Cinnamon Benefits

Cinnamon
Latin Name

Cinnamon zeylanicum

Origin

Sri Lanka

Parts Used

Dried inner bark of the shoots and leaves

Traditional Use and Health Benefits

This pungent, distinctive smelling spice has a history of use stretching back to the dawn of time. Used by the ancient civilisations of Egypt, China and Rome, the bark is native to Sri Lanka.

Cinnamon was equally prized for its exquisite taste and medicinal properties. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it was used as a remedy for colds, flu and digestive disorders. The ancient Egyptians used its oil in the embalming process of mummies – probably due to its pleasant odour and preservative qualities.

The beauty of this spice is the many ways in which it can be used – as a stick, ground into powder or for its richly warming essential oil. Cinnamaldehyde is the potent phytochemical responsible for rendering the taste, rich flavour and aroma of Cinnamon. It is also responsible for many of the medicinal and health benefits of this versatile spice.

Cinnamon Benefits

Type 2 Diabetes

Well known for its blood sugar lowering properties, Cinnamon has been extensively studied for its anti-diabetic effects.

Cinnamon can improve sensitivity to insulin, one of the key hormones in regulating metabolism and energy. Insulin resistance is the pre-cursor to type 2 diabetes and studies show that Cinnamon can significantly reduce insulin resistance, increasing insulin sensitivity, which in turn helps to lower blood sugar levels.

One 2008 study at the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, USA found that chromium and polyphenols in Cinnamon improved insulin sensitivity in women with insulin resistance associated with the polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

There are other mechanisms by which Cinnamon can lower blood sugar. It decreases the amount of glucose entering the bloodstream after a meal by interfering with certain digestive enzymes, slowing down the breakdown of carbohydrates in the digestive tract.

Furthermore, a 2001 study found that a compound derived from Cinnamon (methylhydroxychalcone polymer or MHCP), functions as a mimetic for insulin – meaning it mimics the effect of insulin on cells.

Finally, there is much research showing that this super spice can lower fasting blood sugar levels, with many of the studies agreeing that people with type 2 diabetes who supplement with Cinnamon can experience significant positive effects on blood sugar markers.

Heart Health

Various studies back up the traditional use of Cinnamon to protect the heart from many of the conditions that can lead to the malfunction of this all-important organ.

With powerful antioxidant properties, it offers protection to blood cells against the free radical damage that leads to damaged blood vessels. Additionally, cinnamaldehyde – the active ingredient in Cinnamon – has been found to reduce platelet aggregation, lowering the risk of blood clots.

It is also effective in reducing hypertension or high blood pressure. A 2010 study at the “Faculty of Health and Human Science”, of type 2 diabetic patients, found that an intake of 2g of Cinnamon daily was able to regulate glucose and blood pressure.

Finally, there is preliminary research to show that cinnamophilin - an extract from Cinnamon - may help treat arrhythmia and regulate heartbeat.

Brain Health

An extract of Cinnamon was found to inhibit the build up of “tau” in the brain in a study at the Department of Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of California. If this protein becomes abnormal, it can destroy nerve cells instead of supporting them, which is why it can contribute to neurodegenerative diseases, most notably – Alzheimer’s.

Another study found that Cinnamon may be beneficial to patients with Parkinson’s Disease. It was discovered that treatment with Cinnamon helped to protect neurons, normalise neurotransmitter levels and improve motor function, although more research is needed.

Oral Health

As a natural antibacterial agent, Cinnamon can protect and fight against the oral bacteria responsible for dental cavities, halitosis and gingivitis (gum disease) and other mouth infections.

According to a study published in the December 2011 issue of the journal "Acta Biomedica", Cinnamon essential oil proved nearly twice as effective against Streptococcus mutans, a bacterium that leads to dental plaque formation, as clove oil, which is more commonly used as an oral antiseptic and pain reliever. Cinnamon oil was also more effective than a broad-spectrum antibiotic against ten different species of bacteria that cause dental cavities. Researchers concluded that Cinnamon oil shows greater potential for promoting oral health than clove oil.

Typical Use

Cinnamon Powder

½ to 2 teaspoons of Cinnamon Powder can be added to either sweet or savoury foods/smoothies. It can also be added to herbal teas and used as an ingredient to make a delicious Chai.

Cinnamon Essential Oil

Can be used in the bath, or vapourised in an oil burner. It can be added to a massage oil or cream. Use 6-8 drops per bath and 10 -18 drops per 30ml of carrier oil. See Essential Oil Dosage Chart

Folklore and History

True Cinnamon is known as Cinnamomum zeylanicum, with references in Chinese writings dating back to 2800 BCE. Its botanical name derives from the Hebraic and Arabic term amomon, meaning fragrant spice plant. 

One of the worlds most important medicinal spices, it was also mentioned by Pliny, Dioscorides and Theophrastus. In the first century AD, Pliny the Elder wrote that 350g of Cinnamon was equal in value to over 5kg of silver, about fifteen times the value of silver per weight!

Medieval physicians used Cinnamon in medicines to treat coughing, hoarseness and sore throats. By the time of the Roman Empire, it was a highly valuable commodity for both medicinal and culinary purposes. As a sign of remorse, Roman Emperor Nero ordered a year's supply of cinnamon be burnt after he murdered his wife. During the Middle Ages, it was mixed with cloves and warm water, and placed in the sick rooms of victims of the Bubonic Plague.

In the 17th century, the Dutch seized the world's largest Cinnamon supplier, the island of Ceylon (modern day Sri Lanka), from the Portuguese, demanding outrageous amounts from the poor labouring Chalia caste. When the Dutch learned of a source of Cinnamon along the coast of India, they bribed and threatened the local king to destroy it all, thus preserving their monopoly on the prized spice. In 1795, England seized Ceylon from the French, who had acquired it from their victory over Holland during the Revolutionary Wars.

By 1833, the downfall of the Cinnamon monopoly had begun when other countries found it could be easily grown in such areas as Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Mauritius, Réunion and Guyana. Cinnamon is now also grown in South America, the West Indies and other tropical climates.

Cinnamon has a long sacred and magical use. It was used as an incense in Chinese temples, and for embalming the dead in Egyptian times. It is highly recommended as a purification incense prior to sacred work even today. It was traditionally used for its capacity to increase focus and concentration when inhaled as an incense.

Cinnamon
Constituents

Includes cinnamaldehyde, gum, tannin, mannitol, coumarins and essential oils (aldehydes, eugenol, pinene).

Precautions

Do not use cinnamon when breast feeding as it can irritate the delicate digestive system of the baby.