Cinnamon is a powerful spice that has been used medicinally around the world for thousands of years. It is still used daily in many cultures because of its widespread health benefits, not to mention its distinctly sweet, warming taste and ease of use in recipes. According to researchers, out of twenty-six of the most popular herbs and medicinal spices in the world, cinnamon actually ranks number1 in terms of its protective antioxidant levels.
The health benefits of cinnamon come from the bark of the Cinnamomum tree. This bark contains several special compounds which are responsible for its many health promoting properties- including cinnamaldehyde, cinnamic acid, and cinnamate. The unique smell, color, and flavor of cinnamon is due to the oily part of the tree that it grows from. Cinnamon has therefore been attributed to be one of the most beneficial spices on earth, giving to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-microbial, immunity-boosting, cancer and heart disease-protecting abilities
Let us consider the following health benefits of cinnamon
Cinnamon is a high source of Antioxidants
Cinnamon is packed with a variety of protective antioxidants that reduce free radical damage and slow the aging process; in fact researchers have identified forty-one different protective compounds of cinnamon to date
According to the OTAC scale which is used to measure the concentration of antioxidants in different foods, cinnamon ranks number 7 of all foods, spices, and herbs across the world. And in a study that compared the antioxidant activity of 26 spices, cinnamon was deemed the winner and proved to be higher in antioxidants than other powerful herbs and spices including garlic, thyme, rosemary, and oregano.
Antioxidants protect the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals and the health benefits of cinnamon are attributed to the type of antioxidants called polyphenols, phenolic acid, and flavonoids. These are similar antioxidants to those that can be found in other “super foods” including berries, red wine, and dark chocolate. These compounds work to fight oxidative stress in the body, which can lead to disease formation when uncontrolled, especially as someone ages.
The different antioxidants present in cinnamon help to reduce a multitude of symptoms and diseases because they are free-radical-scavengers. The health benefits of cinnamon include its ability to reduce many forms of oxidative stress, including the ability to limit nitric oxide build up in the blood and lipid (fat) peroxidation, which can both add to instances of brain disorders, cancer, heart disease, and other conditions.
Cinnamon Contains Anti-Inflammatory Properties
The antioxidants in cinnamon have anti-inflammatory effects, which may help lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, brain function decline, and more. Researchers have identified over seven kinds of flavonoid compounds alone in cinnamon, which are highly effective at fighting dangerous inflammation levels throughout the body.
Consumption of cinnamon can reduce both systemic and specific inflammation. Systemic inflammation is a prominent problem that has led to the rise in chronic disease. By adding cinnamon to a regular diet, this systemic inflammation can be reduced significantly. Specific inflammation reduction means that consumption of cinnamon can help treat certain types of pain and headaches, as well as arthritis pain. It plays a double role in this particular type of pain as cinnamon can also boost circulation. With circulation problems such as Raynaud’s syndrome or arthritis, this helps stimulate and push circulation to the joints, Studies show that cinnamon helps to relive muscle soreness, PMS pains, severity of allergic reactions, and other age-related symptoms of pain too
Cinnamon Protects the Heart and May Cut the Risk of Heart Disease
Studies have shown that another health benefit of cinnamon is that it reduces several of the most common risk factors for heart disease, including high cholesterol levels, high triglyceride levels, and high blood pressure. Heart disease is the world’s most common cause of premature death.
The special compounds in cinnamon are able to help reduce levels of total cholesterol, LDL “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides, while HDL “good” cholesterol remains stable. Cinnamon has also been shown to reduce high blood pressure, which is another threat for causing heart disease or a stroke
There are even more heart health benefits of cinnamon. Research shows that cinnamon is a helpful blood coagulant and prevents bleeding by helping the body to form blood clots. Cinnamon also increases blood circulation and advances bodily tissue’s ability to repair itself after it’s been damaged. This includes heart tissue which is in need of regeneration in order to fight heart attacks, heart disease, and stroke.
Cinnamon Can Fight Diabetes
Cinnamon is known to have an anti-diabetic effect. It helps lower blood sugar levels and also can improve sensitivity to the hormone insulin, which is the vital hormone needed for keeping blood sugar levels balanced.
Diabetes is formed when insulin resistance occurs and poor glycemic control takes places, or someone develops the inability to manage how much sugar (glucose) enters the blood stream. The same problem with insulin resistance is also associated with other conditions like metabolic syndrome and weight gain too.
