Podcast 182: Herbs A-Z: Citrus & Cinnamomum

This week’s herbs are orange peel & cinnamon. Each one has multiple varieties: sweet orange, bitter orange, cassia cinnamon, “true” cinnamon, etc.

Citrus x aurantium and C. x sinensis are the bitter and sweet orange, respectively. Not just an excellent flavoring agent (although that counts for a lot!), citrus peel makes a nice gentle digestive bitter and is a classic in cocktail bitter blends. It’s great in mulled cider or wine, but also a nice cooling drink in the summertime. If you’ve only had citrus as juice – or, on the other end of the spectrum, orange oil as a cleaning product – we recommend drying your own organic citrus peels and working with them in tea!

Cinnamomum cassia is sometimes just called cassia, or cassia cinnamon. C. verum is the “true” cinnamon, a bit sweeter and less astringent by comparison. Cinnamon is a great relaxant to the viscera and the lungs, one of our favorites in a wintertime blend for spasmodic coughs. It’s got an interesting relationship with water and can act as an astringent or demulcent depending on how you prepare it. Cinnamon is also helpful for improving blood sugar regulation, and achieves this in the best possible way for long-term support.

These quick plant profiles were done off-the-cuff & on-the-spot. If you enjoyed them, we have more! Our organized & comprehensive presentation of our herbal allies is in the Holistic Herbalism Materia Medica course. We have detailed profiles of 90 medicinal herbs! Plus you get everything that comes with enrollment in our courses: twice-weekly live Q&A sessions, lifetime access to current & future course material, discussion threads integrated in each lesson, guides & quizzes, and more.

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Episode Transcript

Katja (00:14):
Hi, I’m Katja.

Ryn (00:15):
And I’m Ryn.

Katja (00:15):
And we’re here at Commonwealth Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts.

Ryn (00:20):
And on the internet everywhere, thanks to the power of the podcast. Okay. Here we go continuing forward. It’s still 2022.

Katja (00:30):
Still, a week later. We’re still here.

Ryn (00:33):
We’ve survived so far. We hope you’re doing okay out there. And we’re going to keep on rolling with herbs A to Z. Well, herbs on the shelf in the apothecary at the moment A to Z.

Katja (00:43):
I actually had to add in a couple of notes, because there are a couple herbs that were out of that were going to be coming up to. And they’re really important, but I just need to order them. And in case we get to them before I manage to order them, I wanted to make sure we don’t leave them out. So, it’s the herbs on the shelf and a couple that should be on the shelf and aren’t right now.

Ryn (01:05):
Today we’re going to be talking about orange peel, mostly the peel. We might talk about some other parts of the orange. And we’re going to talk about cinnamon as well.

Katja (01:15):
Two plants I’m pretty excited to talk about. Also two great tastes that taste great together.

Ryn (01:21):
These make their way into tea blends you make really often.

Katja (01:24):
Really, really often. Both are… my sort of obsession with them is newer. It’s just in the last like three or four years that I’ve really, really… I mean it’s not like I didn’t work with them before, but…

Ryn (01:38):
The year you started drying all of the orange peels and keeping them.

Katja (01:40):
That’s when it shifted from that’s a nice flavor sometimes, to I am completely obsessed. Yeah.

Ryn (01:46):
So that’s what we’re up to today. But first we want to give you our reclaimer, and remind you that we are not doctors. We are herbalists and holistic health educators.

Katja (01:54):
The ideas discussed in this podcast do not constitute medical advice. No state or federal authority licenses herbalist in the United States. So, these discussions are for educational purposes only.

Ryn (02:06):
We want to remind you that good health doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone. Good health doesn’t exist as an objective standard. It’s influenced by your individual needs, experiences, and goals. So, we’re not trying to present a dogmatic right way that you should adhere to.

Katja (02:20):
Everybody’s body is different. So, the things that we’re talking about may or may not apply directly to you. But we hope that they’ll give you some good information to think about and ideas to research further.

Ryn (02:30):
Finding your way to better health is both your right and your own personal responsibility. This doesn’t mean you’re alone on the journey. And it doesn’t mean that you’re to blame for where you find yourself right now in health. But it does mean that the final decision when consider during any course of action, whether that’s discussed on the internet or prescribed by a physician, is always yours to make.

Katja (02:50):
And also before we jump in, I do want to take a moment and just say that this episode of the Holistic Herbalism podcast is sponsored by me, and also you.

Ryn (03:02):
By us. By us together.

Katja (03:05):

Ryn (03:06):
The Commonwealth Holistic Herbalism team, which is really not just the two of us.

Katja (03:10):
That’s actually true. So Ryn and I do all of the teaching. We film all the videos. We also do all of our own tech work. We film all the videos. We write all the curriculum. We put those up there. All those videos are prerecorded. And they are self-paced, so that you can do them at your own speed. And then we write extra supplemental material in case you’re a person who also likes to read things. And Ryn converts everything to MP3 so that you can also listen on the go. But you also can ask questions. And we answer them in 24 hours. We answer all the questions every day. And we have some friends who help us with that. Three awesome folks who have gone through our whole program, graduated, and they’ve been running their own private practices now for quite some time. And we really like that, because it gives you an opportunity to get the perspective, not just from us, but also from three other amazing folks, Emmy, Alexandra, and Kenton, who are running their own practices and have their own experiences. And might have answers that are broader, different, little variations from ours. And we think that’s a really good kind of exposure. You should have lots of herb teachers.

