The bark of the tree is thick, smooth and light or dark brownish in colour. The inner bark is obtained from carefully selected shoots. It is then cured and dried. While drying, the bark shrinks and curls into a cylinder or quill.
Cinnamon tree was known to ancient physicians even before 2700 BC. The Chinese used the bark of this tree as a medicine. The Romans also knew about the medicinal value of this bark. Eminent physicians like Galen, Dioscoredes and Sasaferes described various uses of cinnamon. Indians knew about the therapeutic uses of this herb before the 8th century. The oldest record available about the description of cinnamon is in the Tarak, the Jewish religious text. It was, however, Khizvenee who was the first person to give details about the medicinal virtues of this herb in the 13th century.
Cinnamon is a native of Sri Lanka and tropical Asia. It has been cultivated from ancient times. It appears to have reached Egypt and Europe by the fifth century BC. This tree occurs in South India upto altitudes of 500 metres but is more common at lower altitudes, even below 200 metres.
An analysis of cinnamon shows it to consist of moisture, protein, fat, fibre, carbohydrates and ash, besides calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, potassium, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamins C and A. Its calorific value is 355.
Cinnamon also contains an essential oil known as cinnamon oil. This oil consists of substantial amount of eugenol. The bark and green leaves also contain oil. The root bark oil differs from both stem bark and leaf oils.
Healing Power and Curative Properties
Cinnamon leaves are used in the form of powder or decoction. They are stimulant and useful in relieving flatulence and in increasing secretion and discharge of urine. Cinnamon prevents nervous tension, improves complexion and memory. A pinch of cinnamon powder mixed with honey does the trick if taken regularly every night for these purposes.
Cinnamon is an effective remedy for common cold. Coarsely powdered and boiled in a glass of water with a pinch of pepper powder and honey, it can be beneficially used as medicine in cases of influenza, sore throat, and malaria. Its regular use during the rainy season prevents attacks of influenza. Cinnamon oil, mixed with honey, gives relief from cold.
Cinnamon checks nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. It stimulates digestion. A tablespoon of cinnamon water, prepared as for cold and taken half an hour after meals, relieves flatulence and indigestion.
Cinnamon serves as a good mouth freshener.
Headache produced by exposure to cold air is readily cured by applying a paste of finely powdered cinnamon mixed in water on the temples and forehead.
Paste of cinnamon powder prepared with a few drops of fresh lime juice can be applied over pimples and blackheads with beneficial results.
Cinnamon is highly beneficial in the treatment of several other ailments, including spasmodic afflictions, asthma, paralysis, excessive menstruation, uterus disorders and gonorrhea. It is sometimes used as a prophylactic agent, to control German measles.
Natural Birth-Control: Cinnamon can be used for natural birth-control. It has the remarkable effect of checking the early release of ova after child-birth. A piece of cinnamon taken every night for a month after childbirth delays menstruation for more than 15 to 20 months thus preventing early conception. It indirectly helps the secretion of breast milk. Prolonged breast feeding checks the restarting of menstruation after child-birth, according to studies.
Dried cinnamon leaves and inner bark are used for flavoring cakes and sweets and in curry powder. They are also used in incense, dentifrices and perfumes. Cinnamon bark oil is used for flavoring confectionery and liqueurs. "It is also used in pharmaceutical and dental preparations. Cinnamon leaf oil is used in perfumes and flavorings as also in the synthesis of vanillin.