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All about “Cinnamon”

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Health profile

Known since Antiquity, cinnamon is an aromatic vegetable substance coming from the inner bark of the cinnamon tree. Its original shape resembles small tubes, but it is often eaten ground. Much appreciated for its fragrant flavor, it is also rich in antioxidants potentially beneficial for health.

Cinnamon: understand everything in 2 min

Active ingredients and properties

Fiber in cinnamon?
Spices are not the first food we think of when we talk about dietary fiber … However, surprisingly, fiber constitutes more than half the weight of ground cinnamon: a portion as small as 2 g of cinnamon (1 teaspoon) contains 1.3 g of fiber. Note that it is recommended to consume 25 g of fiber per day for women from 19 to 50 years old, and 38 g per day for men of the same age group 24 .

Antioxidants . Antioxidants are compounds that protect the cells of the body from damage caused by free radicals . These are very reactive molecules which are implicated in the development of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and other diseases linked to aging 1 . An extensive review of the scientific literature ranked ground cinnamon fourth among the 50 foods with the most antioxidants per 100 g 2 serving . Another study found that the antioxidant activity of cinnamon could be increased when subjected to heat 3. However, keep in mind that a serving of cinnamon is usually much smaller than 100 g: a teaspoon, for example, is only 2 g. Cinnamon is however concentrated enough in antioxidants so that even a small portion can make a significant contribution to the total daily intake.

  • Proanthocyanidins . According to a large American database, cinnamon is the food that contains the most proanthocyanidins per 100 g, after the cocoa bean. Cinnamon contains more than 8,100 mg, almost 20 times more than 100 g of cranberries, and almost 25 times more than 100 g of wild blueberries . Proanthocyanidins have demonstrated certain antioxidant properties in humans, for example by protecting blood cells and lipids against oxidative stress 5 . However, more studies are needed to better understand how the human body absorbs and uses the cinnamon proanthocyanidins.
  • Cinnamaldehyde (or cinnamyl aldehyde). Cinnamon is very rich in this volatile phenolic compound, with antioxidant power, with an amount that can exceed 17,000 mg per 100 g of dry matter 6 . An in vitro study on human blood samples has shown that cinnamaldehyde has the ability to decrease the activity of 5-lipoxygenase , an enzyme associated with the onset of inflammatory or allergic reactions (such as asthma, allergic rhinitis , psoriasis) 7 . Cinnamaldehyde is also one of the compounds that provide cinnamon with antimicrobial properties 8. Indeed, for ages, spices like cinnamon have been used to prolong the preservation of food. Studies on cinnamon extracts show today that it can help reduce the multiplication of several microorganisms 8-11 . The use of spices for this purpose does not, however, exempt you from observing healthy hygiene and food safety measures.

Type 2 diabetes . Several studies in vitro and in animals indicate that cinnamon contains compounds with properties related to insulin potentially beneficial to fight against diabetes 12-17 . In people with type 2 diabetes, daily consumption of 1 g to 6 g of ground cinnamon for 40 days 18 or approximately 300 mg of cinnamon extract (corresponding to approximately 3 g of cinnamon powder per day) for four months 19 resulted in a significant decrease in blood glucose 18 , 19 and certain blood lipids (total cholesterol, triglycerides , LDL cholesterol) 18. Cinnamon thus appears to be a promising food for the control of diabetes, but some results are still contradictory and necessitate the pursuit of other studies in humans 20,21 .

Other properties

Is cinnamon antioxidant? Very strongly  : its TAC index for a portion of 2 g (5 ml) is 5,351 μmol
Is cinnamon acidifying? No data available
Does cinnamon have a high glycemic load? No data available

Most important nutrients

See the meaning of the nutrient source classification symbols

Good source Manganese . Ground cinnamon is a good source of manganese. Manganese acts as a cofactor for several enzymes that facilitate a dozen different metabolic processes. It also participates in the prevention of damage caused by free radicals .

Source Iron . Ground cinnamon is a source of iron for men only, since the needs of women are greater than those of men. Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the production of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It should be noted that the iron contained in food of vegetable origin is less absorbed by the organism than the iron contained in food of animal origin. However, the absorption of iron from plants is favored when consumed with certain nutrients, such as vitamin C.

