Cinnamon has been used for centuries not only as a spice for flavoring food but also for its potential health benefits. The spice is rich in antioxidants, which can help protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. In addition, cinnamon has been found to have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, making it a potential natural remedy for infections. Some studies have also suggested that cinnamon may benefit blood sugar levels, heart health, and cancer prevention. This article will discuss 16 amazing health benefits of Cinnamon.
Cinnamon’s Rich History and Uses
Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices known to man, with references to its use found in ancient writings. Traces of cinnamon were found in Egyptian temples dating back to the 3rd century BC, where it was used in ointments to embalm bodies.
Aside from its use as a flavoring agent, cinnamon was also widely used in ancient times for its various properties, including its stimulating, astringent, and antiseptic properties. It was a common ingredient in perfumes, creams, and remedies.
In the Middle Ages, spices were a symbol of social status and a heritage of the ancient elites. Cinnamon was no exception and was widely used in cooking during that time. It was a key ingredient in the “camel mixture,” a spice blend that included cinnamon and ginger, among others.
Today, cinnamon is produced in various countries, including India, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, the West Indies, and Brazil.
The Two Main Types of Cinnamon: Ceylon and Cassia
Cinnamon is a spice used for centuries in various cultures for its flavor and medicinal properties. There are approximately 250 species of cinnamon trees grown around the world, but the two most common types used today are Ceylon cinnamon and cassia cinnamon. In this article, we will explore the differences between these two types of cinnamon, their health benefits, and how to use them.
Ceylon Cinnamon vs. Cassia Cinnamon
Ceylon cinnamon, also known as “true” or “real” cinnamon, comes from trees grown in Sri Lanka and Thailand. It is rarer and more expensive, and harder to find in stores. Cassia cinnamon, on the other hand, is more widely available and commonly used. It comes from trees grown in China and is also called Saigon or Chinese cinnamon.
Ceylon and cassia cinnamon come from two different but related trees. Ceylon cinnamon has a lighter and more citrusy taste than cassia, which is considered deeper and spicier.
Both types of cinnamon have a notable spicy taste and fragrance due to the presence of cinnamaldehyde. They can be used interchangeably in recipes, but Ceylon is the better option for producing cinnamon extracts that contain highly concentrated doses of the spice.
Ceylon cinnamon also contains less of a compound called coumarin than cassia, which can potentially damage the liver when consumed in high amounts. Researchers think Ceylon may have more health benefits than cassia, although cassia has been studied more extensively.
Nutritional Value of Cinnamon
Cinnamon is not only a flavorful spice, but it also has nutritional value. One teaspoon of cinnamon (2.6 grams) contains:
- Calories: 6
- Carbohydrates: 2 grams
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Calcium: 26.1 milligrams
- Iron: 0.2 milligrams
- Magnesium: 1.4 milligrams
- Potassium: 11.2 milligrams
- Vitamin A: 0.4 international units
16 Amazing Health Benefits of Cinnamon
Cinnamon offers various health benefits due to its nutritional value and medicinal properties. Some of the most notable health benefits of cinnamon are:
1. Helps regulate blood sugar levels
Cinnamon contains compounds that can improve insulin sensitivity and help lower blood glucose levels. Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels by allowing glucose to enter cells where it can be used for energy.
In people with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes, insulin is less effective at lowering blood sugar levels. This can lead to high blood sugar and other health problems.
Several studies have found that cinnamon can improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood glucose levels. For example, a study published in Diabetes Care found that consuming cinnamon daily for 90 days improved blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
2. Reduces inflammation
Cinnamon contains compounds with anti-inflammatory properties, including cinnamaldehyde and eugenol. These compounds can help reduce the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and other molecules contributing to chronic inflammation.
Research has found that cinnamon can help reduce inflammation by inhibiting the production of certain pro-inflammatory molecules in the body. One study found that cinnamon extract reduced inflammation in the colon of mice with inflammatory bowel disease.
3. Promotes heart health
Cinnamon has been linked to promoting heart health. One study published in Nutrition Research found that cinnamon supplementation improved several markers of heart health in people with type 2 diabetes.
The study showed that taking cinnamon supplements for 12 weeks reduced systolic blood pressure, the top number in a blood pressure reading, as well as triglyceride levels and LDL cholesterol levels, which are risk factors for heart disease.
Cinnamon has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can help protect the heart by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.
4. Boosts brain function
Cinnamon has been suggested to boost brain function due to its ability to improve cognitive processing and memory.
Research has shown that cinnamon can increase certain neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine and norepinephrine, which play a key role in regulating mood, attention, and learning.
In addition, cinnamon contains compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to protect the brain from oxidative stress and inflammation.
5. Improves digestion
Cinnamon has been found to have several benefits for digestion and gut health. One of the main ways cinnamon supports digestion is by promoting the secretion of digestive enzymes.
These enzymes help to break down food in the stomach and intestines, making it easier for the body to absorb nutrients.
Cinnamon also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract and alleviate symptoms of conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
In addition, cinnamon has been shown to have antimicrobial properties, which means it can help to fight off harmful bacteria and fungi that may cause digestive issues.
6. Enhances immune function
Cinnamon contains compounds that have been shown to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, which can help to fight off harmful pathogens and prevent infections.
Additionally, cinnamon has been found to increase the production of white blood cells, which play a key role in the immune response.
Cinnamon also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to reduce inflammation in the body and support immune function. Chronic inflammation has been linked to various health issues, including a weakened immune system.
7. Reduce high blood pressure
Cinnamon has been found to have potential blood pressure-lowering effects, which may be beneficial for individuals with high blood pressure or hypertension.
One study found that consuming cinnamon daily for 12 weeks led to significant reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure in individuals with type 2 diabetes.
