Medicinal properties of cinnamon

(Cinnamomun zeynalicum Breine)


Common English name: Cinnamon, Chinese cassia, Chinese cinnamon

– Spanish: Canela, Canela de Ceylán

– Catalan: Canyella

– Portuguese: Canela

– French: Cannelle

– German: Ceylomzint

– Italian: Cannella

– English: Cinnamon

Scientific name: (Cinnamomum verum = Cinnamomum zeylanicum).

Etymology: The name of the genus Cinnamomum comes from the Greek “Kinnamomon”. It is believed that it is derived from cina, referring to China, which is where cinnamon was formerly imported; and amomos, which means cardamom , a plant of the ginger family, with a cinnamon-like odor. The name is shared with cinnamon from China (Cinnamomum cassia (L.) D. Don)

Family: Lauraceae or laurel family, such as laurel (Laurus nobilis)

Description of cinnamon:

Cinnamon is an evergreen tree of the laurel family of up to 15 m. tall, though cultivated forms rarely exceed 10 m. Branches very aromatic with a double crust.


A drawing of the plant

Ovate leaves up to 18 cm in length, with three well-marked nerves, coriaceous, acuminate with the edge smooth and very fragrant. Reddish when young, becoming bright green and pale green underside at maturity.

Smelling flowers in panicles, white or red.

Brown or bluish black fruit, berry, about 1 cm in diameter, very spicy.

Tree coming from the south of India and Sri Lanka, appears cultivated in many warm places of the world.

Conservation of cinnamon: Cinnamon sticks should be stored in tightly closed containers in a cool, dry place under the light.

How is cinnamon obtained?

cinnnamon tree trunk

Photo of cinnnamon tree trunk where you can see the thick bark or cinnamon spice

Cinnamon may come from different species, although the most recognized is obtained from Cinnamomum verum = Cinnamomum zeylanicum that comes from Sri Lanca. This plant grows wild in Ceylon and other parts of the Moluccas. Today the cultivation of cinnamon is found in many hot countries.

Cinnamon spice, as we know it, comes from the lower crust of Chinese cassia or Chinese cinnamon. (More information on this subject in “Cinnamon as a spice“)

Components of cinnamon


Properties of cinnamon

Main curative properties of cinnamon

Traditional uses of cinnamon (History of cinnamon)

The use of cinnamon as a medicinal plant is very old. The ancient Egyptians knew it well, as is apparent in the drawings found in the pyramids. It was imported from China 2000 years BC. People used cinnamon, along with other spices, mainly for embalming their mummies.

In Greece and Rome it was frequently used to improve digestion. It is believed that this species, along with pepper and cardamom, were the first to be used in the Mediterranean area. The geographer and historian Herodotus (484-425 BC) mentions in his writings the use of this spice from Ceylon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) and that of Chinese cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia). The Romans used cinnamon in their important ceremonies. It is said that Nero burned all the cinnamon in Rome at the funeral of his wife in the year 65 BC.

Cinnamon is documented several times in the Bible, in the books of Exodus and Proverbs.

In the East the use of this spice is much earlier. In China is documented in the year 2700 BC. In India as a medicinal plant, its use in Ayurvedic medicine is ancient.

The consumption of cinnamon in the West has always been restricted to the wealthier classes were the only ones who could afford the prohibitive price of this spice that was brought from remote places.

During the Middle Ages most of its sales was controlled by the Venetians and Genoese merchants that obtained through the Muslims who controlled the eastern routes.

Cinnamon from Sri Lanka, ancient Ceylon or “island of spices”

In the sixteenth century, the Portuguese discovered Ceylon (now Sri Lanca) and monitored its operation until the mid-seventeenth century when the trade was dominated by the Netherlands.

In the late eighteenth century, the British seized the island and expelled the Netherlands. In the nineteenth century began to be grown elsewhere in the world. This, together with the replacement of this species for other foods, like chocolate or coffee, gradually found the end of the monopoly of this product and other spices by any Western power and the end of what became known as the Trade of Spices.


