Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ceylon Cinnamon - Chef's Choice

Ceylon Cinnamon (Cinnamon Zeylcanium) has been sought after for centuries. It has many culinary as wells as medicinal usage. It is a bakers favorite for making sweet dishes, cinnamon rolls, flavored tea etc. Recently, it has been used by diabetic patients.

How to differentiate between Ceylon Cinnamon & Cassia
Most of the cinnamon sold in US grocery stores is not Ceylon Cinnamon, it is either Cassia, Saigon Cinnamon or Indonesian Cassia. Ceylon cinnamon, using only the thin inner bark, has a finer, less dense, and more crumbly texture, and is considered to be less strong than cassia. Cassia has a much stronger (somewhat harsher) flavor than cinnamon, is generally a medium to light reddish brown, hard and woody in texture, and thicker (2–3 mm thick), as all of the layers of bark are used. Ceylon Cinnamon is shown below

Due to the presence of a moderately toxic component called Coumarin, European health agencies have recently warned against consuming high amounts of cassia. This is contained in much lower dosages in Indonesian Cinnamon due to its low essential oil content. Coumarin is known to cause liver and kidney damage in high concentrations. True Ceylon cinnamon has negligible amounts of coumarin.
Federal Institute of Risk Management in Germany advises people to stop using Casssia due to it medical impacts. See this reference for more information.
The two barks, when whole, are easily distinguished, and their microscopic characteristics are also quite distinct. Ceylon Cinnamon sticks (or quills) have many thin layers and can easily be made into powder using a coffee or spice grinder, whereas cassia sticks are much harder.

Indonesian cassia is often sold in neat quills made up of one thick layer, capable of damaging a spice or coffee grinder. Saigon cassia and Chinese cassia are always sold as broken pieces of thick bark, as the bark is not supple enough to be rolled into quills. Picture shows the Cassia that has a single curl.

Cinnamon bark is widely used as a spice for flavoring. It is principally employed in cookery as a condiment and flavoring material. It's used in the preparation of chocolate, especially in Mexico, which is the main importer of true cinnamon. It is also used in the preparation of desserts, such as apple -pie and rolls as well as spicy candies, tea, hot coca, and liqueurs . True cinnamon, rather than cassia , is more suitable for use in sweet dishes due to sweeter taste. In the Middle East, it is often used in savory dishes of chicken and lamb. In the United States, cinnamon and sugar are often used to flavor cereals, bread-based dishes, and fruits, especially apples. Cinnamon can also be used in pickling. Cinnamon bark is one of the few spices that can be consumed directly. Cinnamon powder has long been an important spice in Persian cuisine, used in a variety of thick soups, drinks, and sweets. It is often mixed with rosewater or other spices to make a cinnamon-based curry powder for stews or just sprinkled on sweet treats.

In medicine it acts like other volatile oils and once had a reputation as a cure for colds. It has also been used to treat diarrhea and other problems of the digestive system. Cinnamon is high in antioxidant activity.The essential oil of cinnamon also has antimicrobial properties, which can aid in the preservation of certain foods.

Cinnamon has been reported to have remarkable pharmacological effects in the treatment of type II diabetes and insulin resistance. Recent advancement in phytochemistry has shown that it is a Cinnamtannin B1 isolated from C. zeylanicum which is of therapeutic effect. Cinnamon has traditionally been used to treat toothache and fight bad breath and its regular use is believed to stave off common cold and aid digestion. References for medicinal usage can be found at

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Fennel - Wonder Seeds For Digestion

Fennel seeds (Botanical name - Fenniculum vulgare) are new for Americans. Fennel seeds have mild anise like flavor but is more aromatic and sweeter. It is grown in many parts of the world.

Fennel features prominently in Italian cuisine, where bulbs and fronds are used, both raw and cooked, in side dishes, salads, pastas, and risottos. Fennel seed is a common ingredient in Italian sausages and meatballs and northern European rye breads.
Many cultures in the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East use fennel seed in their cookery. It is an essential ingredient of the Bengali spice mixture panch phoran and in Chinese five spice powder. It is known as saunf in Hindi. Many egg, fish and other dishes employ fresh or dried fennel leaves. Florence fennel is a key ingredient in some Italian and German salad, often tossed with chicory and avocado, or it can be braised and served as a warm side dish. It may be blanched or marinated, or cooked in risotto.

The use of fennel is well known as a digestive aid. In many parts of India roasted fennel seeds are consumed as an after-meal digestive and as a breath freshener. It may be given in small quantities to help young children digest carbohydrates. An infusion prepared by boiling a table spoon of fennel seeds in 100 ml of water for 1/2 hour, is highly beneficial in indigestion and constipation. Chewing its seeds after meals prevent foul breath, indigestion, constipation and vomiting.

Fennel is one of the safest for colic, for helping the babies to release gas. Parents in Asia boil the fennel seeds in water for short period of time. After filtering the seeds, water is given to the infants to reduce colic. So far there is no documentary evidence of side effects by taking fennel seeds. Eating fennel seeds with figs is a good for cough and bronchitis. Fennel seeds promote mensuration and regulate monthly period. It is believed that fennel benefits the eyes. Herbalists today recommend bathing the weakened, sore or inflamed eyes with fennel tea.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Nature Cure

Our body gives the reaction if our food is un-acceptable to it. If we are watchful, we know what is the reaction. If we ignore it, reaction becomes the health issue. For example, if I eat garlic, I get body rash. This tells me that garlic is not accepted by my body. If I ignore it, this rash may become a skin disease.

If I run to a modern day medical docter, he/she will give me a medication to suppress the rash. If this rash is suppressed again and again, it will lead to other severe problems.

In my view, our body is strong enough and it can take of itself. A healthy body has sufficient capability to heal itself. In short, our body has natural healing properties.

Healthy Living

I have always wondered why do people have diseases like cancer, diabetes and TB. Why do we have millions with diseases that are not curable by modern medical system.
Why do we fall sick ?. The answer may be - We don't take care of body and keep on feeding junk. We eat un-acceptable food for the body.