Cinnamon is one of the most beloved, widely-used spices in the world. Derived from the inner bark of tropical evergreen trees in the Cinnamomum genus, cinnamon boasts a long history dating back thousands of years to Ancient Egypt, where it was highly prized and even used in embalming.
In her comprehensive book “Cinnamon – Nature's Versatile Spice: Over 150 Special Uses of Cinnamon”, author Tacha Howard thoroughly explores cinnamon's myriad applications and benefits throughout history along with its diverse culinary, medicinal, household, craft and beauty uses in modern times.
Overview of the Book
Origin and History
The book opens with an engaging overview of cinnamon's ancient origins and its popularity as an exotic spice trade commodity coveted across Europe and Asia during medieval times. We learn how the first references to cinnamon date back to Biblical times and Ancient Egypt, where pharaohs treasured and hoarded the precious spice. The likely origin of the name “cinnamon” is discussed – derived from the Hebrew word for horn, referring to its characteristic tightly-rolled bark shape.
Cinnamon's role in exploration and history is highlighted – the spice was so precious that the quest for its source motivated Christopher Columbus and other 15th century explorers' expeditions. For centuries, Arab traders monopolized the cinnamon trade, managing to keep the origins of their lucrative spice secret. We learn how cultivated cinnamon varieties started appearing around the 1700s in Ceylon and proliferation increased from the 1800s onwards.
Types of Cinnamon
The book dives into the differences between the two main types of cinnamon – Ceylon and Cassia. Ceylon cinnamon is known as “true cinnamon” and comes from Sri Lanka. It has a delicately sweet and complex flavor perfect for desserts. Cassia cinnamon originates from China and is more pungent, reddish-brown in color with a rougher texture and more intense flavor. Saigon cinnamon from Vietnam is also described as a close cassia relative.
Nutrition and Health Benefits
A helpful nutrition summary documents how cinnamon is packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Its potent polyphenol, flavonoid and phenolic acid profile contributes to cinnamon's medicinal properties. Research on lowering blood pressure, improving insulin sensitivity, and fighting harmful bacteria, fungi and viruses is cited. The anti-clotting and potential cancer-fighting abilities of cinnamaldehyde, cinnamon's main active compound, are also highlighted.
The book's largest section features over 50 diverse recipes utilizing cinnamon to highlight its incredible versatility as an ingredient. The recipes are thoughtfully grouped into categories like baked goods, breakfasts, appetizers, soups, vegetables, chicken, beef, desserts and more. Mouthwatering examples include Cinnamon Sugar Donuts, Moroccan Chicken Stew with Cinnamon, Cinnamon Basil Pesto Pasta, Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies, Plum Crisp with Cinnamon Streusel, and Cinnamon Poached Pears. The recipes specify type and amount of cinnamon and offer beautifully illustrated, easy-to-follow instructions.
Beyond cuisine, the book explores over 50 clever and practical ways to use cinnamon around the house. For example, cinnamon's natural antibacterial properties make it ideal for homemade, eco-friendly cleaners to disinfect kitchens and bathrooms. Simmering cinnamon sticks or essential oil can infuse the home with cozy, spicy fragrance. Placing cinnamon sticks in areas where pests congregate deters ants and moths. Mixed with baking soda, it acts as an effective, non-toxic abrasive scrub for pots and sinks. Cinnamon becomes home decor in the form of rustic ornaments and fragrant potpourri.
Health and Beauty Applications
Wellness and beauty uses make up another 50+ list of cinnamon's benefits. It can help balance blood sugar, boost brain power, soothe indigestion, reduce inflammation causing arthritis and more. The author highlights research on using cinnamon for Alzheimer's, HIV, cancer treatment and more. For DIY spa treatments, the book suggests invigorating cinnamon facials, baths, lip plumpers and skin exfoliants. As a supplement, it may aid metabolism and weight loss. Cinnamon also promotes hair growth and prevents lice.
Cinnamon sticks and ground spice create rustic, natural holiday ornaments like wreaths and potpourri. Added to flower arrangements, cinnamon lends visual interest and cozy aroma. Upcycling old candles into new cinnamon-scented ones is an easy craft project.
In closing, the book contains a thorough FAQ covering common cinnamon queries on topics like storing, shelf life, fire safety, origins and more. A standout chapter discusses potential cinnamon toxicity risks for pets. While small amounts may be safe in food, high doses of cinnamon can damage liver health in dogs and cats.
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Conclusion on Book Review “Cinnamon – Nature's Versatile Spice: Over 150 Special Uses of Cinnamon” by Tacha Howard:
Overall, Tacha Howard provides an extensively researched, well-written and beautifully designed guide to maximizing cinnamon's versatile potential from the kitchen to the craft room. With over 150 diverse applications, both time-tested and exploratory, this book opens eyes to how a humble spice can profoundly enhance so many aspects of everyday life. The ample evidence-based research, safety data, recipes and practical tips make this book an invaluable resource for anyone seeking to better utilize cinnamon's numerous benefits.