Cinnamon


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10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Cinnamon

Cinnamon is rich in antioxidants and other beneficial compounds. Some research suggests that it may help support blood sugar control, protect against heart disease, and reduce inflammation.

Cinnamon is a spice that has been prized for its medicinal properties for thousands of years.

In recent years, modern science has started to confirm many of the potential health benefits associated with cinnamon.

Here are 10 health benefits of cinnamon that are supported by scientific research.

1. Contains powerful medicinal properties

bundle of cinnamon sticks
Image credit: Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Cinnamon is a spice that is made from the inner bark of trees scientifically known as Cinnamomum.

It has been used as an ingredient throughout history, dating back as far as Ancient Egypt. It used to be rare and valuable and was regarded as a gift fit for kings (1Trusted Source).

These days, cinnamon is affordable and widely available in most supermarkets. It’s also found as an ingredient in various foods and recipes.

There are two main types of cinnamon (1Trusted Source):

  • Ceylon cinnamon: This type is also known as “true” cinnamon.
  • Cassia cinnamon: This is the most common variety today and what people generally refer to as “cinnamon.”

Cinnamon is made by cutting the stems of cinnamon trees. The inner bark is then extracted and the woody parts removed.

When it dries, it forms strips that curl into rolls, called cinnamon sticks. These sticks can be ground to form cinnamon powder.

The distinct smell and flavor of cinnamon are due to the oily part, which is very high in the compound cinnamaldehyde (2).

Scientists believe that this compound is responsible for most of cinnamon’s powerful effects on health and metabolism (3Trusted Source4Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

Cinnamon is a popular spice. It’s high in cinnamaldehyde, which is thought to be responsible for most of cinnamon’s health benefits.

2. Loaded with antioxidants

Antioxidants protect your body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals (5Trusted Source).

Cinnamon is loaded with powerful antioxidants, including polyphenols (1Trusted Source).

One study found that cinnamon supplementation could significantly increase antioxidant levels in the blood while reducing levels of markers used to measure inflammation, such as C-reactive protein (6Trusted Source).

In fact, the antioxidant effects of cinnamon are so powerful that it can even be used as a natural food preservative (7Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

Cinnamon contains large amounts of highly potent polyphenol antioxidants.

3. May have anti-inflammatory properties

Inflammation is incredibly important, as it helps your body respond to infections and repair tissue damage.

However, inflammation can become a problem when it’s chronic and directed against your body’s own tissues (8Trusted Source).

Cinnamon may be useful in this regard. Studies show that this spice and its antioxidants have potent anti-inflammatory properties (9Trusted Source10Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

The antioxidants in cinnamon have anti-inflammatory effects, which may help lower your risk of disease.

4. Could protect against heart disease

Cinnamon has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death around the globe (11Trusted Source).

According to one review, supplementing with at least 1.5 grams (g), or about 3/4 of a teaspoon (tsp.), of cinnamon per day was able to reduce levels of triglycerides, total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and blood sugar in people with metabolic disease (12Trusted Source).

Another review of 13 studies found that cinnamon could reduce triglyceride and total cholesterol levels, both of which are risk factors for heart disease (13Trusted Source).

Cinnamon has also been shown to reduce blood pressure when consumed consistently for at least 8 weeks (14Trusted Source15Trusted Source).

When combined, all of these factors could help reduce your risk of heart disease.

SUMMARY

Cinnamon may improve some key risk factors for heart disease, including cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.

5. Could improve sensitivity to insulin

Insulin is one of the key hormones that regulate metabolism and energy use (16Trusted Source).

It’s also essential for transporting blood sugar from your bloodstream to your cells (16Trusted Source).

However, some people are resistant to the effects of insulin. This is known as insulin resistance, a hallmark of conditions like metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes (17Trusted Source).

While more research is needed, some studies suggest that cinnamon may be able to reduce insulin resistance (18Trusted Source19Trusted Source).

By increasing insulin sensitivity, cinnamon can lower blood sugar levels and support better blood sugar control.

SUMMARY

Cinnamon has been shown to significantly increase sensitivity to the hormone insulin, which may improve blood sugar control.

6. Helps lower blood sugar levels

Cinnamon is well known for its blood-sugar-lowering properties.

Apart from the beneficial effects on insulin resistance, cinnamon can lower blood sugar through several other mechanisms.

First, cinnamon has been shown to decrease the amount of sugar that enters your bloodstream after a meal.

It does this by interfering with numerous digestive enzymes, which slows the breakdown of carbohydrates in your digestive tract (20Trusted Source21Trusted Source).

