This aromatic herb/spice comes from the inner bark of the tree, Cinnamomum. All types of cinnamon belong to the same family of plants, called the Lauraceae family. In fact, there are more cinnamon species in this plant family (an estimated 2,000-2,500 total) than any other plant species. Other members of the Lauraceae family commonly enjoyed as foods include avocado and bay leaves.
Cinnamon is made by cutting the stems of the cinnamomum tree. The inner bark is then extracted and the woody parts are removed. When it is dried, it forms strips which curl into rolls which we recognize them as cinnamon sticks. The sticks can then be ground to form cinnamon powder.
There are 2 main types of cinnamon:
1) Ceylon cinnamon (“true” cinnamon)
2) Cassia cinnamon - which is the more common variety and the cheaper version. These species can be found in Indonesia, China, and Vietnam. This contains coumarin that can be harmful if consumed in large doses.
More research has been done on the former type from Ceylon which has shown to contain trace amounts of cassia.
The distinctive smell and flavor of the cinnamon is due to the oily part which is high in cinnamaldehyde. It is this compound that is responsible for most of cinnamon’s powerful effects on health and metabolism.
Some of the benefits of cinnamon include:
1) Antioxidants like polyphenols
2) Anti-inflammatory Effects
3) Reduces heart disease by lowering cholesterol
4) Can reduce insulin resistance related to diabetes
5) Lowers blood sugar by slowing the breakdown of carbohydrates in the digestive tract
6) May have protective effects against cancer
7) Helps fight infections
In Chinese Traditional Medicine, Cinnamon bark (rou gui) has the following actions:
Flavor: Spicy and sweet
Meridian: Kidney and Spleen
Function: Releases the Exterior and helps by warming the channels, and promotes blood circulation, disperses internal cold.
Contraindication: Use with caution on pets with fever, false heat (Yin Deficiency) and in pregnant animals.
Typically, this herb is added in formulations that require to help restore warmth in the animal and restore balance (eg. You Gui Wan-an herb which I use for my Kidney Yang deficient patients i.e. warm-seeking patients).