The other day I put cinnamon on my oatmeal, taking a moment to marvel at its color and aroma. I thought, “Cinnamon is a fascinating thing!” Realizing how little I knew about it, I decided to do some reading on this tasty little spice.

Cinnamon, one of the world’s oldest spices, is obtained from the inner bark of several tropical evergreen trees from the cinnamomum family. Today there are basically two types of cinnamon: Ceylon cinnamon and Cassia cinnamon. Cassia is more

Cinnamon powder and sticks.

Cinnamon powder and sticks.

common and is probably the one you have in your kitchen cupboard. As you probably know, cinnamon is sold in two forms: in dry tubular form or sticks (called quills) and as powder.

Cinnamon has been around since antiquity. Historical records show that the Chinese used it in their medicine as far back as 2,700 BC. In 2,000 BC the Egyptians used cinnamon in beverages, medicine, and as an embalming agent. There are several references to cinnamon in the Bible. Moses, for example, commanded the people to use cinnamon in the holy oil of anointing (Ex. 30:23). It was also used in incense on the altar in Jerusalem. In the Song of Songs (4:14), the lover’s bed is perfumed with myrrh, aloes, and (you guessed it) cinnamon.

The historian Pliny tells us that, in ancient Rome, 327 grams of cinnamon (11.5 oz.) sold for 300 denarii. That’s what a laborer made in ten months! At times cinnamon was more valuable than gold! Why was it so expensive? Because for centuries the source of cinnamon was a carefully guarded secret. Traders refused to divulge its source as a way to control the market and make more money. So, for a long time people had no idea where cinnamon came from. Rumors said it came from birds’ nests and even from fish in the Nile!

The website Kitchen Dictionary calls cinnamon “one of the biggest workhorses on the spice shelf.” Cinnamon is used in our apple pies, cinnamon buns, donuts, candy, coffee, and tea. (Whenever I’m at an airport, I am always tempted by the aroma emanating from the Cinnabon store. Are you? I seldom give in to the temptation, though, after I learned one cinnabon has 890 calories!)  Historically, cinnamon was also thought to be an aphrodisiac. Is that one reason men and women love apple pies so much? Is that the origin of the proverb: the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach? Who knows?!  We also use cinnamon in our breakfast cereals as well as in chicken dishes, lamb recipes, stews, and sauces. We use it as an alcoholic flavorant too, such as Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey, Red Stag Spiced by Jim Bean, and certain vodkas. (I have not tried any of these. Yet.)

Can you smell these cinnamon buns?

Can you smell these cinnamon buns?

Even ancient people sensed cinnamon’s medicinal properties. At one time it was thought to cure snake bites, freckles, the common cold, and kidney problems. Today there is evidence that cinnamon possesses anti-viral properties. It is also believed to help control blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetics. Researchers continue to test cinnamon as an antioxidant in the fight against colon cancer and as an inhibitor to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. For the vast majority of people, cinnamon has no adverse side affects. But consuming too much cinnamon can cause liver and kidney damage in some individuals.

cinnamon coffee

Yummy cinnamon coffee…

What does all of this have to do with everyday spirituality? Cinnamon is a wonderful little gift. It spices up our life (pun intended.) It also has definite health benefits. And yet, like many of the gifts we have received from our imaginative and magnanimous Creator, we can take it for granted. Sometimes (like today) it’s just good to take a few minutes to give thanks.

Dear God,

Thank you for cinnamon,

that tasty little spice you tucked away for us

in the inner bark of those tropical evergreen trees.

Thank you for the beauty of its color, the pleasure of its aroma,

and the delight it adds to our apple pies, buns, coffee, tea, meats, sauces, cereals, and alcoholic beverages.

Thank you too for its medicinal benefits,

those we’ve already discovered,

and those which we may uncover in the future.

May we continue to learn about and enjoy the many gifts

you have given to us for our pleasure and health.

And may we never take these precious gifts for granted. Amen.


What has been your experience with cinnamon?

Are there other gifts you’d like to thank God for?

PS: The Cinnabon company claims their products have “unmatched crave appeal.” They welcome you to stop by their counter “for your mini vacation.” And their motto is: “Life needs frosting.” I was thinking, could our Church learn anything from them when it comes to evangelization? Any thoughts?

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  1. Kathleen Magiera on May 12, 2014 at 5:05 am

    Great reflection on cinnamon Sr. Melannie! It is the little things in life that we miss at times. I put cinnamon in my applesauce and heat it up a bit. Really good way to start my day.

    I thank God for everyday visits with my parents who are getting older but still pretty active. Both of them are wonderful examples of God’s love in my life.


    • Melannie Svoboda SND on May 12, 2014 at 2:42 pm

      Dear Kathleen, I put cinnamon on my applesauce too! And how good it is that you are grateful for those little visits from your parents. Yesterday, Mother’s Day, many of us who no longer have our mothers here on earth were missing those visits we used to have. Thank you for writing! Sr. Melannie

  2. Karen on May 12, 2014 at 9:58 am

    Sr Melannie – When you mentioned Cinnabon my thinking went off in a whole different direction. The lesson I see wrt Cinnabon is that they have managed to co-opt this wonderful spice and wrapped it up in the most unhealthy manner imaginable. (It really should be called FATabon or SUGARabon to properly credit the primary ingredients.) How many other groups “latch on” to a fundamentally good & healthy religious precept and then co-opt it into something ugly or unhealthy? Politicians, rights groups and even religious communities have all been known to do it. The advice to “read the Label” rather than listening to the “marketing” is good advice and not just for food!

