It’s January, we are experiencing cold weather, we crave to warm up and I love to keep our wood-burning stove alive each night.. The herb that has been on my mind to write about is an aromatic, sweet, pungent herb, which many of us think of as a spice. That lovely herb is Cinnamon, Cinnamomum zeylanicum. A native of Sri Lanka, Cinnamon thrives in tropical climates. The tree prefers sandy soils, a lot of rain and a sheltered position. It was originally grown in Southern Asia and used as a treatment for diarrhea and fever long before it began it’s use as a culinary spice.
I think of Cinnamon this time of year as I crave Cinnamon sticks in hot, spiced apple cider, in mulled wine, in my 10 herb, tasty Chai tea and in Wassail. I recently sniffed the delightful aroma of cinnamon on many decorative Christmas ornaments, including fireplace brooms and scented pine cones for the fireplace. Cinnamon is not only used in cooking and baking, but it is also quite medicinal. Acting as a stimulant, Cinnamon warms the organs to treat diarrhea, cramps, heart and abdominal pains, coughing, wheezing and lower back pain. Being an excellent carminative (as many of the aromatic herbs are – the ones we use as spices); Cinnamon helps to relieve nausea and vomiting (due to the chemical constituents called catechins) and flatulence. One delicious way of preparing Cinnamon is simmering it in milk, with a bit of honey and then using it for indigestion, gas and diarrhea.
The dried bark of Cinnamon is used to stimulate circulation so it is an effective tea for the common cold. Cinnamon is excellent at lowering cholesterol and as a heart tonnic. It’s wonderful taste and action as an effective catalyst for other herbs, makes it quite useful in formula tea blends. The essential oil of Cinnamon can be used as a chest rub and as an abdominal massage for babies with colic. For the gardeners out there, Cinnamon essential oil is used to treat fungal disease on plants as it contains antifungal and antibacterial properties. Just mix a few drops of the essential oil in water, along with some orange oil, and spray the mixture on the affected parts of the plant.
Cinnamon zeylanicum is generally considered to have a somewhat stronger medicinal action, than it’s close relative, Cinnamomun cassia, although most species maintain similar properties.
Not only sweet, aromatic, delicious and great on toast, but good quality sticks of organically grown Cinnamon can be brewed up as a tea, by itself ( my students this last semester just adored the Cinnamon tea I brewed), or mixed with other herbs when needed for colds, fever, indigestion or nausea. Cinnamon is an important ingredient in my quite famous High Energy Chai Tea which is a staple in my house for an afternoon tasty boost of energy. Chai is good for the metabolism and digestion and brewing it creates the most delightful aroma in your home.
High Energy Chai Tea contains: Cinnamon chips, Ginger Root, Cardamom Pods, Coriander, Cloves, Chinese Star Anise, Black Pepper, Black Tea, Ginseng powder and Guarana powder. The last two ingredients are what gives it the name of “High Energy” It truly does give me a boost when I need it at 4pm in the afternoon.
Chai means “Tea” in Sanskrit. When traveling to India you can sample many different kinds of Chai. In America, Chai is a wonderful alternative to coffee, a tasty and refreshing beverage and has some medicinal properties. Chai is good for digestion, containing many “Carminative herbs”, and assists in stimulating one’s metabolism.
Use two tablespoons of dried herbs per quart of water. Gently boil the herbs for 45 minutes. Strain the herbs and mix tea with your choice of milk and sweetener. After straining the herbs, refill your pot with water and reuse the herbs a second time. Boil for 30 minutes. The tea is just as good the second time. Your pot of tea can be left on the stove, without refrigeration, for up to 48 hours, and sometimes longer. So delicious and so economical!
Chai Tea is one of my best selling herbal products and one that I enjoy nearly everyday at home. Perhaps you’ll give Chai a try and brew up some of your own. You will love it!
May all of you be blessed with a joyous, healthy New Year with peace, love, kindness, generosity and wisdom.
With Warm Green Blessings,