22 July 2007
From Matthew Kalman
A PASSAGE from the Bible may hold the key to fighting the most dreaded diseases of the 21st century, using a cinnamon-based remedy developed by high priests of Old Testament times.
Zoology professor Michael Ovadia, of Tel Aviv University - a world-renowned expert on antidotes for snake venom - made the discovery after hearing a passage from the Bible which described temple priests anointing themselves with oil.
"The High Priests, the Cohens, would prepare a holy oil used on their bodies before they made a ritual animal sacrifice, " Ovadia said. "I had a hunch that this oil, prepared with cinnamon and other spices, played a role in preventing the spread of infectious agents to people."
The special properties of cinnamon have been known since ancient times, when it was used as a cure for many ailments including diabetes, coughing and sore throats. Today, cinnamon extracts boasting healing properties are widely available.
But simply munching a cinnamon stick will not cure HIV or flu.
"You cannot just take the cinnamon by itself, " Professor Ovadia said, "because the essential oils can be damaging to humans in high doses." But the sweet smell of cinnamon could be wafting through airports, railway stations and other crowded public places as a protection against HIV, herpes, bird flu and other dangerous viruses.
Patented cinnamon extract could be installed in air-conditioning systems, face masks and even aerosol sprays.
The Tel Aviv team's patented formula, codenamed VNF, can attack a broad range of viruses.
In animal tests, it stopped viruses in less than a minute.
Human testing is still some way off. But Dr Nissim Chen, of the university's business arm, said: "We think it could be used in vaccinations against avian influenza."