Ryn (04:30):
Yeah, absolutely. So, that’s just one part of what you get when you sign up for any of our online herbalism courses, all of which you can find at online.commonwealthherbs.com.

Katja (04:43):
I also do want to mention Noelle, because she also has been helping us for so long. She organizes the incarcerated students program. She is leading the effort to close caption all of our videos in all of our courses. And she is the one who makes sure that when we have the live Q and A sessions twice a week, where all of the student body can come together and ask questions live, she also makes sure that every single one of those sessions is recorded and archived. So that if you can’t attend the session live, you can still attend it at any time that’s convenient for you. And you can see what different students are asking as they work their way through the courses.

Ryn (05:26):
Yeah. And, you know, just to be complete, there’s also Danielle who’s been responding to comments in the community discussions, which are kind of like a Facebook inside of our school. And there’s a lot of activity there from students, you know, posting pictures of things they made or sharing recipes and ideas about how to work with plants. We pop in there on a regular basis, but our other staff is also part of those discussions too. So, that’s us. And we’d love you to join us and be a part of those discussions. Ask us questions for us to answer. Start some, you know, threads for us to chime in on. And come to those Q & A’s and talk to us live. Yeah. Again, online.commonwealthherbs.com is where you can sign up.

Orange Peel: Flavor & Bitter

Katja (06:09):
Yes. In fact, you can even grab a free course. And I recommend that you do, because they’re fun. All right. Well, let’s kick everything off with orange, orange peel.

Ryn (06:21):
Orange, yeah. So for botanical name this is one of those cases where it’s going to be, you know, in this case Citrus. And then to cover everybody, we’re going to write spp., right? When you see that in botanical names, it means many species, right? So, many different citrus species. Today to talk about orange in particular, because that’s who’s in our jar, we’re talking about two species: Citrus x aurantium and Citrus x sinensis, called bitter orange and sweet orange respectively. And the jar that we keep on the shell most filled is going to be the sweet orange, actually.

Katja (07:03):
Yeah. To be honest, the last couple years I’ve been actually drying clementine peels. Clementine, sometimes tangerine, sometimes tangelos. Yeah. Different. But anyway, the smaller oranges. And the reason for that is that I love the peels herbally. But in terms of the kind of orange fruit that I want to eat, I prefer the tiny ones. A big orange is kind of like too much orange for me. I just want like a half an orange, just a little orange. And also those are the ones that I can get organic most reliably. And so honestly, you know, orange peel is one of those herbs that it’s so easy to provide for yourself instead of ordering that commercially, that I really recommend that you do. Because again, anything that you can grow yourself, make yourself. Or like an orange peel, like you would already have those peels laying around, and you would just be composting them. And here we can just dry them out instead. Anything like that, that you can provide for yourself, that frees up budget for you to buy the herbs that you can’t get locally for yourself. So, I always think that’s a great idea. And orange peel, you don’t even need a dehydrator. Especially when it is those smaller oranges, and the peel is a little bit thinner. I just put them in a basket in the kitchen, and in a week they’re dried. I don’t do anything special to them. I just leave them on the counter in a basket.

Ryn (08:42):
Yeah. Most of the drying is done in a few days, you know. But we’ll tend to like peel the orange. And just in like big pieces, you know, the hunks you would kind of tear it into as you go. And then leave them in the basket there for like roughly a week. And then we kind of walk by and kind of bend or pick up one every now and then. And when they… Are you going to do the audio effect?

Katja (09:01):
I was going to. It should . When they snap like that.

Ryn (09:05):
There you go. Yeah, when they snap, then it’s dried. It’s ready. You know, there you go.

Katja (09:11):

Ryn (09:13):
Nice. Yeah. So that is handy, you know. Because not every herb is going to dry super easily just like sitting in a basket.

Katja (09:21):
You almost never get away with that actually, at least not in New England. But orange peels are something that we typically have in the winter. So, homes are drier, you know? And I think that’s why I get away with just putting them in a basket. And it’s a shallow basket, so that they’re just one layer. I don’t like pile them on top of each other. But it really does work very well. And they’re so, so, so tasty. Which is the way that I started with orange peel. For such a long time it was just, I need something to round out the flavor. I’ll just toss some orange peel in there. I guess that’s vitamin C. I guess that’s good, whatever. But man, there’s just so much more going on with orange peels than just that.

Ryn (10:10):
Yeah. Although you are in a long herbal tradition there. It’s actually part of the eclectic literature on herbs from the 1800s about citrus. That primarily what they write about it is this is really handy to put in with other herbs that are bitter, or acrid, or have other unpleasant flavors, to make them more palatable.

Katja (10:32):
Yeah, this is not new. You know, like trying to make it taste good so that people will actually consume it has always been a challenge.

Ryn (10:44):
Yeah. It counts for a lot. And it is really effective honestly. Because like when you get the sourness, and especially if you have sour and a little sweet, then that really helps to moderate a bitter taste. And this is kind of a strategy that we use when we’re putting together something like a cocktail bitters blend, where you want it there as the bitter agent. There’s going to be other flavors in your drink. But you really want the bitter to come through, and you don’t want it to be overwhelming other things. So, you tend to moderate it with a little sour flavor, usually some citrus, and a little bit of sweet, whether that’s sugar or molasses or honey or whatever else. When you have orange peel, if you have the whole orange too, you kind of have everything together. And so it’s actually an option to make, I mean you could call it, orange tea. You could have orange flesh and orange peel, and you could make a drink out of that. Or you could tincture all of it together and prepare something to take. And that’s going to be like a gentler digestive stimulant than like gentian or centaury or artichoke leaf or even dandelion root or something like that. So, this might be a good place to begin for someone who has some digestive sluggishness and needs that bitter liver stimulation and everything. But the other herbs are like just too much today, thank you.

