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July 21, 2020
Thoughts of cinnamon might lead you to think of winter holidays, mulled cider and, if you’ve ever been to a holiday party inspired by too many Martha Stuart articles, the question, “Why is there a piece tree bark in my drink?” And it’s true- cinnamon is a common spice in my winter treats due to its warm nature. But I have a piece of apple pie and a plate of sinckerdoodles that says cinnamon has a place in summer treats as well. Regardless of your seasonal preferences for cinnamon, it holds a therapeutic place in traditional Chinese medicine largely due to its warming nature.
Scientific NameCinnamomum cassia Common Name (Western)Cinnamon bark Chinese Name (Pin Yin)Gui Zhi / Rou Gui OriginCultivated throughout the southern coastal provinces of China, harvested in the fall
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Cinnamon is an excellent example of how in traditional Chinese medicine different parts of the same plant have different, though often related functions. There are two distinct herbs, cinnamon twig and cinnamon bark, Gui Zhi and Rou Gui, placed into different therapeutic categories that both come from the Chinese cinnamon tree. Gui Zhi comes from the small branches of the tree and thus looks like little sticks. Rou Gui is the bark of the tree and looks more like the rolls of cinnamon sticks we are accustomed seeing in our warm apple cider. Both of these herbs taste and smell like the culinary herb used to spice cookies, but are used in to greater quantities to produce a therapeutic effect. Cinnamon bark is harvested from older trees, typically a minimum age of seven years.
Much like their place on the tree, cinnamon twig is used for more exterior conditions while cinnamon bark, especially the inner bark, is used for problems more interior to the body. Cinnamon twig is used to warm the exterior of the body, and unblock vessels in the extremities, in the joints and limbs. It also has an effect to reduce edema due to cold. Cinnamon bark by contrast works to warm the body on a much deeper level, often used in formulations to treat common geriatric complaints such as frequent urination, lack of appetite, constant feeling of cold, and weak back.
Neither form of cinnamon should be used therapeutically during pregnancy without proper medical supervision. For both forms, caution should be used in cases of excess bleeding or a tendency to bleed more easily with signs of heat. Culinary use is fine in all these cases since the amount of cinnamon used is considerably smaller. Do bear in mind, though, that for food, cinnamon is often combined with sugar, which always requires moderation.
Cinnamon twig is used in Back in Action and its encapsulated cousin Back in Action XT for its properties related to joint and limb pain and circulation. Cinnamon bark is not used in any of the Herbalogic formulas because it is very strong medicine, not needed by most people. For those of you with refined pallets, cinnamon twig adds a cinnamon flavor to the Back in Action drops.
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