With the Christmas season in full swing, many of us will be spicing up our mulled wine and gingerbread biscuits with cinnamon. But to Joseph Carne Ross, a physician at Ancoats Hospital, cinnamon had uses far beyond festive flavouring.
In a letter published in the July 1894 edition of The Lancet, Dr Carne Ross reported that he had been investigating the effects of various spices on cancer. He claimed that when cancer patients were treated with cinnamon he had ‘invariably found that where pain was present it ceased, that fetor disappeared, [and] that the general health invariably improved1‘.
One of the cases Dr Carne Ross presented was a thirty-two year old patient at Ancoats Hospital. Dr Carne Ross noted that the patient no longer required daily doses of morphine after beginning the cinnamon treatment. Somewhat troublingly, however, Dr Carne Ross did not specify whether his experiments had been conducted with patients’ consent.
Ross described how he prepared the cinnamon:
a strong decoction [is] made by taking one pound of Ceylon sticks and boiling slowly in a closed vessel for eight hours in three pints of water till the water is reduced to one pint; pour off without straining; shake up the sediment before taking each dose; patient to drink half a pint every twenty-four hours2
Unsurprisingly, Dr Carne Ross noted that many patients ‘disliked the cinnamon very much3‘. Dr J. W. Hulke, who trialled cinnamon at Middlesex Hospital, reported that cinnamon caused nausea and that his patients begged him to discontinue the treatment4. Carne Ross admitted that patients were frequently sick after taking doses, but he suggested that this was the result of general ill health rather than a reaction to the cinnamon.
After experimenting with cinnamon on cancer, Dr Carne Ross promoted the spice as a treatment for scarlet fever, measles, and influenza. He insisted that the duration of these illnesses was dramatically reduced when patients were treated with cinnamon within twenty-four hours of the onset of symptoms.
1. The Lancet (21 July, 1894), 165.
2. The Lancet (21 July, 1894), 165.
3. The Lancet (20 October, 1894), 939-940.
4. The Lancet (15 September, 1894), 634-635.
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