Katja (12:08):
You know, the bitter flavor actually, or the orange peel flavor, is actually really quite complex. Because it’s not just about the sour smoothing out other bitters. It does have its own bitterness as well. But it is a very user friendly bitter, you know? It’s not a super challenging bitter. Now if you had told me that when I was eight, and I used to peel every single tiny bit of white off of an orange, before I would even consider eating it. Like there would be no white anywhere, because I was like eww, that’s bitter. Okay, eight year old me would probably not agree that it’s a very user friendly bitter. But adult me, even adult me that yeah, I’ve been an herbalist all this time, but I have to cozy up to a bitter. Like I don’t automatically like bitter flavors. I have to develop a relationship with each specific one. And then be like okay, yeah, I like you. Okay, this is good. I know there are some herbalist out there who are just like nah, I just love bitter. It’s great. Every bitter I meet, I just love it. It’s fantastic. I’m like man, that’s awesome. I really have to work up to each one. And I have done that now with many, and also not with some of them.

Ryn (13:32):
Not with a couple, you know? That’s fine.

Katja (13:34):
But I do think that if bitter is a challenge for you, first of all, it doesn’t mean you’re not a good herbalist. You do not lose herbalism points, if the bitter flavor is difficult for you to appreciate. But if you’ve been thinking, ah, I should try bitters. I should, you know, like I really should get it in my life. I know that it’s really helpful for digestive health. And I just can’t find one that… I would just really hate the flavor. It’s a total turnoff. Then consider working with orange because it, it is less difficult to find your way to kind of a relationship with the flavor of the peel.

Ryn (14:19):
Yeah, you’re right. It is complex. There’s the sour of course. There’s the bitter we’ve been talking about. And then there’s aromatic elements to it. With the orange peel, even as you dry it, a lot of that’s retained. As we were cracking it earlier, you get a little orange scent that comes up and out. Orange peel even, well, when it’s fresh, it has a lot of aromatic elements into it. By the way, if you were going to do a tincture, then I think the best way to go about that would be to do that with fresh peel.

Katja (14:51):
Yeah. I think it would be nicer.

Ryn (14:53):
Yeah. Because it just has a lot of aromatic elements to it. Chop it up, slice it up, twist it a little bit, everything. Put it in the jar, and then pour your alcohol on. But that’ll make you a very aromatic tincture to work with.

Katja (15:07):
Which would be super handy if then you wanted to make your own bitters blend. And you wanted to put in like just a tiny bit of, maybe not even centaury. You could go with like chamomile tincture. Because that does capture more of the bitter elements of chamomile. But again, it’s bitter, but it is a little less challenging, a little more user friendly than stronger bitters. And so if you made a tincture of fresh orange peel, and then you blended that with a little bit of chamomile tincture. Maybe you put a little bit of ginger tincture in there and just a smidge of honey. That could be a really nice beginner’s bitter blend that really will improve digestion. Especially if you’re the kind of person who tends towards digestive problems that involve a slow down of digestive function and maybe also like lower digestive cramping. Or if you’re the kind of person who, when you get stressed out, your digestion just sort of slows down to a crawl. This would be a really lovely blend for that, but also a blend that would be a little easier to kind of work your way into. Kind of like, just putting your toe into the bitter pool instead of like jumping in like a cannonball. And that could really be a little bit more pleasant.

Ryn (16:42):
Yeah. Well, I’m actually curious if there are times when you’re not thinking about flavor, but still saying to yourself I’ve got to get some citrus peel in here.

Vitamin C & Orange Oil

Katja (16:53):
Well, actually that’s true. And I think that there was a progression of that. So first it was, oh, a nice flavor. Then it was oh, a nice flavor, and I guess there’s vitamin C. That’s probably good. Then it was wait a minute. Vitamin C’s actually great. I actually want that on purpose.

Ryn (17:14):
Yeah. It’s kind of good when you get a little further into vitamin C beyond like it helps to prevent cold and flu. And say okay, what is going on in terms of its connection to immune activity and the layers to that.

Katja (17:24):
And also collagen formation.

Ryn (17:26):
Yeah. The collagen formation, you know, structural protein building and arrangement and all that.

Katja (17:33):
Yeah. So if you’re thinking about a tea blend that maybe has Solomon’s seal, because you’re looking at joint health and looking at connective tissue health. And maybe you’re like oh, I heard Ryn talk about putting nori into his Solomon’s seal tea blend once. Maybe I’ll be brave and try that. Yeah, you could do that. You could do like Solomon’s seal, a little bit of nori or dulse if that’s what you have, and then some ginger, and then a bunch of orange peel. And at that point you really have many more of the building blocks that you need for connective tissue health, not just…

Ryn (18:13):
Put a little horsetail in there, a little pinch of horsetail.

Katja (18:15):
Oh yeah. Now you’re getting really fancy. Yeah. I love that.

Ryn (18:19):
That’d be cool.