Second, a compound in cinnamon may mimic the effects of insulin to improve the uptake of sugar into the cells (22Trusted Source).

Numerous human studies have confirmed the beneficial effects of cinnamon, showing that it can lower fasting blood sugar levels and improve hemoglobin A1c, a marker of long-term blood sugar control (23Trusted Source24Trusted Source).

The effective dose is typically 1–6 g, or around 0.5–2 tsp. of cinnamon per day (24Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

Cinnamon has been shown to reduce fasting blood sugar levels when used in doses ranging from 1–6 g or 0.5–2 tsp. per day.

7. May have beneficial effects on neurodegenerative diseases

Neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by progressive loss of the structure or function of nerve cells (25Trusted Source).

Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease are two of the most common types (25Trusted Source).

Certain compounds found in cinnamon appear to inhibit the buildup of a protein called tau in the brain, which is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease (26Trusted Source).

In a 2014 study in mice with Parkinson’s disease, cinnamon helped protect neurons, normalized neurotransmitter levels, and improved motor function (27Trusted Source).

However, these effects need to be studied further in humans.

SUMMARY

Cinnamon has been shown to lead to various improvements for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease in animal studies. However, human research is lacking.

8. Cinnamon may protect against cancer

Cinnamon has been widely studied for its potential use in cancer prevention and treatment.

Overall, the evidence is limited to test-tube and animal studies, which suggest that cinnamon extracts may protect against cancer (28Trusted Source29Trusted Source30Trusted Source).

It acts by reducing the growth of cancer cells and the formation of blood vessels in tumors and appears to be toxic to cancer cells, causing cell death.

One study in mice with ovarian cancer found that cinnamaldehyde could block the expression of certain proteins involved in cancer growth (31Trusted Source).

These findings were supported by test-tube experiments, which showed that cinnamaldehyde could reduce the growth and spread of ovarian cancer cells (32Trusted Source).

However, more research is needed to evaluate the potential anti-cancer effects of cinnamon in humans.

SUMMARY

Animal and test-tube studies indicate that cinnamon may have protective effects against cancer. More research in humans is needed.

9. May prevent bacterial and fungal infections

Cinnamaldehyde, one of the main active components of cinnamon, may be beneficial against various kinds of infection.

Test-tube studies suggest that cinnamon oil could help kill certain fungi that cause respiratory tract infections (33Trusted Source).

It may also inhibit the growth of certain bacteria, including Listeria and Salmonella (34Trusted Source35Trusted Source).

Plus, the antimicrobial effects of cinnamon may also help prevent tooth decay and reduce bad breath (36Trusted Source).

However, the evidence is mostly limited to test-tube studies, so more research in humans is needed.

SUMMARY

Cinnamaldehyde has antifungal and antibacterial properties, which may reduce infections, as well as tooth decay and bad breath. Further research in humans is needed.

10. May have anti-viral properties

Some research suggests that cinnamon may help protect against certain viruses.

For example, cinnamon extracted from Cassia varieties is thought to be beneficial against HIV-1, the most common strain of HIV in humans (37Trusted Source38Trusted Source).

Other studies suggest that cinnamon could also protect against other viruses, including influenza and Dengue, a viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes (39Trusted Source).

Still, additional human trials are needed to confirm these effects.

SUMMARY

Though there is limited research in humans, some test-tube studies suggest that cinnamon may help protect against certain viruses.

Which type is best?

Not all cinnamon is created equal.

The Cassia variety contains significant amounts of a compound called coumarin, which is believed to be harmful in large doses (1Trusted Source).

All cinnamon should have health benefits, but Cassia may cause problems in large doses due to the coumarin content (40Trusted Source).

Ceylon (“true” cinnamon) is much better in this regard, and studies show that it’s much lower in coumarin than the Cassia variety (1Trusted Source40Trusted Source).

Compared to Ceylon cinnamon, Cassia cinnamon is generally more affordable and more widely available.

Still, you may be able to find Ceylon in some health food stores, and there is a good selection on Amazon.

SUMMARY

Though Cassia cinnamon is more affordable and more widely available, it’s also higher in coumarin, which can be harmful in large amounts. Ceylon cinnamon is a better alternative, which can be found at some specialty stores and online retailers.

The bottom line

Cinnamon is a versatile spice that is associated with a long list of health benefits.

Thanks to the many beneficial compounds it contains, it may help lower blood sugar levels, reduce heart disease risk factors, and reduce inflammation.

For best results, be sure to opt for Ceylon cinnamon or stick to small doses if you’re using the Cassia variety.

Source: Healthline.com