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The Practical Herbalist


Cinnamon is a favorite spice of many children. Cinnamon warms you up on a cold winters day, and brings a smile to your face. As a medicine, cinnamon shows up in some of the earliest herbal texts. The cinnamon bark we use (called rou gui in Chinese), has a warming quality to the body that can be very useful in what are described as "cold" conditions. These are conditions marked by cold feelings in the body, tightness, dry skin, and some specific urine and bowel problems.

As a medicine, cinnamon is used in many herbal formulas to strengthen the "source fire" of the body. Unlike many other hot or warm spices, cinnamon is seen as only mildly dispersing. Most hot spices are strongly dispersing and tend to expel energy out of the body. If you have ever started sweating after eating hot peppers, you have seen this dispersing process in action. Cinnamon has more of a sweet quality that strengthens the core energy of the body.

There is another part of the cinnamon tree that is used. The bark of the cinnamon tree root is also used as a medicinal herb called gui zhi. Gui zhi is also a very warming herb. It has a distinctive dispersing quality that makes it very valuable for treating win- ter colds. There are several classic herbal formulas for the common cold that use gui zhi. Most pair up gui zhi with another very hot dispersing herb ma huang, which is well know in modern days because it has been misused in weight loss supplements. When mixed properly they make a great short term use formulas for treating various common colds marked by feelings of cold, sinus and lung congestion and body aches and clear sinus drainage. The classic version is Gui Zhi Tang, which was written up in herbal texts more than 1700 years ago. This formula is very strong at clearing the common cold, but is not as harsh as some other formulas, and is therefore very good for patients who caught the cold because their body was worn down or weak.

This capacity of cinnamon to delicately strengthen the system even in the more dispersing form of gui zhi, makes it a very valuable herb. It becomes the herb of choice when dealing with patients who are old and frail. Often many strongly nourishing herbs are too strong for a weak patient to handle, and the herbs can cause unwanted side ef- fects. Cinnamon has the advantage of a mild quality and is already in many kitchens. I often advise elderly patients to incorporate cinnamon into their daily meals as a way of restoring some strength to the body.

David Bock

This article was from David's LakeCountryOnline.com column, "The Practical Herbalist"

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David Bock, C. Ac., Dipl. OM, FABORM
Wisconsin Certified Acupuncturist
National Board Certification in Oriental Medicine
Fellow American Board Of Oriental Reproductive Medicine

Bock Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine
888 Thackeray Trail #206
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin 53066