Cinnamon sticks, also known as Rou Gui in mandarin, are an essential flavoring agent in cooking in order to season the meat and vegetables. In the west, they are often ground into powder and added to coffee and milky tea too. Thanks to the unique aroma, it is also one of main sources for the manufacturing special spices. In ancient China, it received largely positive reviews, according to Cha Ge (a poem dedicated to cinnamon), published by Jiang Heng (1672 to 1742). He pointed out that its aroma was extremely pungent and excitant. For that reason, the right amount of cinnamon powder added in meat-based stews or vegetable soups can help invigorate the stomach, warm lower back and knees, relieve abdominal cold feeling, and reduce stomach bloating. Since it is rich in nutrients and packed with health benefits, it has long been used medicinally to treat a wide range of diseases. According to legend in the Spring and Autumn Period, Xi Shi, one of the most famous four beauties in Chinese history, ever suffered from throat disease and later cured with this amazing herb. So, can you eat and how to eat cinnamon sticks? Let’s figure it out now.
What are cinnamon sticks?
Medicinally it mainly refers to the dried bark of Cinnamomum cassia Presl, which is a member in the family Lauraceae. Since it is native to China, it is also known as Chinese cinnamon and Chinese cassia too. But sometimes it may also mean any of its close relatives – Cinnamomum verum (Ceylon cinnamon), Cinnamomum burmannii (Indonesian cinnamon), and Cinnamomum loureiroi (Vietnamese cinnamon, Saigon cinnamon). Hence, it is also called cinnamon bark or Cortex Cinnamomi in Latin name. In addition, bastard cinnamon is another nickname given by the English speaking world because of its cheaper price, compared to other types of cinnamon. In China, it is mainly produced in Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, and Yunnan provinces. It is usually peeled in autumn. After that, it still needs to scrape off the cork and placed in the shade to dry. After gone through the above-mentioned process, it will curl into a role and look like a stick, which thus earn its name as “cinnamon stick.” A variety of different specifications can be divided based on the stripped parts and quality. As a drug, it is usually used raw. What’s more, cassia buds is also used as a spice and cassia shoots (Gui Zhi) and young fruits (Gui Ding) are also used medicinally.
Cinnamomum cassia is an evergreen tree, 12 to 17 meters in height. Brown bark is aromatic. Shoots are slightly in the shape of rectangular prism. Alternate leaves are leathery, oblong to nearly lanceolate, 8 to 17cm long, 3.5 to 6cm wide, green and glossy above, gray-green and puberulous below, and with acute apex, obtuse base, entire margin, and stout 1 to 2cm petiole. Panicles are axillary or subterminal, 10 to 19cm long, and pubescent; small flowers are about 3cm in diameter; pedicel is about 5mm; perianth tube is about 2mm long, 6-lobed, yellow-green, oval, densely pubescent inside and outside; stamens are 9 and with oblong anthers; pistil is slightly shorter than stamens; oval ovary is with 1 room, 1 ovule, slender style, and slightly discoid stigma. Berries are oval or obovate, dark purple, about 12 to 13mm long, and with slightly truncated apex and persistent perianth outside. Seeds are in the shape of long oval and purple. Bloom time is from May to July and fruiting time is from flowing February to March. Cinnamon tree is usually cultivated in sandy soil and mountain slopes.
Cinnamon mainly contains 1.98% to 2.06% volatile oil, in which the main components are 52.92% to 61.20% cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, ethyl cinnamate, benzyl benzoate, benzaldehyde, coumarin, β-cadinene, calamenene, β-elemene, protocatechuic acid, trans-Cinnamic acid, and more. In addition, it still contains 3′-O-methyl-(-)-epicatechin, 4′-O-methyl-(+)-catechin, cinnamtannin A2, A3, A4, procyanidin C1, B1, B2, B5, B7, A2, cinnzeylanine, cinnzeylanol, a variety of diterpene compounds (cinncassiols A, B, C1, C2, C3, D1, D2, D3, D4, E), lyoniresinol-3α-O-β-d-glucopyranoside, syringaresinol, cassioside, cinnamoside, cinnaman AX, etc.
