Cinnamon, a delicious and potent spice, has been used for its various health benefits around the world for thousands of years. Made from the bark of the cinnamon tree, it is available in dried tubular form (known as quills or sticks) and as ground powder.
This powerful superfood is a popular ingredient in cooking and baking. Its aromatic fragrance and sweet, warm taste make it perfect for apple pies and chai latte, among others.
There are approximately one hundred varieties of cinnamon. The two main types are cassia and Ceylon. Cassia, also known as regular cinnamon, is most commonly used. While Ceylon, also known as true cinnamon, has a lighter and bitter taste.
The key health benefits of cinnamon come from the essential oils found in the bark. These oils contain active components, namely, cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, and cinnamyl alcohol.
Cinnamon also contains powerful antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-infectious, and anti-clotting properties.
Cinnamon is an exceptional source of antioxidants, polyphenols, dietary fiber, and minerals such as calcium, manganese, and iron – all essential nutrients that help keep your body healthy. In addition, it is a natural source of sugars, carbohydrates, fatty acids, and amino acids.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of cinnamon.
1. Controls Blood Sugar
Cinnamon has significant benefits for people with type 2 diabetes. It helps their body respond to insulin, thus normalizing their blood sugar levels.
Certain compounds in cinnamon stimulate insulin receptors and inhibit an enzyme that inactivates them, improving the cells’ ability to use glucose.
Regularly consuming less than one-half teaspoon per day can help reduce the blood sugar levels of individuals with type 2 diabetes.
It’s easy to incorporate cinnamon into your daily diet. Simply sprinkle some cinnamon powder on your morning oatmeal or cereal, or add a small pinch to your evening tea or coffee.
2. Boosts Brain Function
Cinnamon has been shown to greatly improve mental alertness. Just smelling the wonderful odor of this sweet spice can boost your brain activity!
The fragrance of cinnamon can enhance cognitive processing and greatly improve brain functioning related to attention, virtual recognition memory, working memory, and visual-motor speed while working on a computer-based program.
Studies have found implications that cinnamon may help poor learners become good learners by stimulating their brain (hippocampal) plasticity.
People who suffer from exam anxiety or nervousness can drink cinnamon tea as it has soothing properties that help calm the mind.
3. Protects Against Heart Disease
Due to its various anti-inflammatory properties, cinnamon is very effective in safeguarding the heart and surrounding arteries from damage and infection. The many fatty foods that people snack on nowadays contain cholesterol and unhealthy fats that are known to clog arteries. The plaque and toxins that eventually build up can lead to cardiovascular diseases and various other threats to the heart.
Cinnamon helps fight the “bad” cholesterol, significantly lowering total cholesterol levels. Its anti-inflammatory properties also help heal inflammation in internal tissues and reduce the risk of heart attacks and other diseases.
4. Improves Colon Functioning
Cinnamon is an excellent source of fiber, calcium, and the trace mineral manganese. The combination of calcium and fiber can improve the functionality of the colon.
Both calcium and fiber bind to bile salts and help remove them from the body. The fiber helps prevent the damage that certain bile salts can cause to colon cells, thereby reducing the risk of colon cancer.
5. Backents Cancer
Studies have shown that cinnamon may reduce the proliferation of cancer cells. Hence, cinnamon holds promise for cancer prevention and alleviation of the effects of the disease.
While additional research is needed, one animal study from the University of Arizona suggested that consuming cinnamon may be protective against exposure to a carcinogen through detoxification and repair. Cinnamon also helps reduce the growth rate of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells.
6. Improves Blood Circulation
The coumarin present in cinnamon has blood thinning properties. This helps improve blood circulation throughout the body.
Cinnamaldehyde was investigated for its vasodilatory effect using isolated rings of rat aorta. It was found that cinnamaldehyde relaxed the aortic rings that had been precontracted with phenylephrine in a dose-dependent manner, and it was not affected by the presence or removal of endothelium.
