Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices known to man. It is mentioned in the Bible and was used in ancient Egypt not only as a beverage flavoring and medicine, but also as an embalming agent. It was so highly treasured that it was considered more precious than gold. Around this time, cinnamon also received much attention in China, which is reflected in its mention in one of the earliest books on Chinese botanical medicine, dated around 2,700 B.C.
Cinnamon’s popularity continued throughout history. It became one of the most relied upon spices in Medieval Europe. Due to its demand, cinnamon became one of the first commodities traded regularly between the Near East and Europe. Ceylon cinnamon is produced in Sri Lanka, India, Madagascar, Brazil and the Caribbean, while cassia is mainly produced in China, Vietnam and Indonesia.
How it is made
Cinnamon is made by cutting the stems of the cinnamomum tree. The inner bark is then extracted and the woody parts removed from it.
When it dries, it forms strips that curl into rolls, called cinnamon sticks. The sticks can be ground to form cinnamon powder.
What Kind of Cinnamon Should I Use?
Not all cinnamons were created equal, so be careful what you buy.
“Nearly all the cinnamon in the grocery stores and health food stores is a cousin of true cinnamon,” explains Christina Major, a MS Holistic Nutritionist and Herbalist and the Health Recovery Expert of Crystal Holistic Health.
“Cinnamomum cassia, or Chinese cinnamon, has a very similar flavor and color, but it does not have the same health benefits,” she explains. “Only Cinnamomum verum provides the health benefits, and this is an expensive spice that is often illicitly substituted with Cinnamomum cassia.”
Oftentimes, both Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum ) and Chinese cinnamon (cassia) are labeled as cinnamon. If you want to find the sweeter, more refined tasting Ceylon variety, you may need to shop in either a local spice store or ethnic market since this variety is generally less available. Just like with other dried spices, try to select organically grown cinnamon since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated (among other potential adverse effects, irradiating cinnamon may lead to a significant decrease in its vitamin C and carotenoid content.)
If you do have Cassia cinnamon on your shelf already, you can try integrating it into your diet as well, but bear in mind a few important notes:
– You likely will not find that the same benefits outlined with regards to Ceylon cinnamon hold true with Cassia.
– The Cassia variety should be consumed in very small doses. “Not more than 2 tsp. per day,” she suggests, “Since it has a higher concentration of courmarin, which can be harmful in large doses.” Courmarin can cause liver toxicity and have blood-thinning properties, so be sure to talk to your doctor before adding this or any sort of cinnamon to your diet if you are on blood thinners or liver medication.
Nutrition Benefits of Cinnamon
One tablespoon of ground cinnamon contains:
- 19 calories
- 0 grams of fat, sugar, or protein
- 4 grams of fiber
- 68% manganese
- 8% calcium
- 4% iron
- 3% Vitamin K
How to Store
Cinnamon is available in either stick or powder form. While the sticks can be stored for longer, the ground powder has a stronger flavor. If possible, smell the cinnamon to make sure that it has a sweet smell, a characteristic reflecting that it is fresh.
Cinnamon should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place. Ground cinnamon will keep for about six months, while cinnamon sticks will stay fresh for about one year stored this way. Alternatively, you can extend their shelf life by storing them in the refrigerator. To check to see if it is still fresh, smell the cinnamon. If it does not smell sweet, it is no longer fresh and should be discarded.
More Health Benefits
The benefits of cinnamon are compelling.
The FDA has not approved Cinnamon to cure any medical condition. This information is presented for informational purposes and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any illness. Consult a physician before taking any Cinnamon.
1, Cinnamon is Loaded With Antioxidants
Antioxidants protect the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals.
Cinnamon is loaded with powerful antioxidants, such as polyphenols.
With an ORAC value of 267536 μmol TE/100g (USDA 2007) cinnamon is one of the top seven anti-oxidants in the world.
2, Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties
Consumption of cinnamon can reduce both systemic and specific inflammation. The former is particularly important in the Western world, according to Carina Parikh, MScN, MSiMR, the holistic nutritionist.
She says that in the West, “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.
3, Cinnamon Lowers Blood Sugar Levels and Has a Powerful Anti-Diabetic Effect
Insulin is one of the key hormones that regulate metabolism and energy use. It is also essential for the transport of blood sugar from the bloodstream and into cells.
The problem is that many people are resistant to the effects of insulin. This condition, known as insulin resistance, is a hallmark of serious conditions like metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
While it’s true that there’s no cure for Type 2 diabetes, cinnamon can be an effective tool in managing the disease.
