The Greek historian Herodotus wrote of the Cinnamologus, a ferocious bird which lives in nests made of cinnamon branches. To collect the cinnamon. cunning traders would leave large portions of meat near the nest. The Cinnamologus would fly down and eat the meat, and when the bird returned to the nest the extra weight it had gained would cause cinnamon to fall from the nest. This story was likely told to discourage rival businessmen from selling cinnamon but the legend of the Cinnamologus, and the fiery sticks and powder from the cinnamon bark, would spread around the world in the coming centuries.
Nowadays we find cinnamon in delicious, flaky yet chewy rolls, in savoury curries and in our favourite teas. Its distinctive flavour, smell and health benefits are given by the chemical cinnamaldehyde. Cinnamon also contains high levels of antioxidants and a daily dose is thought to reduce the risk of heart disease. Cinnamon is also thought to be protective against Alzheimer's because it contains chemicals that stop Tau proteins from clustering and reduce Amyloid Beta protein production (the causes of Alzheimer's). However studies have not yet been carried out with humans to confirm if this works just through consumption of cinnamon.
Cinnamon has been shown to be effective as an antidepressant in rats, improving levels of serotonin in the hippocampus (the part of the brain to do with memory). Research in 2017 found that, after regular doses of cinnamon essential oil, mice spend an increased amount of time in the open parts of a maze and less time hiding in the enclosed spaces (a measure supposed to show reduced feelings of anxiety). Maybe that delicious Christmassy flavour it gives isn’t just heartwarming because of our cultural associations.