Cinnamon is from Ceylon - today’s Sri Lanka - and is harvested from a tall tree, although Arabian traders used to say it was gathered only from nests of the phoenix bird in marshes guarded by winged serpents and bats. They told the tale to keep rivals from competing in the spice’s trade. The tree’s inner bark is ground to create cinnamon spice (you can also buy sticks of rolled bark). For aromatherapy and other medicinal purposes, oil is made from the bark or the leaves. A related but less-expensive oil is made from the Chinese cassia plant.
The cinnamon spice flavors everything from breakfast cereal to toothpaste. However, cinnamon also has been touted by alternative medicine practitioners for its medicinal properties, particularly when the oil is used. They consider it an antiseptic and antiviral agent and say it can be used to enhance appetite. Cinnamon may relieve rheumatic pain and muscle spasms. It’s warming and can stimulate both physically and emotionally - it was once known as an aphrodisiac. The spice’s oil is used in aromatherapy to relieve headaches and menstrual cramps and to reduce irritability and drowsiness. As a liniment, it encourages sweating and increased circulation. The chemicals that cause these effects are cinnamaldehyde and eugenol. The bark contains a higher percentage of cinnamaldehyde (also making it an irritant, which should be used with care) and the leaf has more eugenol.
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