Healthy Eating: Health Benefits of Cinnamon

What Is It?

Cinnamon is a spice that comes from the bark of a tree.

Cinnamon, from the bark of the cinnamon tree, has long been used as both a spice and a traditional medicine. As a supplement, you'll find it in capsules, teas, and extracts. So far, doctors don't recommend it for any health issues. Although research suggests interesting possibilities, there's more work to be done.

Lower Blood Sugar

Cinnamon helps lower blood sugar.

Several studies of adults and animals with diabetes have found that cinnamon can help lower blood sugar, though others haven't shown similar results. Scientists still don't know how cinnamon may work. It's also unclear how much you would take and how long the results might last.

Boost Metabolism

Early research suggests a compound in cinnamon may boost metabolism.

An essential oil in cinnamon called cinnamaldehyde can target your fat cells and make them burn more energy, according to a lab study. This is exciting news for anyone trying to lose weight, but the research is still in the early stages. We have a long way to go.

Great Skin

Cinnamon may kill bacteria on the skin and boost collagen.

Search the internet for "cinnamon face mask" and you'll find plenty of DIY recipes that claim the'll fight pimples and redness. There's very little to back this up -- just one small study that found Ceylon cinnamon, specifically, can fight the types of bacteria known to cause acne. Another small lab study suggests that cinnamon can boost collagen production, which might help your skin look younger.

Help Treat Cancer

In lab studies, cinnamon slows cancer growth and kills tumor cells.

In studies using animals or cells grown in labs, cinnamon has shown promise for its ability to slow cancer growth and even kill tumor cells. We need well-run studies of humans to know what role, if any, cinnamon could play in curing or preventing cancer.

Lower Blood Pressure

The spice may help keep blood pressure in check.

Several studies suggest that eating cinnamon every day for 3 months can bring your systolic blood pressure (the top number) down by as much as 5 points. Larger studies are needed to check things like does it really work, how much to eat to get the best results, and how long the effect lasts. And since these were people who had prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, we don't know if cinnamon has the same effect when you don't have blood sugar issues.

Protect Your Brain

Cinnamon may help protect your brain.

In a lab setting, cinnamon stopped the buildup of a brain protein that's a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. In another study, rats who had cinnamon did better in a water maze designed to test their memory. Of course, we need to see if these findings carry over when tested on humans.

Reduce Inflammation

Cinnamon reduces inflammation and may help conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

It turns out that cinnamon was a top inflammation-fighter in a recent laboratory study that looked at 115 foods. Since inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis become more common as you age, more research could support using cinnamon as a natural remedy for older adults to help with these types of conditions.

Lower Cholesterol

Results of early studies suggest cinnamon may help lower cholesterol.

When 60 adults in a small study ate about 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon every day for 40 days, their LDL ("bad") cholesterol went down. Other research has found that similar amounts of cinnamon, eaten daily for up to 18 weeks, can lower LDL and total cholesterol while raising HDL ("good") cholesterol. But it's too early to recommend cinnamon as a treatment for high cholesterol.

Fight Bacteria

Salmonella and other bugs may not stand a change against cinnamon.

Cinnamon can fight many types of bacteria that make people sick, including salmonella, E. coli, and staph. Perhaps it could be used as a natural preservative in foods and cosmetics.

Get Rid of a Yeast Infection

In lab studies, cinnamon fights the fungus that causes yeast infections.

It seems cinnamon has the power to destroy the fungus Candida albicans, which causes most vaginal yeast infections. At least, it works in the lab. It's not clear how -- or even if you could -- use cinnamon to fight off or treat a yeast infection.

Regulate Menstrual Cycles for PCOS

Cinnamon may help regulate menstrual cycles in women who have PCOS.

While taking a dose of 1.5 grams (about 1/2 teaspoon) of cinnamon each day for 6 months, women with polycystic ovary syndrome in one small but well-designed study had more regular periods. Their insulin resistance and androgen levels didn't change, though.

Reviewed by Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on 5/17/2018

Healthy Eating: Health Benefits of Cinnamon

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