Katja (18:20):
So I was in that place for quite some time of like, wait a minute. There’s other parts of my body, other than just cold and flu, that wants vitamin C. And I had really just sort of gotten away from the whole vitamin C thinking. And then actually early in COVID there was some research coming out about orange peel and some potential immune stimulation that was sort of specific to the type of work the immune system needed to do to fight that virus. And I feel like the jury is actually still out on that. I don’t think we have quite enough data yet to say oh, this is definitely going to be helpful. But on the other hand, you cannot hurt yourself with orange peel. Like it’s never bad to include a little extra complexity, include a little extra bioavailable vitamin C and other immune supportive agents. And so I really got on a kick of orange peel, pine needle, and then whatever else was going in that day. Maybe it was mullein leaf. Maybe it was pulmonaria. Sometimes it was hawthorn berry and juniper.

Ryn (19:49):
Yeah. Or even just some ginger and cardamom kind of thing.

Katja (19:55):
Yeah, exactly. Because all of those were providing like a broad spectrum of complex supportive agents. And so it’s funny how COVID really got me back into the place of oh right. Orange peel and immune health too. Like I kind of threw that out for a while. And then I was like, wait, wait, wait, wait, no. That is a thing. Let’s come back to that.

Ryn (20:17):
Yeah. Well you can kind of relate differently to orange peels throughout the whole year. You know, because in the wintertime you can be like ah, some vitamin C. Put it with mulling spices. Put it into mulled cider or mulled wine. Nice. That’s all kind of one area of effect with it. But then in the summertime, if you make like an orange spritzer. You get even just the fresh peel. If you zest them and twist all of the aromatics out of them into some fizzy water. Now you’re emphasizing the aromatic and the sour elements of the herb, and helping to disperse some of that summer heat. right? So it can have that kind of cooling effect. And sour herbs are this way. There’s a mix of things going on. There’s that digestive stimulation and activation. There’s a whole, you know, complex of cooling activities from sour from the plant acids and from their effects on dialing down inflammation. And also just helping to reduce metabolic heat in organs that are like, you know, over irritated or inflamed or something like that. So yeah. You’re kind of summer citrus and your winter citrus.

Katja (21:25):
Exactly. I did want to make mention of one other thing. I think for a lot of people their relationship to orange comes in two forms. And that would be like orange juice in a container. And then the other is like the orange oil cleaning solvent solution stuff. And it’s funny because both of those are extremes, right? If you’re working with orange internally, and the only thing that you have taken from the orange is the juice, really actually then the only thing you’ve taken from the orange is the sugar, right? It’s like a very isolated… like I really just want the sugar water out of this thing.

Ryn (22:14):
There’s some vitamin C. There’s some plant nutrients and whatever in orange juice. It’s better than Coke, I could say.

Katja (22:24):
I mean it’s kind of a comparable amount of sugar, but the other ingredients are definitely better. Don’t get me wrong. They definitely are. But then if you think about that orange oil cleaning solvent, it is tremendously strong.

Ryn (22:38):
Right. And I almost wanted to say a minute ago when you were talking about different things you can drink and eat and take. It was like we’re not talking about essential oil in terms of safe for ingestion, right?

Katja (22:50):
Right. Because it’s like literally a paint stripper. Literally a paint stripper. Like please don’t drink it.

Ryn (22:56):
Or like you’re trying to clean the gummy label residue off of your glass bottles that you’re going to reuse for your herbal tinctures and stuff. Orange oil is super powerful for that job. But also if you do job for a while and you don’t have kitchen gloves on. At least I can speak from my experience here, I’ve like burned my cuticles from working with orange oil too much.

Katja (23:19):
Yeah. And I will say also that these days I never use orange oil to get labels off of tincture bottles anymore.

Ryn (23:29):
Yeah. Honestly olive oil works just about as well.

Katja (23:33):
Yeah. Olive oil is so much better. Like if there’s some olive oil that’s maybe been around for a little too long, I just save it. And I do it there. That and a Brillo pad, like a steel wool thing. And it really is enough. And then you don’t have to, you know, be working with that really intense oil. But my thing here is that I wanted to say there’s a middle way if you really enjoy the citrusy clean in your house. You can take, and for this purpose, I actually do prefer white vinegar. This is almost never true. But right now in this particular application, it is true. You can take white vinegar and just put a bunch of orange peels in there. Lemon peels can go into too. Totally fine. Pine needles can go in too. Fantastic. And tincture it. And now you have a cleaning solution. You might want to water it down with water a little bit, because it will be very vinegary. But it will be a citrus clean kind of cleaning solution that you can put in a spray bottle and clean everything with. It’s pretty great. And it’s not like that doesn’t have the essential oils in it. It does.

Ryn (24:42):
No, for sure. Yeah. Those fresh peels are just bursting with it.

Katja (24:45):
Right. But it is not concentrated in that like real intensity of those bottles of straight orange oil.

Ryn (24:56):
There is kind of like a scale here I guess. If you take a plant that has a little bit of aromatics in it, but not like an overwhelming presentation. I’m thinking perhaps, oh, something like yarrow, you know. If you had fresh yarrow, and you tincture that, then it’ll have a lot of aromatic qualities to it. But not quite as much as thyme or monarda. That’s going to be an even stronger aromatic presentation. And then, you know, if we go by the amount of plant matter you’ve got and everything, a fresh orange peel tincture is way up there in terms of essential oil content.

Katja (25:36):
Yeah. Just, you know, different.

Ryn (25:39):
Yeah. And a true essential oil or like that orange cleaner stuff is again several steps beyond.

