Functional properties and toxicity

Modern Ayurveda

Ayurveda the Science of Life

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This herb has been used medicinally for thousands of years to fight toothache, clear up urinary tract infections and soothe stomach irritation. It has a broad range of historical uses in different cultures including the treatment of diarrhoea, arthritis and various menstrual disorders. The large number of medicinal applications for cinnamon indicates the widespread appreciation of folk herbalists for its healing properties.

In the Indian System of Ayurvedic medicine, it is used against a wide spectrum of diseases like bronchitis, colds, congestion, diarrhoea, dysentry, oedema, flu, gas, metabolic and heart strengthening, hiccups, indigestion, liver problems, menorrhagia, melancholy, muscle tension, nausea and vomiting. It assists uterine contractions during labour and menstrual pain from low metabolic function. For external applications, it is used against headaches and pain.12

In Unani medicine, it is used as a cephalic tonic and cardiac stimulant and for the treatment of coughs. Flowers are used in the European tradition as a blood purifier. Cinnamon may find its way to a diabetic's daily diet. It contains a chemical called methoxy hydroxy chalcone polymer, which can reduce the blood glucose level. Cinnamon is used for religious purposes also. Its believed, by some, that burning cinnamon incense will promote high spirituality and aid in healing. Some people believe that it can stimulate the passions of the male.13

It is now becoming more widely used as a herbal remedy in Europe and the United States. The generally recommended medicinal dosage for cinnamon powder is 0.5-1 g as tea, 0.5-1 ml as fluid extract in 1:1 in 70% alcohol and 0.05-0.2 ml bark oil.14

Cinnamon is a good detoxifying herb and acts as a pain reliever. Various terpenoides found in essential oil are believed to account for cinnamon's medicinal effects. Important among these compounds are eugenol and cinnamaldehyde. The essential oil also shows antimicrobial activity against Pseudomonas, Aspergillus parasiticus, Staphylococcus aureus, Candida and Saccharomyces cerivisiae, Serratia and gram positive (Bronchothrix, Carnobacterium and Lactobacillus). The bark oil is anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.

Cinnamon oil has strong lipolytic properties in dissolving fat and thus aids digestion.15 Once consumed, cinnamon helps break down fats in the digestive system, possibly by boosting the activity of digestive enzymes. Cinnamon also has a potential role in the treatment of diabetes. Cinnamon contains a chemical called methoxy hydroxy chalcone polymer which can reduce the blood glucose level.

Culinary cinnamon is on the Food and Drug Administration's list of herbs generally regarded as safe. The amounts of cinnamon normally used in food are non-toxic, although some people develop allergic reactions after eating this spice. Chronic use may cause inflammation in the mouth. Ingestion of cinnamon oil may cause nausea, vomiting and possible kidney damage. The oil may cause redness and burning of the skin. Do not use in case of fever and pregnancy. Cinnamon handlers have a high incidence of asthma, skin irritation, and hair loss. Toothpastes and ointments containing cinnamon may cause stomatitis and dermatitis in some cases.

Only small amounts should be used initially in persons who have not previously had contact with cinnamon, and anyone with a known allergy should avoid it. The concentrated oil is more likely to cause problems. It has been reported from Sri Lanka that workers undertaking grading of cinnamon have suffered a number of ailments, mainly in the form of cough and asthma, smarting of the eye and irritation to the skin due to exposure to cinnamon dust.

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