My first experience with the medicinal use of cinnamon occurred when I was about twenty-one years old, living and working in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The small, family owned Evelyn’s Middle Eastern restaurant was one of my favorite spots for lunch. One wintry afternoon I visited the restaurant in search of some hot soup to help ease the flu symptoms that overcame me that cold, blustery morning. The oldest brother of the Iranian family greeted me with his usual warm smile and asked, “How are you today, Juliette?”
“Oh I amb nod feeling so well,” I answered through my congested nose and scratchy throat, tissue held in my gesturing hand. “I breally need sumb ub your dad’s famous chicken soup to help my flu go away.”
He promptly sat me at a warm table far from the door. Within minutes a steaming bowl of chicken rice soup, which my stuffy head could only imagine smelled delicious, appeared before my watery eyes. As I gazed into the wide bowl I noticed an ingredient I had never seen before in Dad’s famous chicken rice soup, a cinnamon stick. I asked the waitress/owner Evelyn, why there was a cinnamon stick in the soup. She told me, “It will help cure your flu.”
“Oh.” I replied with a smile. As I sipped the soup its cinnamon brought warmth and relaxation to my deeply aching muscles. The added spice opened my sinuses, my senses and my curious mind about other cultural herb remedies.
Fast forward about five years, I am twenty-six years old and suffering from another bought of the flu while living in the cold, damp winter climate of Seattle. On my regular weekly visit to the local acupuncture school’s clinic, the student intern, Julie, told me she could give me an herb tea to cure my flu. Having taken many of her Chinese herbal decoctions for other health complaints, many of which tasted gross but helped me tremendously, I said, “I’ll take it!”According to The Chinese Herbal Materia Medica, clinical research shows cinnamon to have an antibiotic effect against Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella typhi. Cinnamon is also used for digestive disorders and recent studies show its effectiveness in regulating blood glucose levels in Type II, non-insulin dependent diabetics.1
I was delighted to taste this tea because it tasted like cinnamon, and I felt significantly better after the first couple of doses. Within two days I felt 90% better and cured by the third day. When I went back the next week I asked the intern, “What herbs were in that tea? It tasted so good.” She said, “Oh, I only know the names in Chinese but one of them was cinnamon”.
I nodded, “I thought so. I really liked it and it worked very quickly!” Soon thereafter, I was suffering from menstrual cramps which had
been medicated with the birth control pill for about eight years. But recently, The Pill stopped alleviating my cramps and my previous relationship ended so I wanted to stop the medicine. Nervous that I would go back to suffering the debilitating cramps I had before starting The Pill, I asked Julie if she could help. She gave me another decoction, also containing cinnamon. Much to my amazement, the tea was effective enough for me to bear the cramps. I began a regimen of taking the tea each month for one week before my expected period and by about the sixth month cramps rarely afflicted me. Eventually, I didn’t even have to take the tea anymore. By this point I loved cinnamon, I had become a Cinnamon Girl (Neil Young, where are you?).
The next year I enrolled in school to study Traditional Chinese Medicine, where I studied Chinese herbal medicine. I learned the ingredients of the Chinese herbal decoctions that Julie gave me in Seattle and discovered many other medicinal uses for cinnamon. Middle Eastern, North African, Mediterranean, Eastern and Latin cultures use cinnamon, especially in the winter season recipes, to warm us up. For example, Chicken Rice soup with cinnamon is common to both Middle Eastern and Eastern cooking and the use of cinnamon in stews such as pollo or carne guisada is customary in Latin cultures. Of course other warming spices, such as nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, and curry, are also used all over the globe often in combination with cinnamon.
|Looking for ways to incorporate Cinnamon into your diet?
Sprinkle it into hot oatmeal, onto baked apples or pears, brew it with coffee or place a cinnamon stick into a mug of hot apple cider.
Chinese medicine uses cinnamon for a wide variety of ailments ranging from the flu to menstrual cramps. We use the twig portion of the herb as well as the bark, for different ailments.
Cinnamon twig, Gui Zhi. Chinese materia medica classifies the properties of cinnamon twig as acrid, sweet, warm. Acrid and sweet it disperses the qi, and its sweet flavor benefits the flesh/muscle layer. Acrid and warm, it is often used for externally-contracted cold.
Chinese Medicine uses Cinnamon Twig To
- Nourish and protect qi levels in energy deficient patients suffering from externally contracted cold when sweating occurs but the patient’s condition does not improve.
- Warm the Channels and Dispurse cold in cases where wind-cold-damp causes painful stagnation in the joints, limbs and especially the shoulder. And for menstrual problems and/or fibroids caused by cold in the blood and lower abdomen.
- Unblocks the Yang (moving, warming energy) for edema swelling due to cold phlegm or weakened qi movement. Studies show it has a diuretic effect (Bensky p. 30).
- Warm Yang qi in the chest due to stagnation or deficiency.
Chinese Medicine uses cinnamon bark, rou gui because it warms the interior and expels cold. Rou gui/cinnamon bark is acrid, sweet and hot. Rou gui warms the Kidney energy and strengthens Yang qi. It can aid in cases where a person has an aversion to cold, cold limbs, frequent urination, weak back, impotence, abdominal pain and cold, reduced appetite, diarrhea and wheezing. It is used when a person has heat symptoms in the upper body (sore throat, dry mouth, etc.) and cold in the lower body (diarrhea, low back pain, etc). And it is used as a blood tonic for patients with Qi and Blood vacuity.
Call Aiyana Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs in NYC for an appointment: 646-504-2251 Not in NYC? Schedule a Skype Wellness Consultation: 646-504-2251
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1 Milot, B. (2004). Cinnamon Improves Glucose and Lipid Levels in Type 2 Diabetes. HerbalGram: The Journal of the American Botanical Council, 64, 23.