What is a “portion” of cinnamon worth?
Weight / volume Ground cinnamon, 2 g (5 ml)
Calories 6
Protein 0.1g
Carbohydrates 1.9g
Fat 0.1g
Dietary fiber 1.3 g

Source  : Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File , 2005.


Mouth irritation

The industry commonly uses cinnamon essence to flavor certain foods (candy, chewing gum, etc.) and various pharmacy products such as toothpaste. This essence can however cause oral irritation in some people. Dentists call this phenomenon contact stomatitis , an allergic reaction that can be characterized by small oral ulcers , lesions and inflammation of the gum or oral mucosa 22 . Women aged 30 to 60 are more at risk 23 . Avoiding chewing gum, toothpaste, and other cinnamon-flavored products can help prevent symptoms.

Cinnamon over time

The term ”  cinnamon  “, which appeared in the XII th  century, comes from the Latin canna , meaning “reed”, probably referring to the shape of pipe that are the sticks of cinnamon bark dries.

The term “  breakage  ” appeared in 1256. It comes from the Latin cassia , which derives from the Greek kassia , which itself probably borrowed from the Khasi people who lived in the North of India from where we exported breakage. It designates Chinese cinnamon, which comes from the species C. cassia .

Cinnamon is one of the oldest known spices. It appears in ancient Chinese, Sanskrit and Egyptian writings, as well as in the Old Testament. It is believed that originally it was mainly used for its medicinal properties as well as in religious ceremonies and magic rites. The Chinese, who made great use of it, already cultivated a species of cinnamon tree 2,500 years before our era. Elsewhere, they were content to exploit those which grew in the wild sometimes in immense colonies.

With precious metals, jewelry and fine fabrics, cinnamon will take the silk and spice route from India and China to Mesopotamia, then to the big cities of ancient Greece and Rome. Considered then as precious as gold, it is extremely expensive, and only the wealthy class has access to it.

The Romans will introduce it to the rest of Europe, but throughout the Middle Ages, it will continue to command a high price, not democratizing until the Renaissance. Reserved for the nobles, its uses are clearly less so since it essentially serves to mask the bad smell of spoiled food. It also seems that the habit of spicing up a dish simply with the aim of enhancing its flavor is relatively recent in the history of mankind, our ancestors having been especially concerned with surviving the potential intoxications caused by food in the process of advanced decomposition.

Gradually, cinnamon win in French cuisine developed at the end of the XVI th  century, it is in 67% of all revenue of the country. Its trade, like that of pepper, will become flourishing, leading to fierce wars in order to ensure control.

Tree or shrub depending on the species, the cinnamon tree is native to the tropical regions of Asia. The bark is removed from the branches or young shoots which is then put to dry after having stripped it of its epidermis. As it dries, it rolls up on itself, forming crumbly sticks resembling tubes.

There is cinnamon and cinnamon …
The “real” cinnamon (or Ceylon cinnamon) is ocher in color and the sticks, which are made of thin layers of bark (about a millimeter thick), are easily friable. Chinese cinnamon is a darker red, turning to brown, and the sticks are coarser and thicker (a few millimeters thick), less sweet and slightly more bitter.

Several species of cinnamon are exploited locally for their bark, but the cinnamon offered on the international market is generally supplied by the cinnamon of Ceylon ( C. verum ) and the cinnamon of China ( C. cassia ). These two species come respectively from Sri Lanka (formerly called Ceylon) and from the regions of the Eastern Himalayas, North India and Vietnam. In Europe, Ceylon cinnamon is preferred, while in North America, Chinese cinnamon is mainly consumed.

The cinnamon tree is cultivated today in all the countries bordering the Indian Ocean as well as in the Antilles, Brazil and Guyana. In addition to the bark intended for the spice market, an essential oil is widely obtained from it, used in confectionery and perfumery, as well as in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products, in particular for masking the flavor of certain drugs.

Culinary uses

Culinary dishes

In Europe and North America, cinnamon is generally used in sweet dishes, but in North Africa, Greece and the East, it is cooked with savory dishes, especially with meat and poultry. It is best to add the powder only towards the end of cooking, as it becomes bitter when cooked too long. However, the sticks can withstand a long cooking.

