Cinnamon is a spice that comes from the branches of wild trees from the genus Cinnamomum - native to the Caribbean, South America, and Southeast Asia.
The spice is commonly used in cooking. However, cinnamon is also associated with a number of different health benefits.
Cinnamon has been consumed since 2000 BC in Ancient Egypt, where it was very highly prized.
There are two main different types of cinnamon:
- Cinnamomum verum (Ceylon cinnamon), most commonly used in the Western world.
- Cinnamomum aromaticum (Cassia cinnamon or Chinese cinnamon), which is also common.
Cinnamon is currently used to help treat muscle spasms, vomiting, diarrhea, infections, the common cold, and loss of appetite. In addition, some men claim cinnamon is effective in treating erectile dysfunction (ED).
Research suggests that cinnamon can lower blood sugar in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, according to Diabetes UK - although high quality research supporting the claim remains scarce. Cassia cinnamon has been shown to have the most effect on blood sugar in humans.
According to the National Institutes of Health, cinnamaldehyde, a chemical found in Cassia cinnamon, can fight against bacterial and fungal infections.
Health benefits of cinnamon
Diabetes - cinnamon may help improve glucose and lipids levels in patients with type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in Diabetics Care.
The study authors concluded that consuming up to 6 grams of cinnamon per day "reduces serum glucose, triglyceride, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes." and that "the inclusion of cinnamon in the diet of people with type 2 diabetes will reduce risk factors associated with diabetes and cardiovascular diseases."
Alzheimer's disease - Tel Aviv University researchers discovered that cinnamon could be the key to Alzheimer's prevention. According to Prof. Michael Ovadia, of the Department of Zoology at Tel Aviv University, an extract found in cinnamon bark, called CEppt, contains properties that can inhibit the development of the disease.
HIV - a survey of some Indian medicinal plants for anti-HIV activity revealed that cinnamon can be effective against HIV. According to the study authors "the most effective extracts against HIV-1 and HIV-2 are respectively Cinnamomum cassia (bark) and Cardiospermum helicacabum (shoot + fruit)."
Multiple Sclerosis - cinnamon may help stop the destructive process of multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a neurological scientist at Rush University Medical Center. Cinnamon could help eliminate the need to take some expensive and unpleasant drugs.
Blood sugar levels - a certain cinnamon extract can reduce fasting blood sugar levels in patients, researchers reported in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Lower the negative effects of high fat meals - Penn State researchers revealed that diets rich in cinnamon can help reduce the body's negative responses to eating high-fat meals.
Cinnamon intake has also been associated with:
- Relieving pain among arthritis sufferers
- Boosting the body's immune system
- Preventing the formation of blood clots
- Relieving indigestion
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ten grams of ground cinnamon contains:
- Energy: 24.7 kcal
- Fat: 0.12 g
- Carbohydrates: 8.06 g
- Protein: 0.4 g
Risks and Precautions
Some people who are sensitive to cinnamon may be at an increased risk of liver damage after consuming cinnamon-flavored foods, drinks and food supplements.
This is likely due to the fact that cinnamon contains coumarin, which has been linked to liver damage. Ceylan cinnamon contains less coumarin than Cassia cinnamon.
Written by Joseph Nordqvist