Katja (25:45):
Right. I’m distracted in this moment because you mentioned yarrow. And I was like, wow. Oh, yarrow and fresh orange peel tincture together would be really, really good. Like super delicious. And now I’m kind of obsessed with that. So I might need to make some.

Ryn (26:04):
Sounds good. Could be a mead recipe. We made a blueberry and orange peel mead a couple years ago.

Katja (26:11):
That is my favorite mead. It was so good that I made it again a few times. It is my favorite mead. It’s my favorite mead.

Ryn (26:18):
Yeah. That one came out really good. That was the actual blueberries.

Katja (26:22):
Actually I’m pretty sure it was frozen blueberries both times.

Ryn (26:25):
Oh yeah. Yeah.

Katja (26:26):
I think it was, because I think I didn’t have fresh blueberries either time. I’m pretty sure it was literally frozen blueberries and fresh orange peels. And otherwise honey and water. It was so good.

Ryn (26:38):
Yeah. Good stuff.

Cinnamon: Antispasmodic & Demulcent

Katja (26:41):
Well, let’s talk a little bit about cinnamon.

Ryn (26:44):
Yes. Cinnamon.

Katja (26:45):
You know, this week I made a blend that was a sort of upper respiratory cough management blend. And it was wild cherry and marshmallow root, and then a bunch of cinnamon, a bunch of orange peel, a little bit of ginger. And it was so delicious. So, there’s a nice place you can get your cinnamon and orange peel together. But I actually kind of want to start off with that aspect of cinnamon. When you talk about a blend like that, an upper respiratory cough blend, where you have that hacking non-productive cough, like an itchy cough. Almost always as herbalist the mind goes to wild cherry. Because we hear so much about wild cherry relaxing that cough. But listen cinnamon, in itself, relaxes spasms very potently, very strong.

Ryn (27:54):
It’ll stop your hiccups.

Ryn (27:55):
Yes. It will stop your hiccups. I learned this when I was a little kid. I had hiccups that were so intense that you couldn’t carry on a conversation. And I would have them for days. And not just I couldn’t carry on a conversation, but like no one in the room could talk because I was hiccupping so intensely, whatever. And so I don’t know how we figured this out. But at some point we figured out if I put three cinnamon red hot candies… Which back in the seventies they still had cinnamon oil in them. I don’t know if they still do, but they did then have cinnamon oil in them. If I put three of them under my tongue, my hiccups would go away almost immediately. And that was just like part of our family whatever. Like my mother never ran out of cinnamon red hots. We always had them not as candy. Like she had them in a separate cabinet where like when I got the hiccups, that’s when we got them out. And you know, that was just a weird thing in our family. And it wasn’t until I’d been an herbalist for a really long time that I realized, wait a minute. Cinnamon bark has significant antispasmodic action. And that’s actually what was going on there. And that’s also what’s going on with the upper respiratory hacking cough. And I think this is really kind of important to think about. Because it’s fine to have wild cherry when you need that. But it’s so much easier to get cinnamon than it is to get wild cherry.

Ryn (29:37):
For sure.

Katja (29:38):
And it’s so important as herbalist… You know, you can learn a kabillion jillion herbs. And you can have your favorite for every situation. But in a pinch, if you’re traveling, if there’s been some sort of disaster, if whatever else, you just don’t have resources right now, the likelihood that you’re going to be able to get wild cherry is less. You know, unless you happen to have a tree around, but you would have to purchase that somewhere. Okay, you have to purchase cinnamon too, but it’s so widely available. And the likelihood that somebody has some in their home already is pretty high. And so being able to solve many common problems with the most common, most ubiquitous herbs is really, really important. And so I always want us to remember that cinnamon also has that strong antispasmodic action, and is going to be super helpful for those kinds of spasms. Whether that is gut spasms, whether that is diaphragmatic spasms, whether that is a hacking upper respiratory spasm.

Ryn (30:56):
Yeah. For sure. I also want to say, if we have any more advanced herbal students listening, that this blend we’ve been talking about with cinnamon, ginger, citrus peels, marshmallow, and wild cherry, okay. Yes. It would be a little bit better if we were to make a separate decoction of our cinnamon, ginger and citrus. And then like a cold water extraction of our marshmallow and wild cherry. And then combine them together to emphasize the demulcent quality of the marshmallow, and to draw out more of those cyanogenic compounds from the wild cherry, and not break them down in the heat. Okay. Yes, that’s all true. And if you’ve heard other herbalists say never take wild cherry above a low simmer.

Katja (31:41):
Or marshmallow root.

Ryn (31:42):
or marshmallow for that matter. Then, okay. They’re not entirely wrong. But also this is one of the several places where I at least have learned over the years to not be too precious about my preparations. And it turns out that yes, wild cherry does still you know, I don’t want to say suppress, but moderate an irritated cough, even if you’ve boiled it for an hour.

Katja (32:06):
Right. It’s like yes, okay. You will emphasize more extraction of certain phytochemicals with a cold infusion. But you will not, not achieve those phytochemicals in this particular case with heat.

Ryn (32:20):
Yeah. They’re not lost entirely. And the same for the polysaccharides from marshmallow, you know, and all of that. And honestly, even the demulcent qualities of the cinnamon itself. You know, those are quite obvious when you do a cold water extraction. They’re not really obvious when you’re making a decoction, and it’s still hot. But they’re present, and they are helping. You know, it’s one of those odd things about cinnamon. That it’s a warming herb. It’s quite hot even. But it does have a moistening quality to it. And in a fair number of bodies, the heat is going to kind of, you know, cook off the moisture at the same rate that it’s coming in. But there are plenty of people for whom cinnamon can serve as a demulcent agent, or something that helps to at least maintain water balance in the body. Yeah. So I don’t think it’s quite as drying as is sometimes suggested.