According to Lori Kenyon Farley, a Certified Nutrition Consultant specializing in wellness, fitness and anti-aging cinnamon 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,” she explains. Cinnamon can also reduce insulin resistance, which, Farley explains, “has been shown to lower fasting blood sugar levels by up to 29%, which can reduce the instance of Type 2 diabetes.”
Shane Ellison, MS, a medicinal chemist explains how exactly this works. “(Cinnamon) works directly on the muscle cells to force them to remove sugar from the bloodstream, where it is converted to energy,” he says. “It’s even shown to work better than most prescription meds.”
4, Cinnamon can lower your bad cholesterol (or LDL)
Cinnamon can improve some key risk factors for heart disease, including cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure.
Even if you do not suffer from diabetes, you may want to include cinnamon in your diet for many of the same reasons as those who do.
As Carina Parikh, MScN, MSiMR, the holistic nutritionist for Kate Naumes ND Holistic Wellness in Dallas explains, the positive impact on Type 2 diabetes symptoms is due to a number of factors, notably “improving serum glucose, lowering fasting blood glucose, and reducing triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol.” These are all benefits that can help even those not suffering from diabetes, including those with hereditary cholesterol worries or problems.
“(Cinnamon) also raises HDL (the “good”) cholesterol,” she explains. HDL cholesterol helps remove LDL cholesterol from the body.
And that’s not all. “Regular intake of cinnamon may also help to mitigate the effects of high-fat meals by slowing the increase in blood sugar post-meal,” says Parikh. This means that when cinnamon is added to your diet, the effects of occasional high-fat choices may not be quite as detrimental to your health as they would otherwise be.
5, Cinnamon can help manage PCOS
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a problem with numerous symptoms that need to be managed, and cinnamon can be a key element of this management due to a number of characteristics.
First would be the management of insulin resistance in women with PCOS, which can contribute to weight gain. “A recent pilot study found that cinnamon reduced insulin resistance in women with PCOS,” explains Parekh, extending cinnamon’s recommended consumption from diabetes sufferers to anyone with an insulin resistance problem.
“Cinnamon can also help mitigate heavy menstrual bleeding associated with common conditions of female health, such as endometriosis, menorrhagia, and uterine fibroids.”
6, Cinnamon May Have Beneficial Effects on Neurodegenerative Diseases
Neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by progressive loss of the structure or function of brain cells. Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease are two of the most common types.
Cinnamon has been shown to lead to various improvements for Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease in animal studies.
This July 2014 study by Rush University Medical Center found that using cinnamon can reverse the biomechanical, cellular and anatomical changes that occur in the brains of mice with Parkinson’s disease (PD).
An Israeli study done at the University of Tel Aviv that found sufficient evidence to conclude that Cinnamon can delay the effects of five aggressive strains of Alzheimer’s inducing genes. Another study also finds that orally administered Cinnamon extract has had good success in correcting Cognitive Impairment in Alzheimer’s Disease in Animal Models.
7, Cinnamon May Be Protective Against Cancer
Research studies show that sugar maybe causing or sustaining cancer cells and cinnamon may have a mitigating effect by controlling blood sugar levels in the body. So the evidence seems to suggest that Cinnamon is starving cancer cells of the sugar needed to sustain them.
Many superfoods are attributed with anti-carcinogenic properties, but it’s important not to jump from super food to super power. Parikh explains why it’s important not to get carried away.
“Evidence suggests that cinnamon may have anti-carcinogenic effects as well, although the research thus far is limited to animal studies,” she says. “These experiments demonstrate that cinnamon extract slows the growth of cancer cells and induces cancerous cell death.”
If these properties do extend to humans, then cinnamon may in fact be able to slow growth and kill cancerous cells. And even if these properties do not extend to a cure or treatment for cancer in humans, other characteristics of cinnamon, including the presence of antioxidants and free radicals, can contribute to its possible anti-carcinogenic effects.
8, Cinnamon has antifungal, antibacterial properties
Cinnamon has been proven to fight fungal, bacterial, and viral elements in foods, thus preventing spoilage. It’s no surprise that in the Middle Ages, when food spoilage was far more frequent due to lack of refrigeration, many recipes, both sweet and savory, were flavored with the spice.
But these properties of cinnamon do not extend merely to the foods cinnamon seasons. Consumers of cinnamon can benefit from these properties as well, according to our experts, who say cinnamon can be used as part of a treatment for anything from lung problems to the common cold.
Denise Baron, a wellness educator and director of Ayurveda for Modern Living explains that cinnamon can help with all sorts of lung congestion issues. “It helps clear up mucus and encourages circulation,” she explains, thus lending its powers to everything from a simple seasonal cough to bronchitis, when used in tandem with other remedies.