While it’s true that there’s no cure for Type 2 diabetes, cinnamon can be an effective tool in managing the disease. It can help manage this disease in two different ways. “It can reduce blood pressure and have a positive effect on blood markers for those with Type 2 diabetes. Cinnamon can also reduce insulin resistance, which has been shown to lower fasting blood sugar levels by up to 29%, which can reduce the instance of Type 2 diabetes.
These benefits of cinnamon exist because it plays a part in blocking certain enzymes called alanines which allows for glucose (sugar) to be absorbed into the blood. Therefore it has been shown to decrease the amount of glucose that enters the bloodstream after a high-sugar meal, which is especially important for those with diabetes.
Cinnamon May Be Protective Against Cancer and Lower Cancer Risk
Cancer is a serious disease, characterized by uncontrolled growth of cells. Because of its antioxidant abilities, cinnamon can protect against DNA damage, cell mutation, and cancerous tumor growth. Studies have revealed that the health benefits of cinnamon come from a compound called cinnamaldehyde which has ability to inhibit cancer tumor growth and protect DNA from damage, while also encouraging cancerous cells to self-destruct (called cell apoptosis).
Again, this is especially true in the colon; studies show that cinnamon can improve the health of the colon, thereby reducing the risk of colon cancer. Cinnamon is now being investigated as a natural anti-cancer agent because of its strong antioxidant abilities, so in the future it may be useful to supplement with cinnamon extract for those who are at higher risks for cancer.
Cinnamon Helps Fight Bacterial, Fungal Infections and Viruses
There are many benefits of cinnamon when it comes to defending the body from illnesses. Cinnamon is a natural anti-microbial, anti-biotic, anti-fungal, and anti-viral agent. The immune-boosting abilities of cinnamon are found in cinnamon’s essential oils.
Cinnamon is used in many cultures to naturally help fight harmful infections and viruses. Cinnamon oils also have protective abilities against various bacteria which can cause negative symptoms in the digestive tract, on the surface of the skin, and can lead to colds or the flu.
Cinnamaldehyde, the main active component of cinnamon, helps fight various kinds of infection. It can also inhibit the growth of certain bacteria, including Listeria and Salmonella
Cinnamon is so powerful at boosting immunity that some studies even show that it may be able to reduce the risk of contracting the HIV virus
Other benefits are:
- It protects Dental Health & Freshens Breath Naturally.
- It can Help Prevent or Cure Candida
- It Benefits Skin Health
- It Helps Fight Allergies
How to Include Cinnamon in Your Diet
Even with all this evidence pointing to the wonders of cinnamon, I am absolutely not advocating you start guzzling it – it has been found to be toxic in large doses.
I am, however, wholeheartedly encouraging a little pinch (or stick) here and there in places you might otherwise have overlooked (in your tea or coffee, added to savory dishes, etc.) – if not for your overall health, for its undeniably enchanting aroma and flavor. For me and my husband, we use quarter of a tea spoon (about 0.75ml) in boiling water to make two cups of tea for us.
The Kind of Cinnamon to Look Out For
Not all cinnamons were created equal, so be careful what you buy. Nearly all the cinnamon in the grocery stores and health food stores are not the multi benefit cinnamon. Cinnamomum cassia, or Chinese cinnamon, has a very similar flavor and color, but it does not have the same health benefits. Only Cinnamomum verum provides the health benefits, and this is an expensive spice that is often illicitly substituted with Cinnamomum cassia.
The Cassia variety contains significant amounts of a compound called coumarin, which is believed to be harmful in large doses. All cinnamon should have health benefits, but Cassia may cause problems in large doses due to the coumarin content. Ceylon (“true” cinnamon) is much better in this regard, and studies show that it is much lower in coumarin than the Cassia variety Unfortunately, most cinnamon found in supermarkets is the cheaper Cassia variety.
At the end of the day, cinnamon is one of the most delicious and healthiest spices on the planet. It can lower blood sugar levels, reduce heart disease risk factors, and has a plethora of other impressive health benefits. Just make sure to get Ceylon cinnamon, or stick to small doses if you’re using the Cassia variety.
My fellow bakers, cake lovers and all my blog readers, Can we add cinnamon to our lifestyle today? While we do that, let’s not forget the caution on use!