Cinnamon

Cinnamomum zeylanicum, C. cassis,

DESCRIPTION

Cinnamon is a spice made from the highly aromatic reddish or yellow brown bark of several trees of the genus Cinnamomum. Cinnamon trees are relatively small, about 30 feet in height. They have stiff oblong evergreen leaves and silky clusters of yellowish white flowers with dry pointed fruit. Before harvesting, the stems are slit on each side. The outer corky bark is pulled off and the aromatic inner portions are scraped into "quills" and baled for export. The extracted cinnamon oil is used as a flavoring and pharmacologic ingredient for medicinals, particularly mouthwashes. The finest quality cinnamon comes from the Cinnamomum zeylanicum of Sri Lanka. The Cinnamomum evergreens of the Lauraceae family grow in Java, the West Indies, Brazil, and Egypt. They have even been grown in limited number in California and south Florida.

Cinnamon is an ancient spice. The Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all obtained the valuable spice from Arabian traders. In search of these spices, the Portuguese, in the 1500’s, discovered a new route around Cape Horn to Sri Lanka. Cinnamon is a Biblical herb. Moses was commanded to use it in Exodus 30:23, and it is mentioned again by Herodotus.

Cinnamon oil has many uses today. It is a favorite flavor for many mouthwash preparations.

CINNAMON OIL IN MOUTHWASHES

Cinnamon (also known as cassia, Ceylon cinnamon or Saigon cinnamon) is a spice that is from the family of plants known as Lauraceae. The specific portion of the plant used to make the popular spice is the dried inner bark. There are dozens of different species of the cinnamon plant. The Chinese cinnamon, known as Cinnamomum cassis, is more readily available and mass produced. It has been said that the dark cinnamon powder made in Sri Lanka, Cinnamomum zeylanica, is the finest available.

Centuries ago, some spices were so much in demand that some believe these spices, including cinnamon, helped potentiate trade between the Asian and African continents. The Egyptian civilization found the cinnamon spice a unique product and used it in the embalming process. During the time of Moses, cinnamon was considered a prized spice and a commodity that was available through trade. What made this herb so important? What attributes does it have and what did people use it for?

There are many reasons for cinnamon’s popularity. For one thing, it has a mild stimulating action. Recall the last time you drank a beverage with cinnamon in it – you may remember feeling a bit refreshed and invigorated. In other systems of medicine in this world, cinnamon is thought to be an invigorator.

Cinnamon has also been regarded as a detoxicant. Since cinnamon promotes perspiration and metabolic increase, it would naturally be a good candidate for cleansing. Because of these powerful effects of cinnamon, it has been traditionally used in a sparing manner.

The oils found in cinnamon have the power to normalize certain body functions. Today, research is continuing to uncover some of the benefits of cinnamon.

Considering the previous facts and applications, it’s apparent that cinnamon is not your average spice. If you’re like most Americans, cinnamon is a spice used in apple cider beverages and cookies. However, that would be severely underutilizing the many applications that cinnamon can have as a flavor enhancer and metabolic normalizer.

Cinnamon is also a very powerful astringent with strong antiseptic activity. In Europe and America, there are some excellent toothpastes that contain cinnamon. Not only does cinnamon refresh the mouth, but its antimicrobial action may also be useful in combatting the spread of plaque forming bacteria.

One of the most esoteric attributes of cinnamon may be its ability to affect the levels of specific hormones. There are many plant extracts that have been known to affect the levels of certain hormones. Take, for example, the fact that brewer’s yeast can potentiate insulin. In a similar manner, cinnamon has been shown to stimulate the utilization of glucose in the presence of insulin. Other spices known to have similar insulin-like effects are turmeric, bay leaves and cloves.

Although scientists still do not know completely what is the mechanism for the insulin-like activity of cinnamon, serum albumin is thought to interact with cinnamon for the effect. It is postulated that the active component of cinnamon probably binds to albumin, resulting in a new complex that potentiates the activity of cinnamon. The exact chemical term that reflects cellular changes is "glucose oxidation." Cinnamon stimulates glucose oxidation and may be a useful therapeutic for people with abnormal sugar metabolism. By having a positive effect on serum glucose levels, overall body conditions are better for the growth of probiotic bacteria. This results in less dependency on alcoholic mouthwashes.

CINNAMON AND FREE RADICALS

In May of 1995, a study was done by the Japanese to assess the superoxide dismutase-like activity of natural antioxidants. Superoxide dismutase (SOD) is widely recognized as one of the body’s main antioxidant enzymes. In that study, a variety of natural antioxidants were tested for their free radical scavenging ability. Among the things measured were ascorbic acid (vitamin C), glutathione, catechins and epitcatechins (found in green teas). These natural antioxidants are water soluble antioxidants. Cinnamon, however, is a lipophilic antioxidant (fat-soluble). Other lipophilic antioxidants were also tested, such as gamma oryzanol, rosemary leaf, alpha-lecithin, and alpha-cephalin. The results of this study indicated that cinnamon contains oils which have SOD-like activity. Your local scientist may be able to appreciate this fact better than a layperson, but suffice it say that cinnamon is not your ordinary spice.

OTHER CINNAMON APPLICATIONS

Cinnamon is not just a spice that is meant for oral ingestion. There are many other applications to cinnamon. Today, we can find cinnamon utilized for non-food applications. For example, cinnamon is routinely found in lip sunscreen, toothpaste, mouthwashes and chewing gum. These applications of cinnamon definitely make sense, when we consider that cinnamon has astringent and antimicrobial characteristics. Basically, not only will it freshen your mouth, but it may also inhibit the spread of pathogenic bacteria on the lip, tongue and oral cavity. However, double-blind clinical trials are needed to make a complete assessment.