Okay, I confess, I grew up with cinnamon and I love the stuff. The health benefits of cinnamon were up until recently really unappreciated in the West, but growing up in the Middle East, I soon realized that it was a bit of cure all. Cinnamon still features in my life on a daily basis, and I would not be able to live without cinnamon butter.
Cinnamon is often thought of as a spice but it is also a healing herb. The ancient Egyptians used it to treat a range of health conditions from flatulence to arthritis. It is only now that we have discovered that it can indeed be used to treat arthritis and help us to digest our food better. At the ancient temple of Kom Ombo outside Luxor, Egypt, you will be able to see that cinnamon was used to by physicians in ancient Egypt all of the time. Apparently it can even be used as wound care.
Naturopaths and Cinnamon
Naturopaths often claim it can help to control the symptoms of diabetes, and reduce insulin intake. The jury is out on this one, but you will not catch a lot of people in Turkey adding sugar to their coffee. Cinnamon is the perfect spice, and it does give the coffee a sweet taste. Perhaps this is why it can help to reduce diabetes, we can use it as a sugar substitute. My Egyptian husband loves a bit of cinnamon in his coffee.
One thing it does, is to make us feel fuller for longer. We are not sure how it is doing this, but it seems to have the ability to release the energy in our food slower. Cinnamon buns is a popular breakfast in the Middle East, and children are often fed toast with cinnamon and banana. That is how I was introduced to this wonderful herb and spice. I must admit, my morning toast did use to keep me happy until lunchtime.
Cinnamon and Arthritis
The heat is rising, is what the people of Aswan of Egypt say when they are working with the essential oil of cinnamon. The essential oil of cinnamon is used by the famous masseurs of Aswan. The Aga Khan appreciated their efforts so much after having restored him to health with their massage techniques, that when he died he asked to be buried there.
The saying the heat is rising refers to the treatment of arthritis with essential oil of cinnamon. In Aswan it is mixed with jojoba oil, and used to treat arthritis. Even Western doctors who have practiced in Aswan are surprised how successful the treatment can be. That was of course until scientists realized that cinnamon can help to restore circulation and reduce inflammation at the same time. The oil is very expensive but it is still one of the most popular treatments at the many massage clinics in Aswan.
Flatulence and Cinnamon
Many people who suffer with bowel conditions such as IBS or Crohn’s disease often say that adding cinnamon to their diets really help. Cooking with cinnamon is easy as it can be added to bread and casseroles. A popular local casserole in Aswan has cinnamon as the main herbal ingredient. As a matter of fact, lamb is often cooked with cinnamon and cumin in this part of the world, and you will also find it added to rice.
Maybe this is why IBS is not such a problem in the Middle East. Cinnamon with its gentle anti-inflammatory properties can even help to reduce common bowel conditions. Funnily enough, in the Middle East, Crohn’s disease is considered to be arthritis of the bowel. It is an inflammation so treating it with cinnamon is not such as long way off, and interestingly, most suffers of Crohn’s disease have suffered from juvenile arthritis.
Should we perhaps starting adding more cinnamon to our diet? Well, if you enjoy the taste of cinnamon, you are probably at the same time enjoying the health benefits of cinnamon. This humble herb has many positive health benefits and we should learn how to include it in our diet. Maybe you should stop putting jam on your toast, mash up a banana and top it with cinnamon instead. You might even find that you have more energy to help you last through the morning.