Cinnamon leaves

Cinnamon leaves


A remedy for digestive system diseases

Cinnamon possesses carminative, anti-ulcer, stomach and antiemetic properties. The digestive properties of this plant are produced by essential oils which containg food-disgregating properties. Likewise, these oils are responsible for stimulating saliva and gastric juices to facilitate digestion. These virtues are used for the treatment of digestive abnormalities such as:

  • Aerophagia: Carminative properties of this spice is conferred by camphor. This allows you to remedy the excessive gas or flatulence accumulated in the digestive tract. (Infusion of a spoonful of crumbled stick cinnamon per liter of water. Drink a pair of glasses per day)
  • Difficult digestions: Its components allow you to stimulate gastric acid and promote the breakdown of food which aids digestion. (¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon sold in pharmacies or herbalists before meals on a wafer or mixed with honey)
  • Abdominal pain: Cinnamon is very suitable for abdominal cramps. (¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon sold in pharmacies or herbalists before meals in wafer or mixed with honey)
  • Acidity: Cinnamon is, at the same time, a good antacid against excessive acidity. Sprinkle a little cinnamon on foods will help reduce it and feel better.
  • Lack of appetite: The special aroma of cinnamon stimulates the digestion and whets the appetite; it is indicated for cases of lack of appetite or anorexia. (Infusion of a spoonful of cinnamon shredded per liter of water. Drink two glasses a day half hour before meals) (add a pinch of cinnamon on the food after cooking and before serving)
  • Vomits: Camphor provides cinnamon with antiemetic properties, ideal for the treatment of nausea or vomits. (¼ of a teaspoon of dust cinnamon, sold in pharmacies or herbalists, before meals on a wafer or mixed with honey)

Cinnamon as an antiseptic and for intestinal health

Cinnamon has antiseptic, antibacterial and anthelmintic properties, to help eliminate pathogenic bacteria and microorganisms that cause intestinal putrefactions, especially in cases of constipation when food remains longer than necessary in the intestine.

Adding cinnamon to foods, in macerations or different preparations, cinnamon also prevents bacterial overgrowth that could cause food poisoning and diarrhea.

Other people chew cinnamon sticks daily to help fight off bacteria that cause bad breath and tooth decay.

For these uses it is recommended a cinnamon of good quality, preferably in cinnamon sticks or freshly ground. When cinnamon is ground (cinnamon powder), its essential oils are becoming volatilized and thus losing its antiseptic components (such as eugenol). It is recommended not to keep cinnamon powder for more than 12 months. Cinnamon sticks conserve oils better than the powdered spice.

Cinnamon to treat respiratory diseases

Respiratory Diseases: For its wealth of antibacterial, expectorant and anti-inflammatory, cinnamon is considered as a good ally of the digestive system in the treatment of common respiratory abnormalities.

Likewise, it has the ability to increase sweating and raise body temperature so it is particularly suitable for breathing problems caused by body cooling. Among them we can mention:

  • Bronchitis: The use of this plant help expel mucus and reduce inflammation. (Take 2 or 3 drops of oil of cinnamon leaf dissolved in a glass of warm water sweetened with a teaspoon of honey three times a day. The essence can be found in pharmacies or herbalists) See contraindications and toxicity
  • Colds: The use of cinnamon in colds helps patients feel better. (Take 2 or 3 drops of essence of cinnamon dissolved in a glass of warm water sweetened with a teaspoon of honey three times a day. The essence can be found in pharmacies or herbalists) See contraindications and toxicity
  • Cough: The antitussive properties o the above the preparation help soothe coughs. See contraindications and toxicity

Cinnamon for diseases of the circulatory system

Diseases of the circulatory system: cinnamon possesses antiplatelet, antithrombotic and antiesclerotic properties, which encourage blood circulation. These properties have been used to treat abnormalities related to poor circulation.

Especially, it has been used to treat poor peripheral circulation in fingers and toes, particularly aggravated by cold. This spice has succeeded in improving circulation and increases body temperature which improves the condition of patients suffering from the fingers when it’s cold.

