The word "cinnamon", comes from the Hebrew word "amomon", which means "ancient spice". The Latin word for cinnamon, "canella", or "canela" means tube, referring to the way cinnamon forms a tube, or roll, when it's dried up. The cinnamon tree is native to the Island of Ceylon, Sri Lanka, although cinnamon is now grown all over the world. Since the ancient times, cinnamon was a very important spice.
The Bible makes mentions the spice many times. For example, Moses is commanded to use cinnamon in the holy anointing oil. Solomon describes his beloved as having garments scented with cinnamon, the "scent of Lebanon".
Cinnamon was also used frequently by medieval physicians to cure all sorts of health ailments. Cinnamon was used as a blood thinner because of its chemical coumarin, which acts to prevent clotting. Cinnamon was used for a variety of stomach ailments because it contains the chemical carmine, a substance that helps break up intestinal gas. Cinnamon was used to treat coughs and sore throats because it contains essential oils that have been shown to have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. It seems to be especially effective against germs in the gall bladder and to treat staph bacterial infections. Cinnamon was also used by diabetics because it contained chemicals that help insulin metabolize glucose, which aids in controlling blood sugar. For all these reasons, and for the fact that cinnamon is so aromatic and nice smelling, cinnamon made a great addition to food and an even better addition to desserts. (Especially since it will help control your blood sugar after you eat a huge piece of cake!) Because the Moors ruled Spain for over 500 years, they are the ones generally credited with bringing cinnamon to Latin America.
It seems like you see cinnamon on and in everything in Salvadoran sweets. To name just a few, we have:
- Arroz con Leche
- Atol de Elote
- Atol de Semilla de Maranon
- Bollos de Canela
- Carrot Mango Cupcakes
- Horchata Salvadorena
- White Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes
Next time you are craving something sweet, make one of these desserts containing cinnamon and tell everyone you are only eating it for the health benefits!
- Egyptians used to use cinnamon to embalm their dead bodies.
- Cinnamon is rumored to be a powerful aphrodisiac on men.
- Cinnamon is said to aid in the secretion of breast milk and reduce menstrual cramps.
- Cinnamon oil is a good mosquito repellant.
- Cinnamon is an excellent additive for chewing gum because of its aromatic and antibacterial properties, which help fight bad breath bacteria.
Pregnant women should not use cinnamon spice in high doses because its blood thinning properties. Cinnamon oil has been associated with miscarriages in some women.