Herb Profile: Cinnamon
Sweet sweet cinnamon bark… Oh, how we love your flavor and warming aroma! Distinct smells and tastes like cinnamon have the special ability to evoke deep memories or specific emotional responses. For us, the scent of cinnamon brings us back to comforting days where we feel warm, cozy, and relaxed inside.
Unfortunately, between early morning work meetings, crying baby duties, and flat tires...not every day starts off feeling this way! Luckily cinnamon is here in our daily cup of Rasa to help evoke those sweet relaxing moments, even if just for a twinkle.
Of course, like all herbs in our formula, cinnamon does more than just act as a delicious flavor harmonizer. Cinnamon stimulates our circulatory system, supports healthy blood sugar balance, and helps relieve sore muscles among other powerful health-boosting actions. Beyond the flavor reverie...our rough morning just got a little sweeter. Read on to learn more about the naturally sweet actions of cinnamon.
Time to Get Moving
If there is one thing most of the modern working people can relate to...it's that mornings can be a total drag sometimes. Our brain won’t “turn on,” the alarm won’t stop going off, and the coffee stopped “working,” but we need to get MOVING! Although a jolt of caffeine might sound like the perfect fix at first, for those of us that have reached the point of adrenal fatigue or burnout, we know it’s not sustainable day-to-day.
Cinnamon is your circulation system’s new best friend. When you need to get moving in the morning, both physically and mentally, cinnamon helps set everything into motion in the body and the brain. As a top-notch circulatory stimulant, cinnamon promotes proper blood flow throughout the body, including the heart and brain, which can relieve fatigue and improve overall cognition. Plus, this circulatory boost naturally warms us up (which is particularly crucial for those of us with cold hands and feet...we know you're out there!)
In the Rasa formula, circulation is KEY. Our formula would not work the same magic it does without cinnamon’s vital circulatory stimulant role. Remember in our burdock herb profile when we talked about how this root promotes our lymph to dump out stuck toxins into the bloodstream? Well, cinnamon is right there to pick up where burdock left off, and make sure our bloodstreams keep flowing and pushing all the toxins to their proper exits throughout the body.
We will touch more on the stimulating adaptogens we use in Rasa in future herb profiles, but take note that the circulatory stimulant action of cinnamon helps here as well. When certain stimulants are taken alone, whether they are adaptogens, caffeine-related, or other, they can cause such a surge in energy that if not backed up with proper circulation, can result in undesired effects like headaches, heart palpitations, and more. Cinnamon is here to help circulate all that newfound herbal energy around the body so you can get moving in the morning without the jitters.
Smooth Ride Vs. Old Rollercoaster
For those of us who have been to theme parks, I’m sure we can all relate that not every ride is as fun as it should be. The newer, well-oiled rides are smooth, fun, and exhilarating. While the old rollercoasters are rickety, rough, and cause you to leave feeling like your brain was just tossed around like a basketball inside. Yuck!
When our blood sugar (BS) balance is out of whack, we are essentially signing ourselves up to ride the OLD rollercoaster all day long. Eating a balanced diet and timing of meals throughout the day plays a huge role in keeping our BS balanced (this applies to both blood sugar and general daily bullsh*t). However, herbs like cinnamon can help ensure these levels stay balanced, especially when we might favor a sweeter, carb-focused menu option. This means we stay riding the smooth ride all day. So get on the cinnamon infused Rasa-ride. Your body and brain will thank you 🙏!
How does cinnamon do this? Cinnamon has been found to promote glycemic control in the body through inhibiting the activity of enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism (Ranasinghe et al., 2013). This means that our blood sugar levels are less likely to spike and crash repeatedly throughout the day (hence the unwanted rollercoaster ride analogy). Cinnamon is also being studied for its effect on reducing insulin resistance, one of the next steps leading up toward type 2 diabetes (Ranasinghe et al., 2012).
Sore Muscle Relief
When your muscles are achy and sore, you might not immediately jump to cinnamon as your go-to herbal ally. But before you reach for the ibuprofen this time...look toward cinnamon first!
Cinnamon works our aches and pains through a combination of its circulatory stimulant and warming, and anti-inflammatory actions. Now we can’t promise that taking cinnamon will feel like your muscles just got a massage (although we wish it worked that way!!), cinnamon can help provide pain-relief related to congestion and blood stagnation (Tierra, 1988). Yes, ladies, that means period cramps too.
Before you run to the store and start pounding cinnamon like there's no tomorrow: remember that energetically cinnamon is a HOT and dry herb. So for those of us who express a naturally hot constitution, you might want to think twice before taking it by itself (as opposed to in a formula). When I say hot constitution, I don’t mean if you have a 6-pack or not...but rather if you express heat signs like a flushed face, tendency to sweat easily or profusely, always warmer than those around you, or have a propensity to get flustered rapidly, among other expressions of a hotter constitution (this body and temperament type is called "Pitta" in the Ayurvedic system.)
If you take cinnamon on its own or in excess under these conditions, you could actually aggravate your aches, pains, and other symptoms instead of relieving them. Another reason why herbal teamwork is a fabulous thing!