It would also be appropriate in the treatment of chilblains, which are compounded when freezes or contact with the snow or cold (Infusion of a spoonful of cinnamon shredded per liter of water. Drink two glasses per day)

Other medicinal uses of cinnamon

cinnamon tree

Botanical illustration

It has been verified that this plant is suitable for the treatment of other anomalies:

  • Difficult Menstruations: Cinnamon helps regulate menstruation being useful in the irregular menstruations or the delays of the period (Infusion of a spoonful of shredded cinnamon per liter of water. Drink two glasses per day)
  • Improve learning and concentration: Cinnamon in small amounts stimulates the nervous system and can be used to improve learning. In high doses, cinnamaldehyde is sedative and may make it difficult to study, although it would be useful when there is a lot of nervousness.
  • Cancer: Cinnamaldehyde, present in the essential oil of cinnamon, has shown antioxidant properties by reducing the formation of free radicals. In that sense, some studies investigate cinnamon and its possible effect against cancer.
  • Appetizing: Its aroma stimulates the production of digestive juices increasing your appetite (Infusion of a spoonful of shredded cinnamon per liter of water. Drink a few glasses a day half an hour before meals)
  • Stimulant: Read more.
  • Modifier of the flavor: Cinnamon is used in combination with other herbs to modify the flavor and odor.
  • Urinary incontinence: Cinnamon has astringent properties, especially suitable to treat nocturnal incontinence (Chew a small branch of this plant)


Used externally, cinnamon is used primarily as an antiseptic for the treatment of diseases related to bacteria and fungi. External application has been interesting in conditions such as:

  • Fungi in feet and nails: These same properties are useful in treating foot fungi, especially in the socalled athlete’s foot and nail fungus. (Make a foot bath with the liquid from the infusion of two teaspoons of cinnamon broken up into a couple of liters of water.)
  • Respiratory infections: For the treatment of the sore throat, pharyngitis laryngitis we can gargle with the liquid from the infusion of half a teaspoon of cinnamon shredded per glass of water.
  • Mouth ulcers: In case of mouth ulcers, make mouthwashes with the previous preparation.
  • Bad breath: The coumarins and vanilla have bacteriostatic properties which precludes the development of bacteria in the leftover food from the mouth and prevent halitosis. Keep in mind that cinnamon contains about 50 aromatic components, mainly for being rich in terpenes. (Perform rinses with the liquid from the infusion of a couple of tablespoons of shredded cinnamon per liter of water) Do not ingest.

Other non medicinal uses of cinnamon

te chai

Photo of tea Chai.

This infusion is typical of India and is prepared with tea, cinnamon and a mixture of spices

Besides its medicinal uses, we have to emphasize other very important uses:

  • Cinnamon as a spice: As a spice it is widely used in cooking pasta, cakes, jams, rice, meat, fruit and vegetable salads, fruits, baked and grilled. (See more information about “Cinnamon and spice”.)
  • Cinnamon in the industry: The industry uses cinnamon for its antifungal and antibacterial properties. Become a part in the composition of many products related to hygiene of the mouth. (Toothpaste, mouthwash, etc)
  • Cinnamon in pharmacy: essential oil of this plant is used in pharmacy in the composition of syrups for colds and catarrh and nasal sprays.
  • Cinnamon in the food industry: The essential oil for food preservation and its wealth of aromas and flavor and smell of many preparations, including beverages such as colas, gum, or many alcoholic beverages.
  • Cinnammon in the perfume industry: Its rich fragrance makes it very suitable in the perfume industry, being used in the manufacture of perfumes, soaps, shampoos, etc.


Cinnamon for pregnancy and lactation

The use of preparations of cinnamon is contraindicated in pregnant or lactating women. Its use stimulates the movements of the uterus which can cause abortions.

Women who wish to become pregnant should not take it because it is believed to have contraceptive properties. In fact, in India, the women taken after childbirth to delay a possible pregnancy.

