Cinnamon twigs

Chinese: 桂枝

Pinyin: Guì Zhī

Parts used: Dried young branches

TCM category: Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): PungentSweet

Meridian affinity: SpleenHeartLung

Scientific name: Cinnamomum cassia

Other names: Chinese cassia, Chinese cinnamon

Use of cinnamon twigs (Guì Zhī) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitionner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove impurities, wash, soak in water, cut in thick slices and dry.

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Adjusts the nutritive Ying and defensive Wei Qi. Relieves the Exterior through sweating. Warms and disperses Cold. Removes obstruction of Yang. Promotes the circulation of Yang Qi in the chest. Regulates and moves blood.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which cinnamon twigs may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Common cold Abdominal pain Amenorrhea Arthralgia Edema Palpitations Rheumatoid arthritis Dysmenorrhea

Contraindications*: Do not use for those with Warm febrile diseases, those who are showing Heat signs, and should be used with caution for women who are pregnant or are bleeding heavily.

Common TCM formulas in which cinnamon twigs are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind cinnamon twigs' properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), cinnamon twigs are plants that belong to the 'Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior' category. Herbs that release the Exterior aim to to treat the early stages of diseases that affect the upper respiratory tract, the eyes, the ears, the nose, the throat or the skin. TCM believes that External diseases such as colds or allergies can only invade the body if the External environment overwhelms our Wei Qi (the TCM version of the immune system). In order to counteract this invasion Warm/Acrid herbs aim to induce sweating by increasing the flow of sweat to our capillary pores. The belief is that this will expel the disease from the body and stop it from invading further.

As suggested by its category cinnamon twigs are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that cinnamon twigs tend to help people who have too much "cold" in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much cold in their body are said to either have a Yin excess (because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition cinnamon twigs can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Cinnamon twigs also taste Pungent and Sweet. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Pungent ingredients like cinnamon twigs tend to promote the circulations of Qi and body fluids. That's why for instance someone tends to sweat a lot when they eat spicy/pungent food. On the other hand Sweet ingredients tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such cinnamon twigs are thought to target the Spleen, the Heart and the Lung. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, blood coagulation and fluid metabolism in the body. In addition to regulating blood flow, the Heart is believed to be the store of the "spirit" which basically refers to someone's vitality. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the body fluids that nourish the body.

Research on cinnamon twigs

5 g dose of Cassia cinnamon may reduce the peak blood glucose response and improve glucose tolerance following an oral glucose tolerance test.1

Both vivo and vitro results indicated Guzhi Fuling capsules (containing cinnamon twigs) possessed a significant spasmolytic effect on uterine titanic contraction.2

Sources:

1. Gutierrez JL, Bowden RG, Willoughby DS. ( 2016). Cassia Cinnamon Supplementation Reduces Peak Blood Glucose Responses but Does Not Improve Insulin Resistance and Sensitivity in Young, Sedentary, Obese Women. J Diet Suppl. , 13(4):461-71. doi: 10.3109/19390211.2015.1110222. Epub 2015 Dec 30.

2. Lan S, Liu L, Zong S, Wang Z, Zhou J, Xu Z, Ding G, Xiao W, Kou J. (2016) Traditional Chinese medicine Guzhi Fuling capsule used for therapy of dysmenorrhea via attenuating uterus contraction. J Ethnopharmacol 191: 273-279.

Use of cinnamon twigs as food

Cinnamon twigs are also eaten as food.