So whether you’re an exercise-enthusiast, suffering from flu aches, dealing with arthritic-type pains, or even menstrual cramps, cinnamon can help soothe the pain so you can move on with your day.
What our cinnamon looks like in the Rasa blend 👇👇👇
Don’t Bark Up The Wrong Tree
When you’re looking to stock up on cinnamon, for your kitchen or apothecary, know that there's not only one type of cinnamon tree out there. Actually many different species of cinnamon grow around the world and each has been found to carry slightly different flavors and properties.
The two most common types you will find on the market are Ceylon and Cassia. Although there are definitely some haters out there who will tell you one is “real” and the other “fake,” when you boil it down, they are both real plants and forms of cinnamon...just with notably different traits.
Both Ceylon and Cassia cinnamon varieties have been used for ages for a variety of health benefits (Engels & Brinckmann, 2012). The main differences between these two types occur in their flavor, color, texture, aroma, constituents, and where they are sourced from. Which when you add all of these up, can make a BIG difference in a formula!
In Rasa, we use Ceylon cinnamon for its rich and delicious flavor. Going back to that sweet aromatic reverie we mentioned earlier: this is a trait distinct to the concentration of essential oils in Ceylon cinnamon bark. This specific flavor profile is huge for Rasa and subbing out with Cassia cinnamon would make a noticeable (and not so favorable) difference.
Another contrast is the high levels of coumarin that Cassia cinnamon contains. This constituent is part of what causes Cassia cinnamon to have a “tangier” and more bitter flavor in addition to causing an anticoagulant effect. When taken in higher doses, there is a potential for Cassia cinnamon to cause liver damage and other health issues (Blahová & Svobodová, 2012). And this risk could be increased even further depending on what meds you might already be on. Although cinnamon is only a small component of the Rasa formula, this kind of risk is not one we want to take (or have you unknowingly take either!)
Now there is an even MORE complex debate that started back in ancient Chinese apothecaries and continues to this day. Herbalists and doctors have been comparing the different effects between the Gui Zhi (the twiglet), Rou Gui (the thick bark), and the Gui Pi (the thinner bark) for ages (Holmes, 1989). Depending on a person’s health picture, illness, and energetic constitution, different parts of cinnamon are used. The subtleties behind the bark are still being discovered and debated.
What Circulates Underneath
Although cinnamon is a long-loved and widely used culinary herb, there are a couple important cautionary notes to be aware of when using cinnamon. In addition to the potential liver damage caused by high amounts of cassia cinnamon we noted above, there are a few other contraindications with cinnamon circulating underneath the mainstream radar.
For those of us dealing with gallstones or who are prone to abdominal pain, the essential oil “cinnamaldehyde” in cinnamon could potentiate these issues. In addition, this oil could cause allergic reactions for anyone with hypersensitivities to cinnamon (Skenderi, 2003).
Given cinnamon’s anticoagulant properties, it could interfere with blood thinning drugs or medications, in addition to affecting bruising and bleeding patterns.
Since cinnamon is energetically hot and extremely drying in nature, avoid using on its own if you show signs of heat and dryness (Tierra, 1988).
A Sweet Ending
Just like the beginning, we want to end on a sweet note. After learning a bit more about all the health benefits cinnamon carries within its bark, we now know that the sweet virtues of cinnamon don’t end on the tongue alone.
This illustrious bark can help balance blood sugar levels, relieve sore muscles, and stimulate circulation throughout the body. PLUS cinnamon can also help promote menstruation and stop bleeding (not an oxymoron even though it sounds like one!), clear the onset of colds and flu, support the clearance of certain infections and parasites and relieve loose stools (Holmes, 1989). Once you start incorporating cinnamon into your daily routine, it seems like life can only get sweeter...
About the Author
Heather is a Certified Clinical Herbalist and Nutritionist, Medical Anthropologist, Writer, Whole-Body Wellness Coach, and Holistic Educator. Connect with her on her personal website www.heathersaba.com and Instagram (@heathersaba)
Blahová, J. & Svobodová, Z. (2012). Assessment of coumarin levels in ground cinnamon available in the Czech retail market. Scientific World Journal. doi: 10.1100/2012/263851.
Engels, G. & Brinckmann, J. (2012). Cinnamon. The Journal of the American Botanical Council, 95, 1-5.
Holmes, P. (1989). The energetics of western herbs. Cotati, CA: Snow Lotus Press.
Ranasinghe, P., Jayawardana, R., Galappaththy, P., Constantine, G.R., de Vas Gunawardana, N., & Katulanda, P. (2012). Efficacy and safety of ‘true’ cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) as a pharmaceutical agent in diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetic Medicine, 29(12), 1480-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-5491.2012.03718.x.
Ranasinghe, P., Pigera, S., Premakumara, G.A.S., Galappaththy, P., Constantine, G.R., & Katulanda, P. (2013). Medicinal properties of ‘true’ cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum): A systematic review.
Skenderi, G. (2003). Herbal vade mecum. Rutherford, NJ: Herbacy Press.Tierra, M. (1988). Planetary herbology. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.