Native to Sri Lanka, the earliest reports of humans using cinnamon dates back to 2800 B.C. People have used cinnamon in medicines to treat coughing, hoarseness, and sore throats. Cinnamon was also used widely as a natural preservative. Not only would it mask the stench of rotting food, it contains phenols that inhibit bacteria responsible for meat spoilage. Egyptians even used it in their mummification process. As the famous pharaoh, King Tut, was being placed in his tomb, deep inside the catacombs of a pyramid, his final request may have been, “cover me in cinnamon.”
In 65 A.D. after Roman Emperor Nero murdered his wife, he ordered a year's supply of cinnamon to be burnt as a sign of remorse, (so it’s all good then?) By the time of Christ cinnamon was fifteen times the value of silver in weight. The spice played a significant role in Europe’s expansion into Asia, and by the 17th century, it had become the most profitable spice in the Dutch East India Company trade.
Cinnamon’s taste and smell is due to the presence of cinnamaldehyde, which makes up about 60 percent of cinnamon's bark oil. It’s botanical name derives from the Hebraic and Arabic term amomon, meaning fragrant spice plant. Italians called it canella, from their word for cannon, meaning "little tube.”
The spice is obtained from the inner bark of the cinnamon tree. In just two years, a cinnamon tree can grow to be 15-feet tall, at which point, farmers will harvest the tree, remove the outer bark and the fragrant inner bark is peeled off and set in the sun to dry. As it dries, the bark curls into cinnamon sticks, which can be ground into powder. Today, Indonesia and China produce 75% of the world's supply of cinnamon.
In addition to preserving meat (and pharaohs,) cinnamon has a bunch of health benefits. It’s loaded with potent polyphenol antioxidants which fight free radicals. Free radicals can damage cells and lead to heart disease, cancer, and premature aging. In a study that compared the antioxidant activity of 26 spices, cinnamon triumphed, beating out superfoods like garlic and oregano.
Cinnamon also helps regulate metabolism. It does this by increasing insulin sensitivity, a hormone that transports blood sugar into your cell walls and gives you energy. A symptom of type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance. A study published in Diabetes Care, suggests that cinnamon may reduce risk factors associated with both diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Because of its antibacterial properties, cinnamon has been used as a natural antiseptic for centuries. In an article published by the New York Times, they reported that a team of surgeons found that a solution made with cinnamon oil killed a number of hospital-acquired infections, like MRSA. The study found that it was just as effective as several antiseptics widely used in hospitals. Another study by French researchers in 2008 had similar results, showing that at concentrations of 10 percent or less, cinnamon oil was effective against Staphylococcus, E. coli and several antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.
Through the ages cinnamon has been used to preserve foods, lower chronic inflammation, and in a recent article titled, “12 Best Aphrodisiac Foods To Boost Your Sex Drive,” the author claimed that rubbing a drop of cinnamon oil on your genitals can be “surprisingly useful in producing powerful sexual stimulation.” Consult a physician before applying any spice on your private parts—but, if you go through with it, please report back to us.