Just hearing the word 'cinnamon' brings the warm, comforting scent of cinnamon to my mind. But cinnamon's not just for making foods - both sweet or savory - even better tasting. Turns out there are genuine health benefits to this wonderful spice.
A fun fact about cinnamon—it comes from a small tree that grows in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Brazil, Vietnam, and Egypt. It’s also one of the oldest known spices.
The characteristic flavor and aroma of cinnamon comes from a compound in the essential oil of the cinnamon tree bark, called cinnamonaldehyde.
Besides using cinnamon in cooking, cinnamon is also thought to have health benefits.
Research on Cinnamon for Health
Cinnamon provides high amounts of calcium and fiber, and one teaspoon provides 23% of the daily recommended value in manganese. What’s manganese good for? A lot, actually! It helps the body form strong bones, connective tissue, and sex hormones, and is essential for optimal brain and nerve function. It helps metabolize fat and carbohydrates, and is an important part of the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase, which helps neutralize free radicals that can damage cell membranes and DNA.
Blood Sugar Balance
This culinary spice has been researched for its blood sugar balancing effects. Cinnamon slows the rate in which the stomach empties after meals. This is important because it decreases the rise in blood sugar levels after eating.
Compounds in cinnamon may be effective in controlling blood sugar after eating in normal weight and obese adults. The mechanism is not exactly sure, but the cinnamon may improve the activity of insulin and the cells’ ability to use glucose, which ultimately helps lower fasting blood sugar levels.
Preliminary lab and animal studies have found cinnamon may have antibacterial and antifungal properties. It’s active against Candida albicans, the fungus that causes yeast infections and thrush, and Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria responsible for stomach ulcers.
Cinnamon is loaded with powerful antioxidants, such as polyphenols. Even in the food processing industry, antioxidants have been used to delay or prevent food spoilage.
Cinnamon's Use in Traditional Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Chinese tradition values cinnamon for its warming qualities. The twigs and bark of the cinnamon tree are said to warm the body, invigorate the circulation, and harmonize the energy of the upper and lower body. Traditionally, cinnamon twig is used when the peripheral circulation is poor and cinnamon bark is used when the entire body is cold. Another use for cinnamon may be prescribed, often in combination with another warming substance such as ginger, to ward off colds.
Ancient India’s Healing Tradition (Ayurvedic Medicine)
Ayurveda uses cinnamon to stimulate circulation as well as to increase the bio-availability of other herbs. Ayurvedic healers prescribe remedies based on an individual’s dosha type. Ayurveda sees cinnamon as an appropriate remedy for people who belong to the kapha type and the vata type since cinnamon tends to have a heating and energizing effect. People who belong to the pitta type can consume cinnamon in moderation.
If you’re looking for a soothing and warming drink, try milk warmed with cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, and a pinch of cayenne pepper before bedtime.
Cinnamon is more than just a savory spice. Add it to your fresh apple juicer drinks, in homemade pecan/cacao nibs energy bars, or your favorite tea.
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Live Superfoods
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