7. Treats Neurodegenerative Diseases
Cinnamon has powerful anti-inflammatory properties that reduce constant inflammation of the internal tissues of the brain, thereby protecting it from numerous neurological disorders.
Cinnamon’s powerful and natural components also may curb or delay the onset of a variety of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, and meningitis.
8. Reduces Bad Cholesterol
Cinnamon can significantly reduce the level of triglycerides and LDL (“bad cholesterol”) in your blood, thereby lowering your risk for cardiovascular disease. Methylhydroxychalcone polymers, active ingredients present in cinnamon, can increase your cells’ ability to metabolize sugar by up to 20 times.
To help control your cholesterol level, just sprinkle a bit of cinnamon powder into your coffee or oatmeal once a day.
9. Treats Respiratory Infection
Cinnamic aldehyde is the active constituent present in cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) bark oil that is toxic to fungi. The inhalable vapors of the oil work against the fungi involved in respiratory tract mycoses.
- Add 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon to a steaming hot cup of green tea or cider to relieve sore throat. You can also add lemon juice to help combat a respiratory infection.
- Alternatively, add a few drops of cinnamon oil in hot water and inhale the steam.
- If you have a common cold or cough, make a mixture of lukewarm honey and one-quarter teaspoon of cinnamon and drink this solution twice daily, after breakfast and before bed.
10. Reduces Arthritis Pain
Cinnamon has been shown in studies to reduce cytokines linked to arthritic pain.
A study showed that patients given one-half 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.
Although cinnamon is very beneficial to your health, don’t consume it beyond the recommended limit thinking that you’ll get more benefits by consuming large doses at a time. Large amounts of cinnamon intake can be poisonous and can damage your liver. Nursing and pregnant mothers should also be cautious when consuming cinnamon.
Recommended Intake of Cinnamon
Cassia cinnamon is safe to eat in small quantities, but when taken excessively may have adverse effects on your health because it contains high amounts of coumarin. Ceylon cinnamon, on the other hand, contains only a trace amount of coumarin. In fact, Cassia has approximately 63 times more coumarin than Ceylon.
The amount of coumarin that you can consume in a day without any risk of side effects is 0.05 mg per pound, i.e., 0.1 mg per kg of the body weight.
For example, a 130 pound or 60 kg person should only consume up to 5 mg of coumarin per day. This means that you can consume 1 teaspoon (0.5 to 2 grams) of Cassia cinnamon per day or up to 2.5 teaspoons (5 grams) per day of Ceylon cinnamon.
Note: In children, the recommended quantity of cinnamon would be lesser than the figures mentioned above.
Side Effects of Consuming Large Amounts of Cinnamon
1. Liver Damage
According to some studies, excessive consumption of coumarin by way of eating too much cinnamon has been found to be a potential cause of liver damage.
2. Increased Risk of Cancer
Overconsumption of coumarin also increases the risk of cancer.
According to some animal studies, consuming coumarin beyond the recommended limit may result in the development of cancerous tumors in the lungs, liver, and kidneys.
Although the role of coumarin in causing tumors is still not clear, there is evidence to believe that coumarin may damage some organs repeatedly, resulting in the replacement of healthy cells with tumor cells that could then become cancerous.
More human studies are needed to establish a firm link between coumarin and cancer development.
3. Low Blood Sugar
While cinnamon is well known for its ability to lower blood sugar, eating too much of it could result in the blood sugar falling too low, also known as hypoglycemia, resulting in tiredness and dizziness. Cinnamon enhances the effectiveness of the diabetic medicines and causes the blood sugar level to fall too low.
4. Interact with Medications
Cinnamon may interact unfavorably with certain medicines (for liver diseases or diabetes), which may result in liver damage.
5. Mouth Sores
The cinnamaldehyde present in cinnamon has been known to trigger allergic reactions in some people when taken in large quantities. These reactions include mouth sores, swelling in the tongue and/or gums, itching or burning sensations, and/or white patches in the mouth.
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