In addition, Cinnamon may help to reduce blood pressure by improving blood vessel function and increasing nitric oxide production, which can help to dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure.
8. Have anti-cancer properties
Cinnamon has been found to have potential anti-cancer properties due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial effects.
Studies have suggested that cinnamon extract may help to inhibit the growth and spread of cancer cells in several types of cancer, including colon cancer, leukemia, and lymphoma.
A study found that cinnamon extracts effectively inhibited the growth of human colon cancer cells. Another study found that cinnamon extracts effectively reduced the growth and proliferation of breast cancer cells.
Cinnamon’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties may also help to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, which can contribute to the development and progression of cancer.
9. Reduce menstrual pain and cramps
Cinnamon has been found to have potential benefits for reducing menstrual pain and cramps.
One study found that women who consumed cinnamon capsules experienced significant reductions in menstrual pain compared to a placebo group.
In addition, Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to reduce inflammation in the body and alleviate pain. In addition, cinnamon has been found to have vasodilatory effects, meaning it can help to widen blood vessels and improve blood flow, which can help to alleviate menstrual cramps.
10. Reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
Cinnamon has also been found to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive brain disorder that affects memory and cognitive function.
The compounds found in cinnamon can help prevent the buildup of tau protein in the brain, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
Furthermore, cinnamon’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties may also play a role in protecting the brain from damage and reducing the risk of cognitive decline.
A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that cinnamon extract can significantly improve cognitive function and memory in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
11. Improve gut health
Cinnamon has been found to have a positive impact on gut health by reducing inflammation and promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
A study found that cinnamon can help to protect against gut inflammation and improve gut health in mice. Another study found that cinnamon can have a prebiotic effect, promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria.
Furthermore, the antimicrobial properties of cinnamon can help to fight off harmful bacteria and fungi in the gut, promoting a healthy balance of microorganisms. This can help to prevent conditions such as Candida overgrowth and other gut infections.
12. Reduce inflammation associated with arthritis
Cinnamon has been shown to reduce inflammation associated with arthritis. Studies have shown that cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce swelling and inflammation in the joints.
Additionally, cinnamon contains antioxidants that help reduce oxidative stress, which can contribute to inflammation. One study found that consuming cinnamon extract reduced markers of inflammation in people with osteoarthritis.
13. Improve skin health
Cinnamon can also improve skin health due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. These properties help to reduce the inflammation and redness of the skin caused by acne, eczema, and other skin conditions.
Furthermore, cinnamon can also help to reduce the signs of aging. According to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, cinnamon extract has been found to significantly reduce oxidative stress and improve skin elasticity in postmenopausal women.
14. Have an anti-aging effect
Cinnamon has been shown to have an anti-aging effect on the body. This is partly due to its high antioxidant content, which can help protect the body against damage from free radicals.
Free radicals can damage cells and contribute to aging and disease. Antioxidants can help neutralize these molecules and prevent damage to the body’s cells.
Additionally, cinnamon has been found to help improve circulation and blood flow, which can help deliver essential nutrients and oxygen to the skin and other organs.
15. Have pain-relieving properties
Cinnamon has been found to have pain-relieving properties, particularly in reducing menstrual pain and cramps. Additionally, some studies have shown that cinnamon can reduce inflammation associated with conditions like arthritis, which can also help alleviate pain.
One study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that cinnamon extract effectively reduced pain associated with primary dysmenorrhea (menstrual pain and cramps) compared to a placebo group.
16. Have antimicrobial and antifungal properties
Cinnamon also possesses antimicrobial and antifungal properties, which make it effective in fighting various bacterial and fungal infections.
Studies have shown that cinnamon oil and its components have the ability to inhibit the growth of several types of bacteria, including Salmonella, Escherichia coli, and Staphylococcus aureus.
Cinnamon oil has also been effective against various fungal infections, such as Candida albicans, Aspergillus flavus, and Aspergillus niger.
Understanding the Risks of Consuming Too Much Cinnamon
Cinnamon contains a substance called coumarin, which is a natural toxin found in several plants, including bergamot and tonka beans. Coumarin helps protect the plant from external threats, but it can harm humans in high doses.
When you consume too much coumarin, it can lead to liver damage and blood clots. However, the likelihood of this happening is small, and it usually only occurs when you consume large amounts of cinnamon or other foods containing coumarin.
The good news is that the amount of coumarin in cinnamon decreases during storage and processing. Also, the symptoms of coumarin poisoning are rare and typically only occur when consuming large amounts of the substance. Nonetheless, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and consume cinnamon in moderation.
Tips for Consuming Cinnamon Safely
Here are some tips to help you enjoy cinnamon without harming your health:
- Stick to recommended doses: The European Food Safety Authority recommends a safe daily intake of 0.1 mg of coumarin per kilogram of body weight. For the average adult, this translates to no more than one teaspoon of ground cinnamon daily.
- Choose Ceylon cinnamon: Ceylon cinnamon, also known as “true cinnamon,” contains lower levels of coumarin than Cassia cinnamon, the most commonly consumed type of cinnamon in the United States. If you’re using cinnamon supplements, make sure they’re made from Ceylon cinnamon.
- Be mindful of coumarin-containing foods: Besides cinnamon, coumarin is found in other foods, such as bergamot and tonka beans. If you consume these foods regularly, be mindful of your total coumarin intake.
- Talk to your doctor: If you have liver disease or are taking medications that affect your liver, talk to your doctor before consuming cinnamon or supplements.
Cinnamon is a delicious and nutritious spice that offers a wide range of health benefits. Its anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-microbial, anti-cancer, and antioxidant properties make it a powerful natural remedy for several conditions. By incorporating cinnamon into your diet, you can experience the health benefits of this amazing spice.