Cinnamon and autumn are synonymous in my book. Breathing in the spice and the warmth of cinnamon makes me feel cozy from the inside out. In fact, once upon a time cinnamon was considered an aphrodisiac because its spicy warmth put people in the mood for loving. Although cinnamon heightens our senses and helps us tune into the moment of the here and now, it comes from quite far away.
Cinnamon is produced in China, India, and Indonesia…many times by small crop farmers. People whose livelihoods depend on providing commodities to the market at prices that are often not liveable. But, cinnamon is a slightly different story. Cinnamon, as you can probably tell, is the bark of the tree. A cinnamon forest can only be harvested once every 10 to 15 years. That means that demand is often greater than supply, keeping the price of cinnamon a bit loftier and steadier than other commodities like pepper. So for some farmers, cinnamon is more like a savings account – a harvest to be yielded on a rainy day. And, as cinnamon grows in forests, maintaining the health of the complete ecosystem and all the life with which it teams is in the best interest of all cinnamon lovers. So, how is it that for collaborative connection to nature and our fellow humans?
That is something that I like to consider when I slowly simmer, pour and settle into my favourite armchair with a mug of cinnamon tea.
Food can be a fully sensual experience. The more we lean into using all of our senses, the more we feel connected to nature – that we can see, and that we can´t see. Smell is a powerful tool to use to reinforce the value of food in your life. Cinnamon is one of the most fragrant everyday foods that we eat. I like to think of taking a mindful moment with a cinnamon tea as a means by which we can increase our appetite for the love of life! When you have a moment for yourself in the next few days, start a cinnamon tea ritual. Put a pot of water on the stove and drop a cinnamon stick or two into it, bring it to the boil and then let it simmer for 20 minutes. Let the whole house fill with the warming scent.
Then pour yourself a well steeped cup of tea and sit back and consider this. Smell is an integral part of all tastes. We all know that when we have a cold, food can taste like nothing. But, smell is also an important part of the meaning we associate with certain foods. Our olfactory bulbs are part of the limbic system and directly connect with limbic structures that process emotions (the amygdala) and learning (the hippocampus). That provides a strong neural basis for why odors trigger emotional connections. This blend of emotion and learning results in what’s called associative learning – a process that starts in the womb. That is why some foods, from day one, can make us feel more secure. Smells we’ve experienced in moments of pleasure, stick with us. These memories create comfort foods, and can even shift your behaviour. Studies have shown that people who are exposed to comforting scents like baking cookies or roasting coffee are more inclined to help a stranger than people not exposed to olfactory manipulation.
So give yourself the gift of a sensual moment with a cup of cinnamon tea this autumn, tune in and see if the smell triggers certain emotions or memories…or perhaps light a candle, look out your window and the sky and create a new emotional memory that you can kindle each time the scent of cinnamon wafts by to connect you to others and the mystery of nature.