    P.S. Cinnamon on warm homemade applesauce – the best!

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on May 12, 2014 at 2:44 pm

      Dear Karen, What wise advice: read the label! I, like you, love homemade applesauce–but I have not made it myself yet. It’s on my “bucket list.” Thanks for responding, Karen! Sr. Melannie

  3. Georgia Auckly on May 12, 2014 at 10:00 am

    We have a spice store near us in greater Kansas City where they sell Vietnamese and Ceylon cinnamon, cinnamon sugar, and the sticks. It smells really good there with all the spices (Penzey’s). We have friends whose son married a Vietnamese girl and as a small gift for those in attendance at their wedding, they used a little toothpick holder made from cinnamon bark from Vietnam, a really unusual and unique gift.
    Cinnamon is a gift! By the way Sr. Melanie, every time I read a column in Living Faith and think to myself how much I like and relate to what this says, I then see your name at the end as the author of that reflection!

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on May 12, 2014 at 2:48 pm

      Dear Georgia, Thank you for taking us into that spice store in Kansas City! What a fun place to visit and shop! And that toothpick holder made from cinnamon bark is certainly a beautiful and unique gift! And I’m glad you like the reflections in “Living Faith.” (Dear Readers: It’s published by Creative Communications and costs about $12 for a year’s subscription! I use it every day!) Thanks again, Georgia! Sr. Melannie

  4. Bozo on May 12, 2014 at 10:44 am

    We just learned another use for cinnamon, it’s one of the main ingredients in a product called Pest Rid that we ordered from Amazon, to use on our patio for all the lizards and worms. It has reduced the lizard population out there and worked well after the last rain storm when we usually get a patio filled with a dozen worms, no worms this time.
    Thank you Sr. Melanie, always enjoy your articles!

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on May 12, 2014 at 2:49 pm

      Dear Bozo, How interesting! That cinnamon can deter worms and lizards. I wonder why they don’t like it? I guess every creature’s nose and taste are different…Thanks for the tip! Sr. Melannie

  5. Jean Shott on May 12, 2014 at 11:50 am

    I love the way your mind works, almost like a child, investigating the everyday things we take for granted.

    I was thinking over the last couple of days how much I have to be thankful for – reasonable health, family, work (all the kids have jobs, too!)

    It is too easy to count complaints instead of blessings.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on May 12, 2014 at 2:52 pm

      Dear Jeannie, I don’t know how my mind words exactly. But since we’re first cousins, I suspect your mind might work a little bit like mine!…I know I wholeheartedly agree with you: It’s too easy to count complains instead of blessings. Thanks again for writing, dear “cuz.” Dolly

  6. Annie on May 12, 2014 at 11:52 am

    When Mom and I go shopping I’d treat her at Cinnabon. We’d split one of the large ones. It was worth every calorie for both of us to share that special treat and those special moments, and for me to do something for her that she wouldn’t have done for herself. Maybe that is why cinnamon is in so many baked goodies—to help our bodies deal with the sugar. By the way, cinnamon oil is also available. Many of the beneficial properties you mentioned are found to a greater extent in the oil. I have had experience in putting cinnamon oil on the pancreatic point of the foot (Vita-flex reflexology chart) the night before and having that person’s blood sugar back to near normal levels by morning.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on May 12, 2014 at 2:54 pm

      Dear Annie, I confess: I was once at an airport with my mother and we too split a cinnabon bun!!! It was her first one. I enjoyed not only my half, but also I enjoyed watching her enjoy her half! And thanks for reminding us about that cinnamon oil–which I also have and use when I’m stressed out. Your story is fascinating! Melannie

  7. Mary Schneider on May 12, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    A cousin gave me, many years ago, a list of medicinal uses for cinnamon. I never thought too much about this, except for one suggestion made for its use. Every morning I follow the instruction to combine about 1/2 tsp cinnamon with 1/2 tsp honey, mix thoroughly, put it in my mouth and “chase” it with 1/2 glass of hot water. This was felt to prevent the common cold, and because of cinnamon’s natural antibiotic properties, keeps bacterial infections at bay. So far so good! The original instruction was to stir the cinnamon and honey into the water but that was too much of a not particularly tasty drink.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on May 12, 2014 at 2:56 pm

      Dear Mary, Thank you for your health tip. I bet some of our readers will try it! I might too! Sr. Melannie

  8. Jerry Heil on May 13, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    After reading the Acts of the Apostles story of St. Peter’s vision, about nothing impure entering us from what we eat, I realized what a blessing
    is the humble pig. (Sorry vegans) but bacon has to be a gift from God!

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on May 15, 2014 at 9:08 am

      Dear Jerry, Thank you for your comments on the “humble pig.” The fact that so many fast food places now put bacon on everything proves that there are many people who share your taste! Thanks for writing, Jerry! Melannie

  9. Suzanne Sayer on May 13, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    A mixture of cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on toast (white bread is best!)–a great treat for breakfast. Thanks for such interesting information on such a common household item.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on May 15, 2014 at 9:09 am

      Dear Suzanne, I almost used a picture of cinnamon toast to illustrate this blog. I share your enthusiasm for this simple treat. Thanks for writing! Melannie

  10. Susan Bachner on May 17, 2014 at 6:05 am

    I can remember taking our children to the pediatrician and he would always serve. The parents cinnamon coffee. He would tell us that this was his treat and the cinnamon was a medicinal additive for ou health. Also love cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg on my tapicoca pudding. Great article! Thank you,

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