Our meditation incense (HERE) contains cinnamon. Read more about it:
Did you know that not all cinnamon is ‘true’ cinnamon? In other words, not all cinnamon is created equal and not all species of this popular spice contain the fullest strength of medicinal substances for which it’s so well known. The best kind of cinnamon is derived from the inner bark of the tree, Cinnamomum Zeylanicum, a species native uniquely to Sri Lanka, the South Asian island situated off the coast of Southern India. Various related species, sometimes referred to as ‘bastard’ cinnamon, are also cultivated as a source of cinnamon spice, including species native to China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malabar. Although these can be satisfactory for flavouring some foods, the healthiest benefits and most subtle, sweet flavor is found only in Sri Lankan grown ‘true’ cinnamon. Another important distinction between the two spices is in their levels of coumarin, a natural compound that, when ingested, acts as a blood thinner. Patients taking blood thinners are often advised to limit their intake of cinnamon, but this usually applies only to the other varieties that have much higher levels of coumarin than ‘true’ cinnamon.
Cinnamon has been used for thousands of years and, at least as far back as 2000 BCE, was a valuable commodity, at times more valuable than silver or gold. Even wars were waged for it. We know that Egyptians used it in their embalming mixtures and for religious purposes, as well as for flavouring drinks; Moses used it to make anointing oil. From India all the way to Rome, people used it in cremations and burned it as incense. Medieval Islamic physicians used cinnamon to treat wounds, tumors and ulcers. They influenced European physicians who recommended cinnamon to relieve ailments of the stomach, liver and heart. Further it was used for soothing sore throats and cough and even for preserving meats.
Its trade was long controlled by the Arabs, who carefully guarded the secret of where they got it from. In fact, to discourage competitors and protect their monopoly, they spread the ‘fake news’ that the cinnamon tree grew in deep valleys infested with poisonous snakes. However, Pliny the Elder (Roman author and naturalist 23-79 CE) was not taken in by this advertising ploy and concluded that, “all these tales….have been evidently invented for the purpose of enhancing the price of these commodities.” And yet the mystery remained for nearly 1000 more years until in the 10th century when some writings of travellers began to appear, hinting at the connection between cinnamon and Silan or Ceylon as it was then called. However, its origin only became widely known when in 1511 Portuguese explorers discovered the place where it grew and took over control of its trade for the next 100 years or so. It was then taken over by the Dutch until 1784 when Ceylon fell under British rule. By this time the ‘lesser’ or bastard species of cinnamon were already being grown in countries such as Mexico and countries in South America.
Today Cinnamon is, of course, readily available all over the world but what is mostly sold are these other varieties of the spice. So make sure the cinnamon you buy is the ‘real’ one from Sri Lanka so that you will get the maximum benefits and flavour from this wonderful sweet spice!
Used as incense, cinnamon has a relaxing and comforting effect. It helps to clear the mind and is often used for meditation and yoga practices. It repels insects and deodorizes the air without worry of triggering allergies or asthma.
And as for its medicinal benefits, what people have known for ages, modern scientists have now confirmed: that a variety of compounds in cinnamon have powerful effects on health and metabolism. It has proven anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It improves digestion and stimulates circulation, especially in the lungs and joints, and liquefies mucus congestion. It has pre-biotic properties that support gut health. And it’s especially helpful in controlling blood sugar, which it does by a number of different mechanisms, such as managing the amount of glucose that enters the bloodstream and mimicking the blood sugar management hormone, insulin. One teaspoon a day is enough to feel its benefits. Cinnamon is used in many dishes, both sweet and savoury. Or you can simply sprinkle it on your food, like on toast or use it to make a tea. As a soothing remedy for sore throats you can swallow it with honey or gargle with cinnamon. Or try this simple cinnamon ginger ayurvedic tea recipe:
Pour 2 cups of water in a pot.
Add: 1 tsp. fresh ground ginger
2 crushed peppercorns
2 cm. crushed cinnamon stick
Bring to a boil and simmer gently until liquid is reduced to about half.