Cinnamon Tea: Its History, Benefits, and Possible Side-Effects
Made from the bark of the Southeast-Asian, evergreen cinnamon trees, of which there are many species, cinnamon is thought to be one of the first spices ever traded in the Ancient World. Some of these trees can grow to a height of more than 65 feet, though farmers keep them pruned much smaller to facilitate cultivation. Cinnamon trees bloom yellowish-green flowers and even produce a berry, but the kitchen spice with which most of us are familiar is formed from the inner bark of the tree.
Mentioned numerous times in several books throughout the Bible, usually under its Hebrew name, kannamon, cinnamon originated in Asia. Egyptians used it as part of their mummification recipe and doctors have prescribed it to treat everything from sore throats to stomach aches.
Cinnamon was so valuable that a monopoly on its trade was controlled by several factions throughout the ages, including the Venetians, Portuguese, and Dutch. It was due to this high demand that cinnamon began being cultivated throughout the world, effectively ending this monopoly in the 17th-Century. Today, it is primarily grown in tropical climates in South America and the West Indies.
Although there are several types of cinnamon teas, the most popular are the té con canela and Gyepi-cha. The former is native to Chile and made by steeping black tea with a cinnamon stick; the latter is a Korean specialty made from cassia cinnamon bark and ginger. Other variations include anise, lemon, and mint. Most are sweetened with honey, sugar, or stevia.
On its own, cinnamon is bitter and notoriously difficult to swallow. If you are familiar with the online phenomenon, “The Cinnamon Challenge” (not suggested, by the way), then you already know this. This is why cinnamon tea is a great way to administer and enjoy the spice.
The Chinese treat cinnamon on its own as medicinal, believing it is good for the skin and helps to maintain a youthful appearance. While it is available in capsule form, cinnamon is most often sold alone as a kitchen spice.
Cinnamon is most often paired with a sweetener, such as sugar or honey, though it is also used to add a rich depth to savory dishes, meats, and spicy dishes such as those found in Indian and Mexican cuisine.
Cinnamon is reputed to provide a multitude of health benefits, some of which are supported by medical science and recent research. As noted, it has long been used to treat the common cold, throat infections, and stomach ailments. However, a word of caution on using cinnamon for medicinal purposes follows.
Cinnamon is most traditionally used to treat colds and cold symptoms, including sore throats, hoarseness, fevers, and chills. It is also used as a pain reliever in India and China, so a little cinnamon tea may be a more effective treatment for the common cold than one might think.
Cinnamon bark contains eugenol, which is actually extracted from the bark and used in concentrated form to fight some fungi, bacteria, and viri. Eugenol’s presence in the cinnamon bark and powder used to make cinnamon tea, although in far smaller quantities, is thought to do the same for people who drink it. This may be part of the secret to cinnamon’s reputed effectiveness against common colds and infections.
Cinnamon has long been used to treat common stomach ailments, including bloating, bowel irritation, and nausea. Rich in antioxidants and a natural anti-inflammatory, a warm cup of cinnamon tea alone might help you overcome minor stomach problems.
In fact, cinnamon tea is so high in antioxidants that some believe it may help to prevent the onset of many serious diseases and debilitating health conditions. Its anti-inflammatory properties also boost its disease-fighting properties, as chronic inflammation is connected to several medical issues, including heart disease, arthritis, IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and many more. Its anti-fungal properties also contribute to its reputation as a natural disease-fighting agent.
Although there is no medical proof of its efficacy, many cancer survivors and even some health professionals swear by cinnamon tea as an effective aid against the disease. Some recent tests suggest that cinnamon may restrict, and even prevent, the growth of cancer cells.
Cinnamon tea is also suggested as a diet aid for those trying to lose weight, particularly sweetened with stevia. Its anti-inflammatory properties work to calm the digestive tract and eliminate hunger pangs. Similarly, cinnamon is said to help regulate diabetes by naturally lowering blood sugar, which also helps you lose weight. Cinnamon contains antioxidants that boost insulin levels, too.
Cinnamon tea is also suggested for use by women suffering from painful PMS, or Pre-Menstrual Syndrome. It fights bloating, pain, and other symptoms related to PMS, and is even said to reduce heavy flow menstruation.
Cinnamon may have other health benefits that have yet to be discovered, and we will discuss potential side-effects and provide a word of caution against using it as a medication without supervision below, but it is important to point out that the official, medical stance on cinnamon’s medical and health benefits in the West remains murky.
While Eastern cultures value it as a natural remedy for all manner of problems, tests and studies by Western institutions have proven confusing at best. Recent findings suggest that cinnamon may provide certain health benefits but is likely to be effective only with long-term use.
If you decide to try cinnamon tea for its alleged health benefits, add a cup to your daily diet and measure its effectiveness for yourself. Even if it proves ineffective as a treatment, it is still a delicious treat!
There is no standard, recommended dosage for cinnamon. However, many use about a teaspoon a day to reap the medical benefits they believe it provides or as flavoring in food and drinks.
Bear in mind that, although many studies on the benefits and properties of cinnamon have been carried out – several by prestigious, well-respected institutions – and many of their findings have appeared in peer-reviewed and renowned medical journals and publications, few of these studies have been conclusive. Almost all of the evidence for the benefits of natural medicine is anecdotal, according to established medical practices in the West, but many health professionals agree that cinnamon has some medicinal value – they just can’t seem to agree on what that value is.
Potential Side Effects
Although the typical cinnamon you find in grocery stores and in most peoples’ pantries is safe for consumption, concentrated cinnamon oil is toxic. It can lead to nausea, vomiting, and severe kidney damage. No one wants to drink weak, watery tea, but be sure not to harm yourself or others!
Cinnamon tea can also cause extreme diarrhea if too much is consumed. Most people drink one to two cups a day without suffering any side-effects. Although you may be able to stomach more, it is probably not a good idea unless under a doctor’s advice. Cinnamon in any form can also be a skin irritant.
While cinnamon is considered safe for the majority of people, some may be allergic to it. Those who already take prescription medications or over-the-counter medications regularly should consult their doctors, as cinnamon may result in dangerous contraindications that can cause serious injury or even death. Your doctor or pharmacy can provide you with more information regarding these and other issues you may encounter with your medications. We discuss potential side-effects following.
Also, each individual is different and may react differently to the same herb or mixture. So, while cinnamon may work exactly as described below for a majority of users, it might not work that way for you. Always consult a health professional before making major changes to your diet, including taking herbal or dietary supplements, even if they contain all-natural ingredients.
Never replace doctor-prescribed medications or diets with cinnamon, or anything else, without first consulting with your health professional.
One of the world’s first, known traded spices, cinnamon was as coveted as gold, silver, ivory, and similar valuables in the Ancient World. Today, it is widely cultivated and available worldwide, so it is very affordable.
Used in thousands of recipes, both sweet and savory, cinnamon is most prevalent in breakfast foods, pastries, and snackfoods in the Western world. Its concentrated form, cinnamaldehyde, is used as a fragrance in candles, perfumes, and potpourri, but has many other uses, as well, including several industrial applications. Cinnamaldehyde is even used as a highly effective pesticide against mosquitoes!
Though many of us are most familiar with cinnamon as a flavor aid and food spice, regularly drinking cinnamon tea may provide a lot of health benefits. It is also a tasty drink that is favored around the world and can be enjoyed simply for its refreshing flavor.
While safe for most people and reputed to have many health benefits, large quantities can upset your stomach and cinnamon in its purest oil form can be toxic. Always consult a health professional before adding anything new to your diet, especially if you have a pre-existing condition or take medication.