By Naini Setalvad
Cinnamon is an indispensable kitchen condiment for the monsoon. It combats colds and fevers and flavours your soups and herbal tea deliciously
A cup of hot cappuccino with a dash of cinnamon on a rainy day is the perfect concoction to lift my spirits. As a child, I remember the distinct flavour of cinnamon in apple pie and hot chocolate. It has a warm agreeably sweet, woody aroma that is delicate yet intense. The taste is fragrant and warm with hints of clove and citrus. My mother added cinnamon in her homemade biryani and sometimes in rice when there were guests expected and, of course, in the garam masala, but it is only after entering into the world of nutrition that I discovered its medicinal value.
During the monsoons, I enjoy it in my soups and herbal teas. As a nutritionist, I know that it is a very valuable spice. It keeps infections at bay and prevents colds and fever. If you have waded through mucky water, be sure to come home and have some cinnamon. It will prevent any infecti ons.
Would you believe that a teaspoon of cinnamon has 28 mg of calcium, almost 1 mg or iron, over 1 gram of fibre and quite a lot of minerals? Traditionally, cinnamon has been successful in curing digestive ailments such as indigestion, gas, bloating and diarrhoea. For medicinal uses, the Ceylon and Chinese varieties are good as the bark is anti-spasmodic. In 1989, Japanese scientists found that these varieties improved the gastric blood flow. Cinnamon oil is used externally to ease cramps and joint pains. The spice is a warming stimulant and therefore good for the circulation. It also stimulates the respiratory system.
Modern research shows that cinnamon also has an anti-inflammatory effect. However, cinnamon has received the most attention for its effects on blood glucose and cholesterol levels. In medieval times, cinnamon was an ingredient in medicines for sore throats and coughs. Cinnamon has been used to cure stomach cramps, intestinal spasms, nausea, and flatulence, and to improve the appetite. Plus it adds flavour to food. Cinnamon is used in Korea and China as a traditional herb for treating people with diabetes. While researchers were investigating the effect of various foods on blood sugar levels, they found that apple pie did not produce the expected rise in blood sugar levels because of the cinnamon content in the pie.
Cinnamon when used in a combination with other edible items can form wonderful concoctions to cure diseases.
• A paste of one teaspoon of cinnamon powder and five teaspoons of honey soothes an aching tooth. This may be applied three times a day until the tooth stops aching.
• One teaspoon of honey and one teaspoon of cinnamon powder mixed in water, given to a cholesterol patient was found to reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood by 10 per cent.
• Cinnamon powder sprinkled on two tablespoons of honey taken before food relieves acidity and digests the heaviest of meals.
• A paste made of three tablespoons of honey and one teaspoon of cinnamon powder can be used to cure pimples. Apply this paste on the pimples before sleeping and wash it off next morning with warm water.
• Cinnamon is also known to instantly relieve bone and joint pain.
• To treat gastritis, digestive problems, or fatigue, make an infusion by putting two grams of cinnamon bark into a cup of boiling water. Leave this for 10 minutes to let it infuse. Strain and drink this water two to three times a day.
Cinnamon is also popularly used as a fragrance in aromatherapy. It has been found that by simply inhaling cinnamon, a person’s memory is activated and leaves him/her feeling completely refreshed.
Ground cinnamon is widely available. The paler the colour, the finer the quality. It loses its flavour fairly quickly, so the trick is to buy it in small amounts. Whole quills of cinnamon are available from spice merchants and some supermarkets. Cinnamon can retain its aroma for two to three years if stored properly in an airtight container.
Other than the health benefits, cinnamon tastes great with stewed fruits such as pears, berries, apples, oranges, peaches and pineapples. It also adds flavour to rice and soups. Make sure you always keep an adequate supply of cinnamon in your kitchen.
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