Katja (33:08):
Yeah. I mean, I think you can create a super drying situation.

Ryn (33:14):
If we’re talking about the essential oil. If we’re talking about like a very finely filtered tincture that’s primarily the aromatic elements from cinnamon, super drying, yeah.

Katja (33:22):
Or a spoonful of powdered cinnamon.

Ryn (33:24):
Fresh powder is pretty drying, yeah.

Katja (33:25):
Yeah. That’s going to be pretty drying.

Ryn (33:26):
You could do the cinnamon challenge where you kind of like try to swallow the whole spoonful. And then it dries out your mouth, and then you kind of cough. And then you inhale some of the powder into your lungs, and you cough more.

Katja (33:36):
Why would you do that? It’s the internet,

Ryn (33:37):
It’s the internet, man. They’re doing all kinds of stuff. And that one’s like 10 years old now, so.

Katja (33:40):
But you know that also is a nice proving of the demulcent action, right? So, what happens is when you put cinnamon into water, it wants to suck up the water. So if you have a very dry situation. And you take some powdered cinnamon, it doesn’t even have to be very much. But if a person is super dehydrated, and the minute they drink the water, they pee out immediately. It’s literally going right through them. Then getting some demulcent herbs in there helps to slow that process down, so that you’re better able to absorb the liquid. And so try it sometime. Take some cinnamon powder. Put it in a little glass of water. Stir it. You know, don’t let it just all stay at the bottom in a clump. Stir it up. And after… it won’t even take a whole hour. But go ahead and let it sit for an hour. You’ll see. It’s slimy. It’s snotty. It’s thickened. Especially if you try to scoop the powder out. Like if it has settled a little, and now you try to scoop it out again. It’s super like gelatin-y, alien slime, snotty.

Ryn (34:59):
Yeah. And so when you consume something like that, it pretty much just kind of moves through you a little more slowly, and gives you more opportunity to absorb. It’s one way to think about, or to imagine how this is interacting with your system.

Katja (35:16):
That however is why we don’t bother to tincture cinnamon.

Ryn (35:22):
Yeah. I’ve done it like twice and, eh.

Katja (35:26):
It’s just snotty. You can’t. You know, you could filter it out very finely, so that you’re only…

Ryn (35:36):
you can try, but it doesn’t want to flow through the filter.

Katja (35:39):
It doesn’t want to go through the filter.

Ryn (35:40):
So you might need to use something to like…

Katja (35:41):
Like it clogs up the filter.

Ryn (35:43):
push it through, and then rinse it out. I mean it’s a whole bunch of stuff.

Katja (35:46):
You’d have to let the snot settle, and then only pour off the top. And then you’d still clog up the filter, and then you’d have to… anyway. So, I don’t want to say that it’s completely impossible to make a cinnamon tincture. Just it’s so much effort. And the results is so slimy.

Ryn (36:03):
Next time I try it, I don’t know. I might try a couple experiments. One would be to try putting in a portion of licorice root into there while it’s tincturing from the very beginning. Because sometimes that can stabilize a tincture and prevent that kind of precipitation. Maybe not in this case, but possibly. There are other kind of, it’s not exactly an emulsifier, but there are other things people will put in to try to make that precipitation not happen. And then it’s possible that if you get exactly the right alcohol to water concentration, you can limit this. But I don’t know. It hasn’t been a major draw for us, because cinnamon I haven’t felt like I super need it in a tincture combo.

Katja (36:46):
No, it is effective in other ways. And if you need a hot tincture, you’ve got cayenne. You’ve got ginger. You could tincture garlic. You know, there’s so many other ways to get a hot tincture. I mean, try it sometime just for fun, so that you can be like, oh yep. I’m not just taking their word at it. Look, it really is snotty. And this isn’t appealing. You know, like don’t just believe what we say, just because we said it. Definitely try it yourself, but just a small amount so that you don’t waste it.

Ryn (37:19):
Yeah. And if you’re someone out there who has great solutions to making an excellent cinnamon tincture, I would love to hear it. So reach out.

Katja (37:26):
But yeah, to me it’s just so much effort to try to get a workable tincture, that I would infinitely rather just swap in ginger. They have a lot of similarity. But that is part of this whole understanding phytochemistry, and then using that information to help you make really great choices about how you work with an herb. Because don’t want to shoehorn an herb into a tincture, when that’s not its best place to shine. But with cinnamon there are so many places where it does really shine, that I want to focus on those.

Blood Sugar Regulation & Cravings

Ryn (38:09):
Yeah. And not just tea or decoctions, although we love it there, but like, you know, food. You’ve heard of it, I think. Cinnamon, obviously, is a component of a lot of spice blends, a lot of dishes, and even a lot of baked goods. Where it is helping beyond just making it taste tasty. Cinnamon has an effect to improve our blood sugar regulation. And so is Ryn saying that when I eat a cinnamon bun, the cinnamon cancels out all the sugar. And I can have as many as I want.

Katja (38:44):
Please be saying that. Please say that.

Ryn (38:47):
I would like that to be true.

Katja (38:49):
I would like that to be true.

Ryn (38:51):
That sounds great to all of us.

