What is cinnamon?
Cinnamon has been used for flavor and medicinal purposes for thousands of years. It was used ceremonially for embalming in Egypt and as a fragrance for funeral services in Rome, Due to its rich scent and exotic flavor, it is a common ingredient in every household. It has recently been researched for positive health uses to the blood, brain, diabetes, or Parkinson's. There are numerous benefits to this versatile spice.
Cinnamon is a native spice in the Lauraceae family. It has been a key seasoning in recipes for a long time. Historically, it was used as a cure for digestive and respiratory problems. Data has recently been collected suggesting cinnamon has beneficial effects as an antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antilipemic, antioxidant, and anticancer agent.
There are four different types of cinnamon:
- Indonesian cinnamon (Cinnamomum burmanni) (CB)
- Ceylon/Mexican/True cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) (CZ)
- Cassia cinnamon or Chinese cinnamon (Cinnamomum aromaticum) (CA)
- Vietnamese cinnamon (Cinnamomum loureiroi) (CL)
What are the health benefits of cinnamon?
1. Antioxidant properties
Many herbs and spices contain antioxidants which can reduce the risk of developing heart disease. The benefits of cinnamon come from the antioxidant compound cinnamaldehyde. This component also gives cinnamon its rich flavor, aroma, and ability to reduce inflammation.
2. Reduces blood sugar levels
Drinking cinnamon tea after a meal can reduce blood sugar levels at night. This can prevent metabolic diseases and help with weight loss. The same studies show that improved cholesterol and triglyceride levels coincide with a decrease in blood sugar levels.
3. Is a dietary supplement
Cinnamon seems to suppress the appetite. Studies show that the amount of cinnamon needed to show metabolic results can range from a few milligrams to 3 grams. Several cinnamon extracts can be mixed with water to easily take as a dietary supplement.
4. Helps with dementia symptoms
A novel study evaluated the effect of CZ cinnamon bark on dementia in rodents. The data showed that rodents treated with the bark performed better in the morris water maze. They also had better recognition of familiar and new objects in the object recognition test because cinnamon has a phytochemical that boosts the ability of the brain to use glucose. This limits Alzheimer-induced changes in the brain.
5. Lowers blood pressure
There is evidence that cinnamon consumption can lower blood pressure. This makes it potentially useful in the treatment of hypertension.
6. Has antibiotic properties
The cinnamaldehyde content in cinnamon has antimicrobial properties. It inhibits the growth of E-coli and listeria in food, therefore increasing shelf life. Cinnamon also possesses antimicrobial properties against staph aureus and certain fungus species. Most promising is the improvement of the symptoms of candida (yeast infection) in patients with HIV.
7. Dental benefits
Cinnamon has at times been used to heal toothaches and ward off bad breath.
8. Artery health
Additional studies show that cinnamon contributes to atherosclerosis by decreasing stiffness in arteries, The amount needed to reach these health effects is unknown; however, the results are promising enough to encourage cinnamon use as a natural therapeutic option.
How is cinnamon used?
The use of cinnamon dates back to about 2800 BC. In the Chinese language, it was called "Kwai". The Bible suggests Moses used it as part of anointing oil for human sanctification. In Rome, cinnamon was popular for its medicinal properties in the treatment of the respiratory tract and digestive system. It was also used in funerals to mask the smell of dead bodies. In Egypt, it aided in the mummification of bodies and was also used for flavoring and fragrance.
During the holidays, cinnamon is found in many sugary, spicy desserts. The aroma of cinnamon can fill an entire house. In addition to sweets, cinnamon is also found in savory dishes like baked cinnamon-thyme chicken, shepherds' pie, and spicy lamb. Cinnamon can be found in many teas and coffees.
Where is cinnamon found?
Cinnamon is exported from four central countries as cinnamon quills: China, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. It is harvested by growing a cinnamon tree for two years and then pruning it. A dozen or so shoots will grow roots in the next year. A .5mm inner bark is stripped from the shoots and left to dry.
Peeling the cinnamon bark and then rolling it into pipes is how the quills are made. Various oils are made from the cinnamon plant and produce the following components:
- The bark oil produces cinnamaldehyde
- The root-bark oil produces Camphor
- The leaf oil produces Eugenol
- The flowers and fruit are rich in trans-cinnamyl acetate
Does cinnamon have any detrimental effects?
High levels of coumarin are contained in Cassia cinnamon (Chinese cinnamon). Coumarin can be toxic in high doses. Consuming more than .1 mg/kg of body weight can interfere with the blood coagulation profile of patients who are taking drugs like warfarin. It is also very toxic to the liver, and adding it to food is prohibited. The standard limits of cinnamon are unknown, so it is advised for patients with liver disorders to avoid cinnamon.
Coumarin has been shown to increase the risk of certain cancers. Rodents that ate too much of the substance in studies developed cancerous tumors in the liver, kidneys, and lungs. The exact mechanism is unknown, but scientists speculated that the cinnamon component caused damage to DNA over time and increased the cancer risk. More research is needed on humans to connect the coumarin-cancer link.
It would be very hard to reach a high level of coumarin through ordinary cooking with cinnamon. But taking large amounts of a dietary supplement like a concentrated cinnamon pill could be toxic. An additional danger regarding supplements is that the amount of cinnamon contained in the pill does not always match what is read on the label of the supplement bottle.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials: "The Benefits of Cinnamon."
National Center for Biotechnology Information: "NTP Toxicology and Carcinogenesis Studies of Coumarin (CAS No. 91-64-5) in F344/N Rats and B6C3F1 Mice (Gavage Studies)."
New World Encyclopedia: "Cinnamon."
Pharmacognosy Research Cinnamon: "Mystic powers of a minute ingredient."
University of Maryland Graduate School: "Health Benefits of Cinnamon."
Top 8 Science-Backed Proven Health Benefits Cinnamon Related Articles
Health Benefits of CinnamonCould the jar of cinnamon on your spice rack be the secret to better skin, a healthier heart, lower blood sugar, and more? Find out if the claims hold up.
Is It Possible to Be Allergic to Cinnamon?Cinnamon is a popular spice in many dishes. Cinnamon gives dishes a distinct flavor. Only a small percent of people experience allergic reactions after ingesting or coming into contact with cinnamon.
The 4 Best Spices and Herbs to Fight InflammationWhat to know about the best spices and herbs to fight inflammation. Learn what inflammation does to your body and how to fight it naturally. From turmeric to ginger, learn the best foods for inflammation.