Also not be given to children under two years.

Contraindications and side-effects of cinnamon

Cinnamon bark, taken in excess or prolonged use, is toxic and can cause burning mouth, ulcers or sores in the mouth. This is what usually happens to people chewing cinnamon along the day.

In high doses is responsible for the onset of breathing difficulties or seizures.

Even at therapeutic doses (2-4 grams daily), it can cause stomach problems such as diarrhea, gastritis, or allergic reactions in some people.

Essential oil of cinnamon

The essential oil of cinnamon is obtained by distilling the leaves or inner bark of this plant. The cinnamon leaf oil should only be administered under medical supervision. Its use may be responsible for the occurrence of digestive or kidney problems. In external use should be diluted and should be used with caution to avoid irritation.

The essential oil of cinnamon bark should not be used in internal or external use, since it is a powerful poison. In external use on skin it may cause dermatitis or burns if not diluted with a carrier oil.

* Related information :

Toxicity of cinnamom

Contraindications of cinnamon

Side effects of cinnamon

How to preserve cinnamon?

Cinnamon sticks should be kept in tightly closed containers in a cool, dry place protected from light.

Can the leaves of the cinnamon tree be used?

The leaves of the cinnamon tree also contain essential oils, so a certain phytotherapeutic effect can be expected. These leaves are very rich in eugenol, with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic, carminative, pesticidal, vasodilating, … Also they contain cinnamaldehyde, safrole, beta-caryophyllene, sesquiterpenes.

Because of its safrole content, caution should be exercised with these infusions (caution, since safrole is carcinogenic, although only in high doses or if taken very frequently).

The leaves of cinnamon also contain coumarins (antivitamin K), so it should be used with caution, especially in the case of taking medicines.

Other species of cinnamomun

  • Camphor (Cinnamomun camphora ) In the same genus, but with a very different name, the camphor tree comes from tropical Asia. It is a plant that can reach 30 m in height. From the bark of this tree camphor is obtained, a resin that is used in medicine, perfume production. In the chemical industry is used as an insect repellent, especially for moths and the plastics industry.

In medicine, it is mainly used as a diaphoretic, stimulant, carminative, digestive, sedative, antiseptic, antirheumatic, vulnerary and vermifuge.

  • Cinnamon from China or Cassia (Cinnamomum aromaticum Cinnamomum cassia Blume =) comes from China and Indonesia. It is a tree up 15 m high and with very distinctive red bark. It is the species most commonly used in America as opposed to the Ceylon cinnamon that is more used in Europe. Its properties are similar to this, especially in regard to its digestive properties and its antiseptic properties for external use.

In Chinese traditional medicine it is used more often than true cinnamon. (See more information about this plant in the list above)

In addition to cinnamon from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and from China, we should highlight other cinnamon that can be used in most cases with properties similar to these. Chemically the main difference is that they contain less eugenol than the cinnamon studied in this article:

  • Indonessian cinnamon, Korintje, Java cinnamon, Padang cassia, Batavia cassia (Cinnamomum burmannii (Nees & T. Nees) Blume): More economical and tasting more bitter than cinnamon, it is the most widely used in Southeast Asian countries. The quality depends on whether it is extracted from the trunk or branches of the tree, and the size of the cut piece.
  • Laurel bobo or Laurel avispillo: (Cinnamomum elongatum (Nees) Kosterm.): Native of the Caribbean islands.
  • Indian bay leaf (Cinnamomum tamala (Buch.Ham.) T. Nees & Eberm.): The leaves, known as tamalapatra or tvakpatra, are used in the elaboration of mixtures of spices (Garam masala). It is commonly known as :Indian bay leaf, tejpat, tejapatta, Malabar leaf, Indian bark, Indian cassi or malabathrum

punto rojoMore information on cinnamon.

This article was endorsed by Vicente Martínez Centelles - Founder of the web and director. Teacher of natural sciences, expert in plants, natural remedies and botanical photography.
Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

23 November, 2020

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