A spice bigger than oilWhat’s 2,800 years old, helps cure cancer and used to be more valuable than gold? You guessed it, cinnamon.
By: Kevin Holten, The Dickinson Press
What’s 2,800 years old, helps cure cancer and used to be more valuable than gold? You guessed it, cinnamon.
Cinnamon was once really big, bigger than Michael Jackson, Tiger Woods, the Beatles, Napoleon, Wii, hamburgers, Viagra, the Super Bowl and oil combined. In fact, when Roman Emperor Nero murdered his wife he ordered a year’s supply of cinnamon to be destroyed just to penalize himself. Which, at the time, was like Hugh Hefner giving up naughty pictures, football fans giving up beer, bridge clubs giving up gossip and Madonna giving up her ego for an entire 365 days; virtually impossible.
Derived from the bark of a bushy evergreen tree, cinnamon was raised on the island of Ceylon, now called Sri Lanka, a few thousand miles due west (or east) of Amarillo and 19 miles off the coast of India where they have three seasons; wet, wet and wetter.
Cinnamon lived the high life in ancient times, preserving bodies and meat, treating coughs, hoarseness and sore throats, adding flavor to foods and contributing to the overall ambiance at religious ceremonies and an orgy or two.
It was still very popular even as late as the 17th century when the Dutch seized the island of Ceylon from the Portuguese and set about to hold the world hostage, demanding outrageous prices for cinnamon like our friendly Arab sheiks do today with oil. In fact once, when a few eager entrepreneurs tried to break into the cinnamon market by growing it along the coast of India, our Dutch buddies bribed and threatened the local king to destroy it all so that they could preserve their monopoly, probably paving the way for how special interest groups operate in Washington today.
Then in 1833 other countries like Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Mauritius, Reunion and Guyana finally figured out that they could raise Cinnamon too and it became just another spice, a has been, no bigger than ginger, and I don’t mean that foxy chick on “Gilligan’s Island.” Now it’s also grown in South America and the West Indies and though less popular, it is experiencing a big comeback. Why? Because of what recent studies show that it can do.
For example, research has revealed that just half a teaspoon of cinnamon per day can lower LDL cholesterol. It is also found to have a regulatory effect on blood sugar, making it especially beneficial for people with Type 2 diabetes. In some studies, cinnamon has also shown an amazing ability to stop medication-resistant yeast infections. And in a study published by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Maryland, cinnamon reduced the proliferation of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells.
It also has an anti-clotting effect on blood and in a study at Copenhagen University, patients given half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder combined with one tablespoon of honey every morning before breakfast had significant relief in arthritis pain after one week and could walk without pain within one month, but don’t tell any drug companies because they might get really depressed.
In addition, when you add it to food it inhibits bacterial growth and food spoilage, making it a natural food preservative, but even the ancient Egyptians already knew about that. And one study found that just smelling cinnamon boosts cognitive function and memory.
Which doesn’t explain why singer/songwriter Neil Young said, “I wanna live with a cinnamon girl...because I could be happy the rest of my life, with a cinnamon girl.” But that’s another story for another time.
— Holten is the Dickinson State University Foundation’s communications director.