  • Cinnamon is used in many traditional spice blends : North African ras-el-hanout, Berber blend, Indian garam masala, Persian Gulf baharat, Gâlat dagga tunisen, French four-spice and five-spice or five Chinese scent .
  • In tagines, spaghetti sauces, stews, chili (with or without meat), etc.
  • In the Moroccan pastilla:this savory-sweet pie on feast days, of which there are many variants, is made up of several layers of brick dough (failing this, use philo dough) between which there are onions which have been returned to the oil; almonds returned in oil, drained, then chopped and seasoned with cinnamon; pine nuts; hard boiled eggs; and pieces of pigeon marinated for several hours in a mixture of spices (ras-el-hanout, cinnamon, saffron) and fresh herbs (parsley, coriander) and cooked for one hour in broth or water. (You can replace the pigeon with chicken or another poultry.) The last layer of brick is drizzled with butter and orange blossom water, then the pie is cooked in a medium oven for about half an hour. It is then sprinkled with icing sugar and cinnamon,
  • In Sri Lankan and Indian curries , but also in dhals , these lentil dishes that are eaten throughout vegetarian India.
  • Mediterranean chicken soup: it is made with broth and diced chicken, chickpeas, onions, tomatoes and small pasta, and is seasoned with cumin, cinnamon, salt, pepper and parsley .
Red cooking
This type of cooking used in China has the effect of giving a beautiful red color to the sauce. It consists of cooking meat or poultry in a liquid made of soy sauce, miso, sugar (or honey) and rice wine, seasoned with spices (cinnamon, ginger, star anise, lemon zest, fennel seeds, Sichuan pepper and licorice). The meats first returned to the oil to color them. At the end of cooking, add a little sesame oil.
  • In the southern United States, meats are grilled after being coated with a sauce including molasses or sugar, soy sauce, lemon or lime juice, vinegar, garlic and many spices: cinnamon, ginger, hot pepper, thyme, coriander seeds, nutmeg, Jamaican pepper, paprika, salt and pepper.
  • Cinnamon rice: brown a stick of cinnamon and cumin seeds for 1 minute in clarified butter, add turmeric, basmati rice and salt, and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Add twice as much water or broth as rice, cover and cook over low heat until the rice is done, then remove the cinnamon stick. You can sweeten with honey and sugar just before serving. A variation of this recipe: add cloves and allspice, as well as mint. Add a tomato and raisins when adding the broth.
  • Or, replace the rice with bulgur, kasha, barley, wild rice, quinoa, etc. This dish can be used as a stuffing for turkey.
  • Slightly sweet vegetables such as sweet potato and squash go well with a little cinnamon.
  • It is also essential in pumpkin pie .
  • Cinnamon enhances pear, apple or plum compotes , or this dried fruit compote: cook prunes, dates and dried apricots for 15 minutes in cinnamon and orange zest flavored tea. Remove from heat, garnish with pine nuts and let cool.
  • Roast slices of good whole grain bread , butter and sprinkle with cinnamon.
  • In brioches, cakes, muffins, cookies, soufflés, ice cream and other desserts .
  • In gingerbread which, in its original version, includes only natural and complete ingredients: rye flour, honey, milk, egg yolks and spices (anise and coriander seeds, cloves, nutmeg , cinnamon, orange and lemon zest).
  • You can flavor mulled wine, hot chocolate, coffee or tea with a cinnamon stick.
  • Or prepare chai tea , a classic of Indian cuisine: for three tea bags, use 1.25 l of water and 250 ml of milk. Boil the liquids for a few minutes with cardamom seeds, a cinnamon stick and fresh or powdered ginger. Add the tea bags and simmer until the tea has the desired color. Filter, sweeten with honey and serve hot.
  • In Egypt, a drink called irfa is prepared by boiling water with cinnamon powder for a few minutes (1/2 tsp per 250 ml). Sweeten to taste and sprinkle the drink with a mixture of chopped nuts.


Cool, dry and protected from light. Both the sticks and the powder quickly lose their aroma; therefore, keep them in an airtight container.

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