Cinnamon is an ancient spice that comes from the bark of several species of the Cinnamomum genus of evergreen trees, which belong to the laurel family. The most popular types of cinnamon are native to Sri Lanka and China, though cinnamon is grown throughout Asia, Europe and North America.
Cinnamon, also known as Gui Zhi in East Asian Medicine, has been prized for its medicinal properties for thousands of years. The rolled pieces of cinnamon bark that are commonly found in holiday drinks, are known as Rou
Gui. In recent years, conventional medicine has begun to dig deeper into the many benefits of this warm, spicy herb.
Rou Gui, with its extremely pungent aroma, is often ground into powder and added to stews or soups to help invigorate the stomach, warm the lower back, relieve abdominal pain and reduce stomach bloating. Cinnamon can be administered in a few different ways. It is frequently decocted or steeped alongside other herbs and spices as a medicinal drink. Other times, it is powdered and taken as part of a Chinese herbal formula.
In Western medicine, cinnamon is used to fight off bacteria, especially in the teeth. It is also a great antioxidant that can potentially lower cholesterol. Modern pharmacological actions of cinnamon sticks include its ability to dilate blood vessels, promote circulation and enhance coronary and cerebral blood flow. Cinnamon bark oil can increase gastrointestinal secretions, enhance digestive function and eliminate gas in the digestive tract. Cinnamon oil also has been shown to have sedative and analgesic effects.
In EAM, the main uses for Rou Gui / Gui Zhi include the treatment of kidney yang deficiency leading to lower back pain and knee weakness, bladder infections, shortness of breath, asthma, edema, dizziness, ringing in the ears, abdominal pain, skin infections, arthritic pain and reduced appetite.
Rou Gui / Gui Zhi is extremely hot and EAM practitioners strongly advise against using it during pregnancy or menstruation, as well as in cases of hyperactivity due to yin deficiency.
It’s important to point out that long-term use (overdose) of cinnamon may cause acute poisoning with symptoms including blurred vision, swollen eyes, chest tightness, flushed face, skin rash, a tingling tongue or mouth lesions. It should be discontinued immediately if any of these symptoms occur.
Cinnamon is a versatile spice that is associated with a long list of health benefits. But as with any herb or supplement, it is recommended to work with a trained professional who can help you navigate the waters.