Cinnamon is one of the world’s most popular spices, sprinkled on lattes, boiled with ciders and enjoyed in numerous dishes. Without it, Thanksgiving and Christmas meals might well become tasteless and definitely less fragrant. Harvested from the inner bark of a tropical evergreen plant, cinnamon has been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat respiratory and digestive problems for centuries. Ancient Egyptians used cinnamon as a perfume during the embalming process, while Romans used it in funeral pyres to mask the stench of burning flesh.

The Bible mentions cinnamon several times, most commonly as a way to perfume bedding, clothes and anointing oil. The essential oil form is made from the bark, leaves or twigs of the plant. But it’s cinnamon’s use as a medicinal agent that has scientists buzzing, trying to determine just how well its antioxidant capabilities might work to better our health. “Medicine started as herbs and plants,” said Lauri Wright, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “So it almost comes full circle, as we’re now going back and proving what some of these plant substances may do for health.” READ MORE