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The Spice of Life & The Native Canela




Another foot of snow on the ground in my corner of the world. What else would you expect from the sweet state of Michigan? The shape of the land itself is in the form of winter apparel (a mitten). As for me, I live in the far north, where it’s closer for you to go to the North Pole than it is to the equator. We call it “life above the 45th parallel.” After emerging from my hibernation home, I stumbled back inside, cold to the bone. While peeling off my wet clothes, I quickly head straight for my oil shelf. I locate a homemade lotion and a certain essential oil: cinnamon bark. First, I use the essential oil by putting several drops into my diffuser. The warm, spicy scent fills my senses and knocks off the initial chill from my core.

 

For aromatic use, cinnamon not only fills the air with a delightful smell, but the strong benefits are also essential to note. Diffusing cinnamon bark defends against that pesky cough from something as little as a common cold, to the serious pneumonia and even whooping cough.

 

The lotion is next. Last month, using cocoa butter as my base, I mixed a combination of essential oils together, creating a warming and effective lotion. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t dilute the lotion enough, and it not only warms my skin but slightly burns it. I’ll do better next time. Take a page from my book friends; essential oils get stronger the longer they sit! Besides, it is good to have a little peace of mind knowing that the cinnamon oil provides me with antibacterial and antifungal effects. (Recommended dilution rate for cinnamon bark essential oil ranges from 0.1-0.5%, depending on the project.)



Next, with a spicy smell in the air and the chill of winter off my skin, it’s time for some hot treats. As stated before, I’m from the north, and in the north, we’re crazy about our apples. In this particular case, it’s applesauce that takes the spotlight. During the harvest season, my family canned fresh applesauce. I look forward to this treat during the cold winter months. A bowl of hot, chunky, thick applesauce can warm a belly like no other. By now, I’ll bet you can guess what the key spice in my applesauce is - cinnamon. Upon taking my first bite, a burst of comfort invades my senses, and the feeling lasts until I have finished eating and the bowl is empty.

 

Along with the health benefits of taking cinnamon I mentioned before, other benefits include increased circulation, decreased hypertension (high blood pressure), and lower cholesterol. Cinnamon has been known to aid in fat-burning, and is even a supporter of good digestive health. The sweet spice is a natural anti-inflammatory (perfect for relaxation of the body before sleep) and loaded with antioxidants (boosting your immunity). In addition to many other benefits that I’m certainly missing, according to the National Library of Medicine, cinnamon has been “reported to have activities against neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease”.

 

The main reason I use cinnamon daily is to help chase the seemingly elusive dream I call, “staying warm.” It’s the perfect spice that nearly everyone has in their kitchen. Cinnamon pairs wonderfully with coffee and hot chocolate! As for topical use, remember to dilute the essential oil well in an oil-based substance (unless you want to feel the burn). NEVER dilute any essential oil with water. In light of all this information, don’t let anyone convince you you shouldn’t have that enormous cinnamon roll from the Cinnabon bakery. Finally, stay warm on these cold nights!

 

Check out some of these other great cinnamon recipes below!



The Native Canela

Excerpt from Christopher Columbus, Gonzalo Pizarro, and the Search for Cinnamon. Given its high value as a medicine, a component of incense used in religious practices, and a flavoring, Europeans searched for this special spice everywhere they set their feet. Including the "New World".


Among those excited about potential new sources of cinnamon was Francisco Pizarro. Fresh from his destruction of the Incan Empire, Pizarro recruited his brother, Gonzalo, to conquer a place he had heard of not far from his base in Quito called la Canela, the Land of Cinnamon. Contemporary accounts of what happened next are both confused and horrific.


Another Spanish explorer apparently told Gonzalo Pizarro he had found the “Valley of the Cinnamon,” though he hadn’t been able to explore it. He said local people had told him if he continued on he would find a flat land of prosperous people. Dalby suggests that what he had probably actually found was South American trees of the family Lauraceae, which smell sort of like cinnamon. The prosperous land was most likely the Amazon basin, where people cultivated many crops like cassava, maize, and yams—but not “cinnamon trees.”


Following the explorer’s instructions, Gonzalo Pizarro led a party from Quito in 1539. They also discovered the sweet-smelling trees. They then captured several local people, who were apparently mystified by the Spaniards’ questions about a rich valley where more such trees grew. Pizarro proceeded to have them tortured in an attempt to extract from them the whereabouts of the cinnamon.


“Having no satisfactory information to give, several Indians died under torture, while others were thrown to Pizarro’s hunting dogs,” Dalby writes.


Soon after, Pizarro’s party found a village headman who promised to guide them to the valley but managed to escape along the way. “It possibly never occurred to Pizarro, even afterward, that the headman kept up a supply of comforting information because he had heard what happened in the previous village and wanted to avoid his neighbors’ fate,” Dalby writes.


Ultimately, Pizarro and his men wandered for two and a half years looking for the elusive spice. Those who survived returned to Quito barefoot and almost naked, having eaten all the pigs, horses, and dogs they set out with, and no closer than ever to finding the Valley of Cinnamon. (4)

 



About Me:

Hello, my name is Shannon. I joined the team at FireKeepers International as a volunteer in 2023. In 2014, I began the Master Herbalist program at Trinity School of Natural Health and completed the program in September of 2017. Since then, my main studies have been biblical truths, astronomy and the Hebrew language. I am a born and raised "Michigander", currently living in one of Northern Michigan's beautiful national forests. When I'm not keeping busy with the homestead, you can find me out in nature or hibernating in my cabin.




 

Links and Resources:

1.         P. V. Rao and S. H. Gan

National library of medicine. 2014

 

2.         BBC Good Food

Williams, Jo – Registered nutritionist

March 16, 2023 at 10:41 AM

 

3.         Higley, Connie. Reference Guide For Essential Oils. Abundant Health (January 1, 2014)


4. Christopher Columbus, Gonzalo Pizarro, and the Search for Cinnamon

By: Andrew Dalby Gastronomica, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Spring 2001), pp. 40-49 University of California Press



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