This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
What we employ as Cinnamon from the spice-box consists, when genuine, of the inner bark of shoots from the stocks of a Ceylon tree. This bark contains cinnamic acid, tannin, a particular resin, a volatile fragrant oil, and sugar. The aromatic, and restorative cordial effects of Cinnamon have been long known in this country. It was freely given in England during the epidemic scourges of the early and middle centuries, nearly every Monastery keeping a store of the medicament for ready use. The monks administered it in fever, dysentery, and contagious diseases. Of late it has been shown in the Pasteur Laboratory at Paris that Cinnamon actually possesses a special power of destroying bacterial germs of diseases. M. Chamberland declares, "No disease germ can long resist the antiseptic power of essence of Cinnamon, which is as effective to destroy microbes as corrosive sublimate." One of the assistants at the Pasteur Institute in Paris some years ago, after many experiments with other probable germicides which proved unsuccessful, found at last that the moment the aroma of the essential oil of true Cinnamon (not cassia) came in contact with microbes in a glass tube, they fell down in shoals to the bottom of the tube, either stupefied, or killed. (He observed the same thing happen, but more slowly, if the tube was exposed simply to the rays of brilliant sunshine.) It is an established fact that those persons who inhabit Cinnamon districts have an immunity from malarious diseases.
And our ancestors, as it would appear, hit upon a valuable preservative against microbes when they infused Cinnamon (with other spices) in their mulled drinks. By its wanning astringency it exercises cordial properties which are most useful in arresting passive diarrhoea, and in relieving flatulent, cold indigestion; from ten to twenty grains of the powdered bark may be given for a dose in such cases. Against ill odours from decayed stumps of carious teeth, within a foul-smelling mouth, this should be rinsed out each night and morning with Cinnamon-water, freshly prepared by adding half a tea-spoonful of genuine Cinnamon essence to half a toilet-tumblerful of water; thereby making an effective mouth-wash, and helping materially to prevent absorption into the blood of injurious septic matters which would engender rheumatism, and kindred toxic maladies. Another method for effecting the same salutary end may be copied from what used to be, and perhaps still is, practised by school-boys here and there - that of smoking pieces of Cinnamon bark instead of cigars, which would betray the offender by their forbidden nicotian odour; but these fragrant substitutes are hard to "draw".
The volatile oil of Cinnamon has to be procured from the bark, and makes with spirit a convenient essence, or tincture; being useful further for preparing an aromatic water of Cinnamon. For a sick, qualmish stomach either form of Cinnamon is an excellent remedy. Cinnamon bark by its astringency will also serve to stay bleeding from the bowels, likewise nose-bleeding, and uterine fluxes. A teaspoonful of the bruised and powdered bark should be infused in half a pint of boiling water, and a tablespoonful of the same, when cool, is to be taken frequently.
Parenthetically it may be told here that, though not esculent, except when made into a tea by infusion with boiling water, one of our very common English wayside weeds, the small Shepherd's Purse (Bursa Capsella Pastoris), is likewise singularly useful for arresting bleedings, and floodings; it is eminent among our most reliable remedies for staying fluxes of blood. The herb contains a tannate, and bursinic acid, as its active medicinal principles. Its tea should be made from the fresh plant, first bruised, and is to be taken a teacupful at a time every two, three, or four hours, as required. "Shepherd's Purse stayeth bleeding in any part of the body, whether the juice thereof be drunk, or whether it be used poultice-like, or in bath, or any way else." It further bears the name of Poor Man's Permacetty, "the sovereignst remedy for bruises." And in some parts of England the Shepherd's Purse is known as "Clapper Pouch," alluding to the licensed begging of lepers at our crossways in olden times, with a bell, and a clapper. They would call the attention of passers-by with the bell, or with the clapper, and would receive from them alms in a cup, or basin, at the end of a long pole.
The clapper was an instrument made of two or three little boards which could be noisily-rattled together so as to incite notice. Thus the wretched lepers obtained the name of Rattle Pouches, which appellation has become extended to this small plant, bearing a reference to the diminutive purses which it hangs out along the pathway. Lady Paget, when interviewing at Bologna Count Mattaei, of the "seven marvellous medicines," gathered the knowledge that this Shepherd's Purse furnishes the so-called "blue electricity," of surpassing virtue for controlling haemorrhages. The juices expressed from the fresh herb can be simmered down with sugar until thickened to a liquid extract, and taken thus, one teaspoonful for the dose. English druggists now prepare, and dispense, a fluid extract of this herb. Its popular names are "Case Weed," "Pickpocket," "Mother's Heart," and "Toy-wort".
The term Cinnamon is connected with "quineh," a reed, or cane. Dr. Tobias Venner wrote (1620) in his Recta via ad vitam longam: - "From one pound of Cinnamon (grossly beaten), a pound of white sugar, a gallon of sack, and a quart of rosewater, steeped together for twenty-four hours, may be drawne by distillation a water of singular efficacie against sowning (swooning) debilitie of the spirit, and the princepall parte. Wherefor I wish every man that is respective of his health and life, especially such as are of weake nature, never to be without it, and to take now and then a spoonfull or two, especially when occasion shall instant the use of it; then take powder of Synamome, and temper it with red wyne." "For fragrance of smell, and jucunditie of taste Cinnamon excelleth all other spices; it strengtheneth the stomacke, preventeth and correcteth the putrefaction of humors, resisteth poysons, exceedingly comforteth the principall parts, especially the heart, and liver, and reuiueth the spirits.