioxidants. In fact cinnamon has been found to have be higher in antioxidants than any other spice or herb, including garlic. Antioxidants are chemicals that limit the damage caused by free radicals. Scientists believe that free radicals contribute to the aging process and may pay a role in disease such as cancer and diabetes. Cinnamon can help balance out the effect of these free radicals.
- It has anti-inflammatory properties and helps to fight infection and repair tissue damage. As cinnamon reduces swelling and prevents inflammation it can be beneficial in pain relief. Studies have shown that cinnamon reduces muscles soreness decreases menstrual pain, and lessens the severity of allergic reactions.
- Cinnamon lowers blood sugar levels by increasing insulin sensitivity. This makes insulin more effective at moving glucose into cells.
- It can also act as a sweetener, allowing you to reduce the amount of sugar needed in a recipe or your cup of tea or coffee. It can also help curb sugar cravings by stabilising your blood sugar level.
- Cinnamon reduces several of the common risk factors for heart disease including high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Thus keeping your heart healthy and strong.
- It is a helpful blood coagulant and can stop excessive bleeding by helping the body form blood clots. The flip side of this is that people on anti-coagulation or similar drugs, have liver disease or those who have diabetes should discuss implications before increasing their intake of cinnamon or taking cinnamon supplements.
- Cinnamon is very good for your skin too. It has antibiotic and antimicrobial properties which can help prevent skin irritation, rashes, allergic reactions and infection.
Beauty Hacks using Cinnamon
If you have a big night planned but your make-up stash is low you can whip a couple of items in your kitchen, using cinnamon -
Plump up your lips: the antioxidants in cinnamon makes lips red and plump. Just add a pinch of cinnamon to 1 tsp of petroleum jelly, and mix together. Dab it gently onto your lips and leave for 15 minutes before rinsing off. It is normal for there to be a slight burning sensation but if it burns too much, rinse it off immediately.
Highlight with bronzer: combine cocoa powder, cinnamon powder and cornstarch until it meets your colour needs. Add more cocoa powder to make it darker and more cornstarch to make it lighter. Add it to a small amount of plain unscented lotion and store it in a clean jar with a lid. You can now use your bronzer to highlight areas of your face.
Mouth wash: if you are worried about your breath, you can easily make up a mouth wash using just cinnamon and water. Mix 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon with a couple tablespoons of water and gargle. You could even carry a stash of cinnamon with you and make it up on the go.
Lip Balm: a quick an easy DIY lip balm can be easily made out of just two ingredients; cinnamon and coconut oil. Melt 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil and wait for it to cool. Once cool, but not completely solid, add a pinch of cinnamon. The coconut oil will make the balm smooth and the cinnamon will add some colour.
Body Scrub: to freshen up your skin you can mix together this body scrub in a flash. Mix together 2T of olive oil, 1t ground cinnamon and 1T sugar. Apply it to damp skin in a circular motion. After 5 minutes rinse off. You will now have radiant silky smooth skin.
Acne Cleanser: if acne tends to plague you, a twice weekly application of these two ingredients should help solve the problem. Mix together an equal amount of honey and cinnamon. Apply a thin coat to your skin. Leave it for 20 minutes and then rinse with cold water. The antibacterial properties in both the cinnamon and the honey will kill the bacteria that contributes to inflamed pores.
House Hacks with Cinnamon
You can use cinnamon around the house to:
- Repel ants - sprinkle some cinnamon powder along the windowsills, and replace if it gets wet. Ants have a natural aversion to cinnamon.
- Repel moths - if moths are getting in amongst your clothes and causing a bit of havoc, mix 3-4 broken cinnamon sticks with 1/2 a cup of cloves and 1 & 1/2 cups of whole black peppercorns. Put the mixture into a sachet and hang the sachet in your closet. Moths also have a natural aversion to cinnamon.
- Relieve bloating - if you are feeling a bit bloated or gassy you can relieve the pressure by sprinkling cinnamon on your food or sucking on a cinnamon stick after eating. Cinnamon reduces the secretion of gastric acid and pepsin from the stomach walls and as a result prevents gas formation.
- Soothe itchy insect bites - to stop itchy insect bites from being so itchy you can mix cinnamon and honey together and apply to the bite. As both ingredients have antibacterial properties this mixture will moisturise and heal the spot.
- Room freshener - use this quick and easy room deodoriser to freshen up a room. All you need to do is put a couple of tablespoons of cinnamon in a small bowl and voila, you are done.
- Place setting holders - having a dinner party and looking for some festive place-name holders? Just write the names on cards and then place each card into the crack of a cinnamon stick. Not only will it look fancy it will freshen up the room with the scent.
- Fix scrapes and scratches on wooden furniture - to put life back into wooden furniture that is looking a bit worn, rub a bit of cinnamon on the scratches and scrapes and watch them disappear.
Easy Ways of Adding More Cinnamon into Your Diet
It is pretty easy to add more cinnamon into your diet. Lots of delicious baking recipes have cinnamon as an ingredient. A favourite of many being cinnamon rolls. But if you don't have time in your day to whip up some baking, here are a couple of easier ways:
1) Add 1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon to your coffee.
2) Boil a cinnamon stick in water for 15 minutes to make a quick cinnamon drink.
3) Boil 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon in water for 8-10 minutes, strain and then add sweetener and milk if desired.
4) For a quick, sweet snack mix together 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and one teaspoon of cinnamon and put to one side. Spread some butter on a piece of bread, then sprinkle over the brown sugar, cinnamon mix. Place in the oven under the grill for 3-5 minutes. Out of the oven will come Cinnamon Toast which will smell delicious and taste even better.
OR if you have a bit more time you can treat yourself to a Chai Tea. The perfect drink for a bit of 'me time' on a winter's day.
CHAI TEA RECIPE
Time: 15 minutes all up
Serves: 2 cups without milk or 4 cups with milk
- Using a mortar and pestle, lightly crush the cinnamon and cardamom (or gently tap them with the handle of a large knife or rolling pin).
- Place the water, spices, tea, ginger and honey in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low.
- Simmer for at least 5 minutes - or longer if you want a stronger flavour.
- Add the milk, if using, then gently heat for a further two minutes.
- Turn of the heat and add honey as desired, then strain into two/four cups.