Katja (38:54):
Yes. Okay. But on the other hand, it is helping. It is helping. And it is fascinating to me that like so many dessert recipes call for cinnamon. And part of that is because it’s tasty. But also it really does help. It really helps lessen the impact of the sugar on your system.

Ryn (39:19):
Yeah. So that’s been investigated pretty far with cinnamon at this point. And there’s a few different constituents that are contributing to the set of effects that happen here. And also cinnamon has a couple different layers to how it does this. The most important one from our perspective is that it improves insulin sensitivity throughout the body. And that’s important for blood sugar regulation, because insulin is going to pull the sugar out of the blood, into the cells where it’s actually helpful, useful, can do anything with it. And also not just running around in the bloodstream causing problems, and making the blood thick, and exacerbating inflammation that’s present, and all of that. So, this is an ideal mode of action for agents that reduce blood sugar levels. There are other ways that that can be accomplished. Some that we don’t really like to actually engage in too often. Like there are some plants that will cause your pancreas to squirt out more insulin. This is kind of the way that some of the older diabetes medications worked. And the problem with them is that it’s kind of accelerating the Type II diabetes problem. And it’s only ever going to work for so long. And then you’re probably going to be in a worse situation than you started with. So, whether it’s a drug or an herb, that’s not really a mode of action that we want.

Katja (40:40):
Yeah. It’s never awesome to solve a problem with we’ll just work twice as hard.

Ryn (40:46):
Just provide more fuel that we’re going to burn through. Where’s that coming from? How much do we have in reserve? When is it going to… How can we make more? Oh okay.

Katja (40:55):
Yeah, exactly. It’s a very capitalist solution to the pancreatic problem.

Ryn (41:01):
Yeah. So fortunately, you know, the effect of cinnamon is kind of the polar opposite. It’s exactly what we do want: to improve insulin sensitivity throughout the body as a nice distributed effect. It’s not, you know, stimulating one organ, and telling it to just work harder until it can’t.

Katja (41:17):
You know, it’s basically saying to each individual cell, don’t make the insulin work harder. Don’t make the insulin gang up. Just receive what the insulin brings you when it brings it to you. And that way the pancreas doesn’t have to keep making more and more insulin, so that you’ll finally take this sugar. It’s like let’s all just be reasonable here and deal with the sugar.

Ryn (41:40):
Thank you, cinnamon. So you can see why this is something that we would be very excited about, when we recognize that blood sugar dysregulation is such a rampant problem. And it’s worth emphasizing not only in cases of diabetes, right? Diabetes, especially this kind of Type II diabetes, as an endpoint result from a lifetime or a stretch of highly elevated blood sugar.

Katja (42:08):
It could be two lifetimes, actually.

Ryn (42:09):
A couple of lifetimes, yeah.

Katja (42:10):
Because if during pregnancy you are already in prediabetic or diabetic state. If you’re already in a like insulin kind of compromised sort of state, that actually affects the development of the fetus. And so that like sets them up into life to go into that. So, you could have two lifetimes of high sugar consumption.

Ryn (42:35):
Yeah. You’re right about that. Well, what I was kind of driving toward though, is that this is super common. And it’s because of our food supply. It’s because of subsidies for agriculture for sugar crops. It’s for so many reasons that have like all stormed up together on us as a group of humans. And now we’re in the situation where a lot of us need help to regulate our blood sugar a little more efficiently. So, cinnamon for everybody. Well maybe. There are fortunately many other herbs that also have these kinds of impacts. We can talk about tulsi and bilberry and mulberry and all kinds of fun friends. But let’s say if cinnamon matches your constitution, or if you formulate it with things in such a way that it does, and that you can take it well, then yeah. You can’t go wrong really, incorporating this into your life. If you’re a very, very hot constitution, then okay. Cinnamon’s a warming herb, but I don’t know. That’s the main thing to be cautious about, I guess.

Katja (43:35):
Yeah, I would also say that it is worth just mentioning that if you’re a medicated diabetic, and you decide you want to start working with cinnamon on a daily basis. Then it is very important to rigorously check your blood sugar levels, because it will absolutely change your dosing requirements. And it will do so reasonably quickly, like in a couple weeks. So for safety, it is very important that if you want to do that, you do test rigorously. And maybe let your doctor or health practitioner know oh, I think I’m going to try some cinnamon. I might need to change my dose. I’m going to be testing my blood sugar much more regularly. And I will give you feedback. I’ll let you know what I’m seeing in my testing results every week until we nail down what’s going to happen. Something like that, just to be safe, because it really will make an impact. You know, we’re talking about sugar here. And any time that we’re talking about oh, sugar is problematic. Sugar, it’s the great evil. It causes all the problems. I feel like it’s so important to also recognize that sugar is very addictive. It is ubiquitous in our food culture. It is almost impossible to avoid. And so it’s so easy to set up this kind of situation where it’s like oh, sugar is going to hurt me. Oh, but I want the sugar. Oh, I’m hurting me. I’m bad. Like this is a terrible cycle.