The Weekly World News, a famous Canadian magazine, ever published a piece of writing talking about the honey and cinnamon cures on January 17, 1995. Beatrice Dexter, the writer of this article, thought highly of this therapy and introduced in details how to use this mix to help a variety of complaints, such as arthritis, hair loss, bladder infections, toothache, cholesterol, colds, infertility, upset stomach, indigestion, heart disease, immune system problem, influenza, aging, acne, skin infections, overweight, cancer, fatigue, bad breath, hearing loss, high blood pressure, sore throat, influenza, etc. And its pharmacology has already offered a range of solid supports to such a claim.
Modern pharmacological actions of cinnamon stick
1) It can dilate blood vessels, promote blood circulation, enhance coronary and cerebral blood flow, and decrease the vascular resistance;
2) In vitro, its methanol extract and cinnamaldehyde can inhibit platelet aggregation and inactivate several enzymes of the coagulation system;
3) Cinnamon oil, cinnamaldehyde, and sodium cinnamate have sedative, analgesic, antipyretic, anticonvulsant and other effects;
4) Cinnamon bark oil can promote bowel movements, increase the gastrointestinal secretion, enhance digestive function, eliminate gas in the digestive tract, relieve spasmodic pains in gastrointestinal region, and cause uterine congestion;
5) Its water extract and ether extract have kind of inhibition on the formation of experimental gastric ulcer in animals;
6) Cinnamic acid can reverse lung adenocarcinoma cell;
7) Cinnamon produced in Zhaoqing has obvious hypoglycemic effect;
8) Its oil shows inhibitory effect on gram positive bacteria and gram negative bacteria;
9) Its ether, alcohol and water extracts have some certain inhibition on a variety of pathogenic fungi.
Sample cinnamon sticks recipes on herbal remedies
The Chinese Materia Medica says that it is acrid and sweet in flavor and hot in nature. It covers meridians of kidney, spleen, heart, and liver. Basic functions are tonifying fire and helping yang, Guiding fire back on track, eliminating cold to stop pain, and warming meridian to unclogged arteries and veins. Main indications and uses for cinnamon sticks include kidney-yang deficiency, decline of vital gate fire, intolerance of cold, cold limbs, bower back pain and knee weakness, impotence, nocturnal emission, difficult urination or urination frequency, shortness of breath, asthma, edema, a scanty production of urine, floating yang, feverish upper body and cold lower extremity, dizziness, ringing in the ears, erosion/ulceration of oral cavity, spleen-kidney deficiency cold, feeling cold and pain in the abdomen, reduced appetite and loose stools, low back pain due to kidney deficiency, wind-dampness arthralgia, hernia pain, uterus cold induced infertility, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, postpartum stasis pain, dorsal furuncle, deep multiple abscess, and unruptured deficient carbuncle or ulcers. Recommended dosage is from 2 to 5 grams in decoction. And please keep in mind that don’t decoct it for too long or it will lose the active ingredients. Besides, it can be used in other forms, such as cinnamon tea, tablets, capsules, powder, extract, pills, and so on.
1) Shen Qi Wan from Jin Gui Yao Lue (Essential Prescriptions of the Golden Coffer). It is combined with Mu Dan Pi (Tree Peony), Fu Ling (Poria), Ze Xie (Water Plantain Root), Shu Di Huang (Rehmannia), Shan Yao (Chinese Yam), Shan Zhu Yu (Fructus Corni), and Fu Zi (Aconite) to treat ED (erectile dysfunction), cold uterus, feeling cold and pain in lower back and knees, frequent urination at night, spermatorrhea, enuresis, and others that are caused by kidney-yang deficiency and decline of vital gate fire.
2) Da Yi Han Wan from Tai Ping Hui Min He Ji Ju Fang (Formulas of the Peaceful Benevolent Dispensary). It is formulated with Gan Jiang (Dried Ginger Root), Gao Liang Jiang (Galangal Root), Bi Bai (fructus piperis longi), etc. to cure abdominal pain and hernia pain.
3) Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang from Qian Jin Fang (Thousand golden essential prescriptions). It is matched with Du Huo (Angelica Root), Sang Ji Sheng (Mulberry Mistletoe Stem), Du Zhong (Eucommia Bark), etc. to heal wind-cold-damp pain or numbness, especially arthritis aggravated by cold weather and low back pain.
