Do you know that Cinnamon (or the Indian Dalchini) is one spice that is used both in Eastern (including Indian) as well as Western cuisines?
Indian cuisine is well known to use a mind-numbing variety of spices (the list is indeed long). I have heard quite a few celebrity chefs boasting how a particular kebab recipe of theirs uses thirty-six (or thirty-nine, I don’t remember) spices as ingredients. That would be quite an overkill, in my opinion, and I’d definitely not recommend that any casual dabbler in Indian cuisine experiments with more than ten spices in one dish. But, as I said, that’s just my personal opinion.
Coming back to Cinnamon, however, I can bet that this would definitely be in that long list of spices that our celebrity chefs use to create their exotic Indian dishes. I am not sure whether any of their remaining 35 or 38 spices would be so definitely used in Western cuisine. I have always wondered, therefore, as to why Cinnamon is one of the few exceptions.
There is no doubt that Cinnamon (a spice that comes from the thin bark of wild trees that belong to the genus “cinnamomum”) does impart a lovely flavour to any dish. Who can resist the aroma of a freshly baked Apple Pie, Pumpkin pie or a Cinnamon roll!
This brings me to the next interesting difference that in the West Cinnamon is used for preparing sweet things like desserts and pies. In India, however, it is more used for savoury things like curries, as Indians prefer Cardamom or Saffron in their desserts more. Cinnamon in fact occupies a pride of place in the preparation of the Indian garam masala, a spice mixture that is commonly used in chicken curry, pulaos, biryanis, vegetable dishes, or even rajma or kidney beans curry.
One might wonder whether Cinnamon only imparts a nice flavour to food or has it got any medicinal benefits as well. If you google health benefits of cinnamon, you may be surprised to find that this “spice” may protect you from a variety of illnesses ranging from cancer to cough and cold.
The health benefits of Cinnamon are in fact so many that it is extremely difficult to list all of them in any one place. It appears that Cinnamon contains some powerful chemicals that help:
• Control diabetes by improving blood glucose and lipid levels.
• Improve digestion by reducing indigestion, ulcers, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome.
• Relieve arthritic pain due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
• Reduce body’s adverse reaction to high fat foods.
• Treat common cold.
• Heal muscular injury.
• Fight against bacterial and fungal infections.
• Beat heart disease.
• Stop tooth decay.
• Cure pimples.
• Encourage weight loss
Some of the other rather astounding discoveries include:
• The ability to inhibit the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
• Prevent cancer as Cinnamon extracts have been found to delay the growth of unhealthy cells leaving healthy cells unaffected unlike in chemotherapy.
• Prevent multiple sclerosis.
• May potentially be effective against HIV.
So, the next time you are feeling guilty about having that mouth-watering piece of a cinnamon roll or Indian chicken curry (because of calories), you may want to remind yourself of the large number of medical benefits that cinnamon is endowed with.
If you want to include cinnamon in your daily diet, you could simply sprinkle it on your food. Kashmiris put Cinnamon powder in their tea which they call “Kehwa” that is usually served after dinner. Many claim that adding a teaspoon of Cinnamon and honey in your morning tea would protect you from common cold and stomach worries.
That’s actually an excellent suggestion from my personal experience.
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