Cinnamon is made from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum tree, a large tropical evergreen abundant in Southeast Asia, and its use dates back to at least 2700 BCE. Most commonly used as a food flavouring, it serves to enhance sweetness due to the synergetic effect of its distinctive aroma.
But more than just a versatile spice, cinnamon also has a plethora of reported health benefits, with the 12th century German Herbalist Hildegard of Bingen suggesting that it was "the universal spice for sinuses" helping to cure "inner decay and slime".
It was used in Indian medical traditions for centuries, and by America's Eclectic physicians in the 1900s, to aid digestion as well as being a treatment for vomiting, diarrhoea and bronchitis, among other ailments. It was also found in many popular toothpowders during the 19th century, helping to not only neutralise bad breath and fight bacteria but also sweeten the unpalatable abrasive substances in the mixture, which could include ground cuttlefish bones, hoof ashes and even brick dust!
These benefits are not just medicinal folklore. According to the USDA, cinnamon has the third highest level of antioxidants in any natural food*, with anti-fungal and antibacterial properties making it a first class food preservative. In more recent research it has even been shown to have a positive impact on blood sugar regulation.