Photo: Simon A Eugester
Cinnamon’s medicinal uses are attributed to the chemical composition of the quills, which contain cinnamaldehyde, gums, tannin, mannitol, coumarin, calcium oxalate, aldehyde, eugenol, pinene, and minerals. Sri Lankan cinnamon is easily ground into a powder, whereas other species’ tough and woody texture can damage the grinder. Once ground, however, it is difficult to distinguish the origin of the cinnamon.
Three essential oils are extracted from cinnamon trees: eugenol from the leaves, cinnamaldehyde from the bark, and camphor from the root. Leaf oil yield is 0.7–1.2 percent, and the eugenol is used to synthesize vanillin and converted into iso-eugenol for flavoring in confections. Because of its warm, spicy, and harsh odor, this oil is also used in soaps, perfumes, and insecticides. Steam distilling bark, twigs, and chips extract bark oil. The essential oil content in the bark varies from 0.5–2 percent. Cinnamon’s medicinal uses are from the oleoresin containing volatile oil, fixed oil, and other extracts, and is used to flavor food, soft drinks, and dental and pharmaceutical preparations. It is less popular in perfumes because it is a skin irritant. Its aroma, rich in cinnamaldehyde, is delicate, sweet, and pungent. The seeds contain about 30 percent fixed oil, obtained by crushing and boiling the ripe fruit. This oil is used in India for candle making. A gum or resin is also extracted from the bark with the help of organic solvents. A cheaper alternative to cinnamon leaf oil is clove leaf oil.
The medicinal properties of cinnamon have been scientifically studied, and preliminary results suggest it has antidiabetic properties (Ranasinghe et al., 2012). Other studies indicate that cinnamon can reduce cholesterol, thus making the species cardio-protective (Shan et al., 2007). It is used as a tonic and sedative in childbirth. When applied to the skin, cinnamon oil causes blood to rush to the applied area, which helps nourish the skin and produces a tingling sensation. It also produces a temporary plump look that minimizes wrinkles and lines, especially around the eyes. Applying a few drops of cinnamon essential oil helps relieve itchy scalp and acne.
The bark has astringent, antiseptic, antifungal, carminative, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and stimulant properties. It is a remedy against colds and digestive ailments like diarrhea and colic. In European phytomedicine, cinnamon bark oil (0.05–0.2 g daily intake) is used in teas and other galenicals for appetite loss and dyspeptic disturbances. The maximum permitted level in food products is 0.06 percent.
Some other of cinnamon’s medicinal uses include:
- Anti-inflammatory: Cinnamon has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body, which can help alleviate conditions such as arthritis and heart disease.
- Antioxidant: Cinnamon is a rich source of antioxidants, which help protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.
- Blood sugar control: Cinnamon has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
- Brain function: Cinnamon has been found to improve brain function and protect against cognitive decline.
- Anti-microbial: Cinnamon has been found to have anti-microbial properties, which can help fight off infections caused by bacteria, fungi, and parasites.