4) Gui Fu Wan from Shou Shi Bao Yuan (Protection of Vital Energy for Longevity). It is joined with Aconite, Dried Ginger Root, Hua Jiao (Sichuan Peppercorns), etc. to treat angina pectoris and cardiac pain due to the invasion of pathogenic cold and low chest yang.
5) Yang He Tang from Wai Ke Zheng Zhi Quan Sheng Ji (Complete Collection of Patterns and Treatments in External Medicine). It is equipped with Lu Jiao Jiao (Deer Horns), Pao Jiang (Prepared Dried Ginger), Ma Huang (Ephedra), etc. to cure dorsal furuncle and deep multiple abscess.
6) Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang from Yi Lin Gai Cuo (Correcting the Errors in the Forest of Medicine). It works with Dang Gui (Dong Quai), Chuan Xiong (Lovage Root), Xiao Hui Xiang (Fennel Seed), etc. to heal amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, and more.
Simple cinnamon stick recipes
Here are the cinnamon nutrition facts for you. Each 100g contain 199.00 kcal calories, 71.50g carbohydrates, 2.70g fat, 11.70g protein, and 39.60g cellulose. As you can see, it is low in cholesterol, sodium, and saturated fatty acids, but rich in vitamin E, potassium, protein, and dietary fiber. Though there are some certain calories absorbed in grinding and eating cinnamon sticks, don’t worry and it won’t affect your weight loss programs. And here are some simple but useful recipes for your reference. So, buy cinnamon sticks and give them a try.
1) Cinnamon mutton soup
Ingredients: mutton 500g, cinnamon bark 6g, and right amount of salt and other seasoning.
Directions: put the first two ingredients into a stewing mug, pour in appropriate amount of water, cover and boil with high heat, turn to low heat after boiling, and simmer for 1 hour.
Benefits: both of meat and soup can help waist and knee pain, cold feeling in abdomen, and bloating.
2) Cinnamon powder
Ingredients: cinnamon sticks 3g.
Directions: grind it into powder and take it with warm water, twice a day. Or add the powder to cooked dishes.
Benefits: the former practice can treat bloating and stomach pain and the latter is able to lower blood sugar and cholesterol.
3) Cinnamon stick tea
Ingredients: cinnamon sticks 3g, hawthorn meat 9g, and brown sugar 30g.
Directions: decoct the mentioned 3 ingredients with appropriate amount of water for 3 to 5 minutes, and finish the decoction in 2 times.
Benefits: take this cinnamon tea before menstruation can effectively prevent and treat abdominal distension and pain during menses.
4) Cinnamon paste
Ingredients: cinnamon barks 6g and cloves 6g.
Directions: grind these two herbs into fine powder and put it onto the plaster.
Benefits: stick the plaster to children’s navel and it can help diarrhea in children.
5) Honey and cinnamon
Ingredients: cinnamon powder 1 spoon, honey 2 spoons, and 1 glass of water.
Directions: put the first two ingredients into 1 glass of water.
Benefits: drink it 30 minutes before breakfast and bedtime daily. By doing so it will prevent the fat accumulation in your body even though you are eating high-calorie foods.
Cinnamon sticks side effects and contraindications
No doubt cinnamon sticks are a good herb. Even so, abusing it may still cause problems. According to Chinese Pharmacopoeia, the recommended dosage is from 1.5 to 4.5 grams in the form of decoction and 1 to 1.5 grams in the form of powder. Otherwise, overdose may cause acute poisoning. In addition, long-term use of a normal dose might lead to cumulative poisoning too. The symptoms could be dizziness, blurred vision, eye swelling, dry eyes, dry mouth, body ache, chest tightness, irritability, flushed face, tingling tongue, dried lips, and others. It should be discontinued immediately once the above-mentioned symptoms occur.
Besides, cinnamon stick is of extremely hot nature. TCM wise, it should not be used during pregnancy and menstrual period, as well as in cases of hyperactivity of fire due to yin deficiency, impairment of yin in heat disease, and syndrome of true heat disease disguised with cold manifestation. By the way, use it with care in asthma patients who are also with advanced tuberculosis, decompensation in cardiac function, or extreme physical weakness and loss of strength.