Katja (45:19):
And cinnamon can help with that too, actually. And in this regard I find a cold infusion to be super, super effective. Now experiment. See what works best for you. But honestly, in my experience I find a cold infusion is ideal. But if you set up a cold infusion of cinnamon at night when you go to bed. Get up in the morning and strain it up. Put it your water bottle. Drink it through the day. I was… And I think you will be too. Because a student did this for their herb of the month and came in and mentioned it. And then we all did it. And all of us were like wow. You’ve got to be kidding me. This is fantastic. So, we’ve seen that be a very pervasive result. And so I think you might find this as well. Try it. But here’s what happens. You start off your day. You’re drinking your cinnamon cold infusion. You realize I don’t feel as snacky as I was. You get to lunchtime. You’re like I’ll have a nice lunch. This will be great. You don’t really need the cookie. You’re like huh, that’s weird. I usually want a cookie. This is fine. You get through the afternoon. You’re not feeling quite the same slump that maybe you normally would. And listen, I’m not saying it’s perfect. I’m not saying suddenly, you know, like aaaah, and you never want sugar again. But it is very noticeable. It is very noticeable of like oh huh. I don’t actually feel the need to snack right now. That’s kind of cool. And I really appreciate that. I appreciate that cinnamon is providing such well rounded sugar support. Helping the body to metabolize it, process it, deal with the impacts better. But also helping us from a like craving perspective to be able to step back a little bit from it.

Ryn (47:21):
Yeah. And at the same time, there’s this whole suite of other anti-inflammatory effects. The activity to improve and to relax digestive tensions. You know, a little bit of liver stimulation as the aromatics move through there. A lot of different things going on that are helping to correct some of the damage or the irritation that had been caused by that dysregulation in sugar levels.

Katja (47:40):
I’m just imagining like a cartoon character who is a cinnamon stick with a Superman cape. And we could have like a whole cartoon series.

Ryn (47:52):
That seems pretty good.

Katja (47:53):
Super cinnamon.

Ryn (47:55):
One thing… I don’t know if I’ve asked you before, but it seems like the experience of this was really different from taking the cinnamon capsules, even though…

Katja (48:06):
That’s true. I do like to take cinnamon capsule for the blood sugar regulatory aspect. And if you have listened to the pod for any amount of time, it might be that you are aware that I like cake. And I do when I am struggling with emotions, I’m one of those people that turns to comfort food. And so that’s a struggle for anybody who has that tendency. And so I do struggle with it. But sometimes I have success, and sometimes I have cake. And so in those times when I’m dealing with emotional challenge with comfort food, I do like to take cinnamon capsules just to be like okay, body. I recognize that I’m eating my emotions right now. But I’m at least going to give you a bunch of cinnamon to try to make this easier. And I don’t think that I am as aware of a reduction in sugar cravings when I take a capsule. It might be there, because I will say overall that I definitely crave sugar less now than a year ago, like as a baseline.

Ryn (49:33):
Yeah. And I’ve gotten such feedback from other folks that I’ve suggested to try cinnamon capsules for a while. Just because it seemed like the easiest way to get going.

Katja (49:41):
Right. And that’s why I take the capsules, is because when I know I’m eating a bunch of sugar, then I’m like I just need to help my body. And right now emotionally the capsule is just going to be the way to do that. Fine. But it isn’t quite as overt. It isn’t quite as like sitting there looking in wonder at the jar of cold infused cinnamon tea. And saying what the heck, I don’t need a cookie. It’s a little more subtle, a little bit more over time. Yeah.

Ryn (50:13):
Yeah. And I mean, cinnamon by itself has a pretty decent flavor. It’s cinnamon-y, yeah. It’s got a touch of sweetness.

Katja (50:21):
It has a little sweet in it.

Ryn (50:22):
You can try a couple of different kinds of cinnamon if you like. There are a number of varieties. They broadly go into kind of two groups. You have your sort of Cassia cinnamon group with Cinnamomum cassia and Cinnamomum burmannii. And then you’ve got your true cinnamon group: Cinnamomum verum and zylonicum. And broadly the two groups pretty much taste like their group, right? So like Cinnamomum cassia, burmannii, they’re pretty much the same.

Katja (50:53):
The cassia is hotter. And the verum is sweeter.

Ryn (51:00):
The verum group, yeah. Sweeter. Maybe a little more aromatic. Maybe less astringent. But in any case taste these for yourself, you know? We can talk about flavor all day. But here, especially when we’re talking about like making a cold infusion of that herb. Try a couple different varieties of cinnamon, and see if one appeals to you a little better. And you might also drop in some fennel. Or I don’t know, even some licorice root. Not for you of course. But I might do that if I was making a cinnamon cold infusion. Actually I do often when I travel I’ll take marshmallow root, a little cinnamon, and a little bit of licorice root, and kind of stir all that together. And that’s my go-to demulcent cold infusion for dehydrated air.

Katja (51:44):
You’re a lot better at taking demulcents when you travel than when you’re at home.

Ryn (51:49):
Than when I’m at home, yeah. By like a really absurd amount. Cool. So yeah, those are some cinnamon-y thoughts. That’s going to be that. And I think that’s it for us today everybody.

Katja (52:03):
Well, we will see you next week. Or I guess you’ll hear us next week. We’ll talk to you next week here on the Holistic Herbalism podcast.

Ryn (52:13):
Until then take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. Drink some tea.

Katja (52:18):
Drink some tea.

Ryn (52:20):
Enjoy your winter citrus and cinnamon, if you’re listening to this on time. And if you’re from the future, then hi. I hope you’re having a good summer. And have a nice citrus cooler there too.

Katja (52:30):
Yes. You could listen to this in the winter, and listen to it again in the summer. And be like oh right. Some orange zest in my fizzy water. That would be great.

Ryn (52:38):
Sounds good. All right. Take care of yourselves, everybody.

Katja (52:41):
Bye bye.


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