You may love the warm, distinctive flavor that cinnamon adds to food dishes. But did you know that this ancient spice, taken from the bark of tropical trees, has one of the highest antioxidant levels of any spice?
In fact, cinnamon has more antioxidants than many antioxidant foods, ounce-for-ounce. One teaspoon of cinnamon has as much antioxidant capacity as a full cup of pomegranate juice or a half-cup of blueberries.
Beyond antioxidants, cinnamon is also rich in natural compounds called polyphenols. These compounds appear to mimic the action of insulin in your body and may help regulate blood sugar levels. That’s especially good news for people with diabetes.
Types of Cinnamon
Cinnamon is one of the most popular herbs and spices in the world. Although there are four main varieties of cinnamon, Ceylon and Cassia are the most popular types. Cinnamon health benefits don’t seem to be significantly different from one type to another.
Ceylon cinnamon is sometimes called “true cinnamon”. It is more expensive and has a sweet taste, milder than Cassia. Ceylon cinnamon has a long history. It originated in Asia, mostly Sri Lanka and India.
Cassia cinnamon, the less expensive variety, is the most common cinnamon sold in supermarkets in North America. This variety grows on small trees in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Brazil, Vietnam, and Egypt. It has a darker color and the quills are harder.
The Source of Cinnamon Health Benefits
Nutritional Content of Cinnamon. Cinnamon is high in polyphenols, proanthocyanidins, antioxidant activity, and is a great source of manganese, fiber, iron, and calcium. More cinnamon facts here.
Cinnamon’s unique healing abilities come from three basic types of components in the essential oils found in its bark. These essential oils are potent antibacterial and antifungal stimulants. They contain active components called cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, and cinnamyl alcohol, plus a wide range of other volatile substances.
The various terpenoids (organic compounds) found in the volatile cinnamon oil are believed to account for cinnamon health benefits. The parts of this plant that are used medicinally are the dried inner bark of the shoots and the oil distilled from the bark and leaves.
Cinnamon Health Benefits include a variety of health disorders, including diarrhea, arthritis, menstrual cramps, yeast infections, colds, flu, rheumatism and digestive problems. Cinnamon has been used for centuries and in many cultures. It has found a prominent position in traditional healing medicines, especially Ayurveda (the traditional Indian medicinal system).
Today, the use of cinnamon has expanded to treating a variety of health disorders, including respiratory problems, skin infections, blood impurity, heart disorders, and diabetes. Cinnamon has also been used to treat diarrhea and other problems of the digestive system.
A USDA study found that cinnamon health benefits lasted for at least 20 days after people stopped taking it.
Specific Cinnamon Health Benefits
Type 2 Diabetes. Several studies suggest that cinnamon may have a regulatory effect on blood sugar, making it especially beneficial for people with Type-2 diabetes and hypoglycemia. Cinnamon contains certain proanthocyanidins that researchers say may have insulin-like properties.
Studies have found that cinnamon contains certain polyphenols that help activate insulin and transport glucose. Cinnamon may actually help people with Type 2 diabetes control blood sugar levels, and may significantly lower LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides as well. More information on cinnamon for diabetes.
Arthritis and inflammation. Cinnamon health benefits include powerful anti-inflammatory properties. It helps in relieving the pain and stiffness of muscles and joints. Cinnamon is commonly recommended for arthritis.
In a study at Copenhagen University, patients given half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder combined with one tablespoon of honey every morning before breakfast had significant relief in arthritis pain after one week, and could walk without pain within one month.
Anti-Microbial and Anti-Fungal Activity. In laboratory tests, growth of yeasts that were resistant to the commonly used anti-fungal medication fluconazole was often (though not always) stopped by cinnamon extracts.
Studies have indicated that cinnamon oil and cinnamon extract have antifungal, antibacterial and antiparasitic properties. Cinnamon has been found to be effective in fighting vaginal yeast infections (Candida), oral yeast infections, stomach ulcers and head lice. In some studies, cinnamon has shown an amazing ability to stop medication-resistant yeast infections.
Cinnamon Boosts Brain Function. Cinnamon boosts the activity of the brain and qualifies as an excellent brain food. Research found that chewing cinnamon-flavored gum, or just smelling cinnamon, improved memory and performance of certain tasks. Study participants’ scores on tasks related to attentional processes, virtual recognition memory, working memory, and visual-motor speed while working on a computer-based program, all improved significantly.
Encouraged by the results of these studies, researchers now are interested in cinnamon’s potential for enhancing brain function in the elderly, individuals with test-anxiety, and possibly even patients with Alzheimer’s and other degenerative neurological diseases.
Cinnamon Protects Against Heart Disease. The Standard American Diet is a major cause of inflammation in your internal tissues and organs, and this inflammation has been identified as a primary cause of heart disease. Andrew Weil, M.D., among many other experts, recommends an anti-inflammatory diet as a means of reducing your risk of heart disease and strokes. In his words:
“A growing consensus among cardiologists pinpoints abnormal inflammation in artery walls as a root cause of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease.”
Cinnamon health benefits include potent anti-inflammatory properties that are helpful in the prevention of heart disease. Cinnamon also improves your circulation, due to the presence of a blood thinning compound. Good blood circulation ensures oxygen supply to your cells, leading to higher metabolic activity and further protection against heart disease.
The cinnaldehyde in cinnamon helps prevent unwanted clumping of blood platelets. Platelets are blood cells that are meant to clump together under emergency circumstances (like physical injury) as a way to stop bleeding, but under normal circumstances, they can make blood flow inadequate if they clump together too much.
Other Health Benefits of Cinnamon
- Blood Purification. Cinnamon helps in removing blood impurities, and is often recommended for pimples.
- Infections. Due to its antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral and antiseptic properties, it is effective on external as well as internal infections. It helps in destroying germs in the gall bladder and bacteria in staph infections.
- Healing. Cinnamon helps to stop bleeding, and facilitates the healing process.
- Indigestion. Besides adding flavor to your food, cinnamon also aids your digestion. It’s very effective for indigestion, nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, diarrhea and flatulence. It also relieves acidity, diarrhea and morning sickness. It is therefore often regarded as a digestive tonic.
- Respiratory problems. Cinnamon helps in cold, flu, influenza, sore throat and congestion.
- Menstruation. Cinnamon is effective in providing relief from menstrual discomfort and cramping.
- Diuretic Effects. Cinnamon is diuretic in nature and helps in secretion and discharge of urine. It is also aphrodisiac and is believed to arouse sexual desire. It is also believed that cinnamon aids in the secretion of breast milk.
- Cancer Prevention. In a study published by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Maryland, cinnamon reduced the growth of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells.
- Cinnamon reduces your risk of colon cancer by helping to remove excess bile in your digestive tract and prevent the damage it can cause to colon cells.