Few aromas are quite as seductive, or as warmly enveloping, as that of cinnamon, the fragrant bark of the eponymous tropical tree. Just half a teaspoon added to cakes, biscuits or puddings fills the kitchen with an intoxicating scent guaranteed to stimulate the appetite and raise the spirits.
One of the most versatile spices, and therefore a store-cupboard essential, cinnamon can take you on a savoury journey through the Levant, Africa, China and the Indian subcontinent, adding fragrance to stews, curries, and rice dishes; or down a sweeter northern European trail, where it is dangerously effective at transforming a pile of flour and sugar into something utterly addictive. It's easy to overdose on cinnamon simply because it is so pungent, so use it with restraint, or you may be put off it for life.
Why is cinnamon good for me? A well-used spice in Indian ayurvedic medicine, recent research confirm its healing properties. Researchers at the University of Toronto found that consumption of cinnamon can significantly reduce blood pressure, particularly in people diagnosed as pre-diabetic or type 2 diabetic. Cinnamon seems also to have a beneficial impact of blood-sugar levels, possibly because it aids glucose control by enhancing the effectiveness of insulin. Cinnamon also kills off bacteria that cause gum disease. In Sri Lanka, cinnamon sticks are used as toothpicks.