Both Ceylon Cinnamon Leaf Oil and Ceylon Cinnamon Bark are powerful anti-bacterial agents and makes a great natural disinfectant. Moreover they are very effective in treating Toenail Fungus: You can use Cinnamon sticks, tea or powder for internal treatment and a few drops of Ceylon Cinnamon Leaf Oil and soak your feet to treat the toenail fungus or athlete’s foot. Shockingly effective fast results .
9, Antiviral properties
Perhaps the most surprising use of cinnamon is in combatting viruses, and not just the common cold. “Research shows that cinnamon extract may help fight the HIV virus by preventing the virus from entering cells,” says Parikh. “Therefore, cinnamon extract could potentially contribute to the management of HIV.” (Denise Baron, a wellness educator)
10, Protects dental health and freshens breath naturally
Cinnamaldehyde (commonly found in Cinnamon Bark Oil) has antifungal and antibacterial properties, which may reduce infections and help fight tooth decay and bad breath. It’s one of the reasons that Cinnamon Oil is often used in chewing gums, mouthwashes, toothpaste and breath mints.
11, Can help prevent or cure Candida
Cinnamon has shown an amazing ability to stop medication-resistant yeast infections. This applies to Escherichia coli bacteria and Candida albicans fungus. This study discovered that Cinnamon Oil was one of three leading essential oils effective against Candida.
Real Ceylon Cinnamon Tea infused with Cinnamon Bark Oil could be an excellent way to fight internal Candida infections and boost your immune system.
12, Can be used as a natural food preservative
Cinnamon is effective in inhibiting bacterial growth. This maybe one reason why it is widely used in food preparation in hot Asian countries. In Sri Lanka, virtually every dish has a pinch of Cinnamon in it. In addition to great flavor, Ceylon Cinnamon in combination with other spices like Turmeric and Chili may have been an indigenous solution to preserve food without a refrigerator.
13, Cinnamon and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
As a digestive cinnamon dramatically reduces the uncomfortable feelings associated with IBS especially the bloating. It does this by killing bacteria and healing infections in the GI tract and enabling the gastric juices to work normally.
14, Cinnamon and Arthritis/Osteoporosis
Cinnamon has high levels (73% DV in two sticks of Cinnamon) of Manganese which is used to build bones, blood and other connective tissues, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. The body needs manganese for optimal bone health, so people who are deficient in the mineral are more likely to develop osteoporosis.
15, Odor Neutralizer
Both Cinnamon Leaf oil and Bark Oil are an effective odor neutralizer as it kills bacteria that creates bad odors and not just mask odors.
16, Weight Loss
Cinnamon apparently has the effect of thinning your blood thereby increasing blood circulation. Increased blood flow generally boosts your metabolism which is why it may be helpful in weight loss.
17, Massage Therapy
Cinnamon is a well known warming agent. Combined with a carrier oil it is highly effective in relaxing and relieving muscle pain. Some put a few drops in their bath to relax and to sooth tired and aching muscles. It also has the effect of improving your mood.
18, Insect Repellent
The anti-microbial qualities of Cinnamon Leaf oil is often used for head lice treatment, black ant control, bed bugs, dust mites, and roaches. It is well known as a defense against mosquitoes and it not only kills Mosquito larvae but also acts as a bug repellent.
Again because of the high levels of Manganese Cinnamon may be an excellent candidate to mitigate the effects of PMS. According to the University of Maryland web site women who ate 5.6 mg of manganese in their diets each day had fewer mood swings and cramps compared to those who ate only 1 mg of manganese. These results suggest that a manganese rich diet may help reduce symptoms of PMS.
20, Can be used to sweeten recipes without added sugar
It’s possible we’re just brushing the surface here. After all, Chinese medicine and Ayurveda have long revered cinnamon for its near superpowers, using it to treat things such as colds, indigestion and cramps, not to mention for its anti-clotting properties as well as attributes for cognitive function and memory. These societies also believed cinnamon could improve energy, vitality and circulation. It’s no wonder we’ve dubbed it a superfood!
How to Include Cinnamon in Your Diet
Even with all this evidence pointing to the wonders of cinnamon, we are absolutely not advocating you start guzzling it – it has been found to be toxic in large doses.
We are, 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.
And while we all have fell victim to the irresistible smells wafting through an otherwise bleak airport experience, this does not make Cinnabon a free-for-all. Not only is it much better to use cinnamon in healthy recipes, but you’re going to want to source your cinnamon somewhere you trust for several reasons.
- www. draxe.com