Did you know cinnamon is one of the most widely used spices in the world next to black pepper? (1)
And wow does it have history! Cinnamon has been used for thousands of years in cooking and traditional healing modalities like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Herbalism (TCM). There is evidence of its use in ancient Egypt and medieval Europe.
There is even mention of cinnamon in the Old Testament of the Bible.
Everyone’s had it… most people love it… but have you ever had it as a tea?
Cinnamon can indeed be brewed into a nourishing tea which boasts many powerful health benefits.
Plus, it tastes like Christmas in a cup.
In case you need any more reason to try, here’s some more info to get you started!
Cinnamon tea is a tisane, or herbal tea, made by brewing cinnamon bark in hot water. It is generally made with cinnamon sticks, though crushed bark, cinnamon powder, or cinnamon extract may also be used.
Cinnamon is an earthy, woody spice which lends a warm, spicy, and subtly sweet flavor.
Naturally caffeine-free, cinnamon tea is the perfect, cozy beverage to enjoy in the evening.
Cinnamon tea may also be made with tea leaves and enhanced with other flavors or spices. In Korea, cinnamon tea, or “gyepi-cha,” is mixed with ginger tea and usually sweetened with honey and garnished with jujubes. In India, cinnamon is blended with black tea and other warming spices like cardamom, ginger, cloves, and black pepper to make traditional “masala chai.”
Cinnamon is actually a dried bark. It is cultivated from the inner bark of evergreen trees belonging to the genus Cinnamomum. Cinnamon trees grow in South and Southeast Asia.
There are hundreds of different types of cinnamon, though only two are used for their culinary and medicinal properties: Ceylon and Cassia.
Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum), sometimes called “true cinnamon,” comes from Sri Lanka. It is highly regarded for its softer, sweeter flavor profile which lends well to culinary use. Ceylon cinnamon sticks are medium brown in color and consist of multiple thin layers of soft rolled bark.
Cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) actually includes three regional varieties of cinnamon: Cassia (Chinese cinnamon), Saigon (Vietnamese cinnamon), and Korintje (Indonesian cinnamon). These are very similar to each other and differ only slightly in color, taste, or shape.
Compared to Ceylon, Cassia cinnamon is darker in color–a brownish red–and has a more intense, spicy flavor and aroma. Cassia cinnamon sticks are comprised of a single, thick layer of hard rolled bark.
In the west, Ceylon cinnamon is harder to come by. This makes it more expensive and thus typically regarded as “better.”
Yet, the more abundant Cassia accounts for the vast majority of cinnamon sold and used in North America.
Cassia is so prevalent that most packaging for the spice doesn’t even specify the varietal but says, simply, “cinnamon.” Unless the container is labeled “Ceylon,” it most likely contains cassia.
Aside from taste, the only real distinction between Ceylon and Cassia is their coumarin levels. Coumarin is a natural flavor compound that can cause liver damage in high doses for sensitive or predisposed individuals. Cassia contains much higher concentrations of coumarin, so Ceylon may be a better choice for people who consume cinnamon on a daily basis.
Assuming normal consumption, though, neither cinnamon is unequivocally “better” than the other. It really comes down to taste preference. And quality.
And high quality cinnamon, whether Ceylon or Cassia, makes a delicious tisane and boasts many health benefits.
Cinnamon tea is also loaded with polyphenols and other antioxidants. Antioxidant activity helps protect the body from the harmful effects of free radicals and oxidative stress. Antioxidants also have anti-inflammatory properties that support heart health and healthy brain function, among other health benefits. Polyphenols help prevent the formation of advanced glycation end-products (AGE) which can damage cells and negatively affect health. (5)(6)
The unique antibacterial properties of cinnamaldehyde, the main active component in cinnamon, makes cinnamon an immune system ally. This also has beneficial effects on oral health: cinnamon is often used for toothaches and to improve bad breath. (7)
Cinnamon essential oil is also used in aromatherapy— the use of plant essential oils that can be absorbed through the skin. Research shows that massaging cinnamon oil into the abdomen may be beneficial in menstrual pain management. (8)
Of course, long before we enjoyed the aromatic benefits of cinnamon as a flavoring in the United States, this superfood spice was an essential component of Traditional Chinese Herbalism. In fact, the use of high-quality “Chinese” (cassia) cinnamon in herbalism dates back as far as 3000 BC.
In traditional herbalism, cinnamon is recommended for a myriad of reasons, including support for the respiratory system, healthy circulation, and even to support natural pain management.
Guided heavily by the concept of yin and yang, TCM emphasizes the importance of balancing opposite forces in order to remain in harmony with ourselves and the universe. It is when we become out of balance that health problems can develop.
Cinnamon is a deeply warming spice with a strong yang energy that has an energizing effect on the body. It can be used to counteract an excess of cool, dark yin energy. It is said to help expel cold from the body.
When used in traditional herbalism, ground cinnamon is often added to stews or soups or mixed with other herbs into an herbal remedy formula to get its positive effects. They may also be steeped and consumed as a therapeutic cup of tea, with or without other herbs and spices.
Of course, cinnamon tea bags are available for purchase. But, with only two ingredients–quality cinnamon sticks and hot water–you can easily brew your own tasty tea.
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 8 oz. boiling water
- Flavor enhancers (optional) fresh ginger root, turmeric, black/rooibos tea, apples, cardamom pods, etc.
- In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add cinnamon stick and flavor enhancers (if using) to boiling water, cover, and let steep for 8-10 minutes.
- Remove cinnamon stick (strain out other ingredients, if using) and enjoy!
- You may also add non-dairy milk and a touch of raw honey as a sweetener, if desired.
Coumarin (found in cassia cinnamon) can lead to liver failure if consumed in large amounts. High levels of cinnamaldehyde can potentially trigger an allergic reaction. Cinnamon may also interact with certain medications, like those for blood-sugar, so it is best to consult with your healthcare provider before incorporating cinnamon tea into your health routine.
Cinnamon is a beloved holiday spice and so much more!
There are two varieties: Ceylon and Cassia. Ceylon lends a softer, sweeter flavor to a cup of cinnamon tea, but many prefer the more familiar, spicy note of Cassia. Both are safe in moderation and either can be used to brew a delicious, aromatic cinnamon tea.
Cinnamon has been used for thousands of years as a spice and natural remedy. Drinking cinnamon tea is a delicious way to get your daily dose of cinnamon and enjoy the many health benefits of this superfood spice.