What Are the Benefits of Cinnamon?
Cinnamon is, without a doubt, one of the most popular spices in the world. Due to its strong aroma and particular taste, cinnamon has long been a basic ingredient in both ancient and modern cuisines. In fact, it is currently considered the second most popular spice in most of the Western world, second only to black pepper.
While most of us recognize cinnamon as a key ingredient in popular dishes and desserts, many cultures around the world have historically used cinnamon for its potential health benefits. It is believed that cinnamon was highly prized in Ancient Egypt and medieval times as a medicinal product capable of treating conditions such as sore throats and arthritis. However, modern science now suggests that cinnamon may provide more health benefits than initially believed.
Where Does Cinnamon Come From?
When people think of cinnamon, most will picture cinnamon powder or cinnamon sticks. But surely, this is not how cinnamon occurs naturally, right?
Both cinnamon powder and cinnamon sticks are derived from several tree species belonging to the “Cinnamomum” family. Commonly known as “cinnamon trees,” these trees are tropical, evergreen plants native to the Caribbean and South Asia.
How Is Cinnamon Made?
Cinnamon comes from the bark of cinnamon trees, especially the Ceylon or Cassia types, which are the most popular. The cinnamon we see at home, restaurants, and supermarkets is obtained by shaving off the inner bark of the cinnamon plant, known as the “cinnamon layer.” Farmers then remove all moisture from the cinnamon bark and let it dry. When cinnamon bark is dried, it naturally curls up into what we know as “cinnamon sticks.”
Is Cinnamon Good For You?
In addition to its distinct taste, cinnamon has a unique nutritional profile that makes it a powerful agent against symptoms related to many common ailments. That is why, for centuries, cinnamon has been a key ingredient in many holistic treatments and natural medicine in general.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), this is the nutritional profile for a teaspoon of ground cinnamon:
- Calories in Cinnamon: 6
- Fat: 0.3 g
- Carbohydrates: 2.1 g
- Protein: 0.1 g
- Calcium: 26 mg
- Iron: 0.2 mg
- Phosphorus: 2 mg
- Potassium: 11 mg
- Magnesium: 2 mg
- Vitamin C: 0.1 mg
- Vitamin A: 8 IU
Cinnamon also contains traces of vitamin B and vitamin K.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon
The distinct aroma and flavor of cinnamon are due to high quantities of the compound ‘cinnamaldehyde.’ It is widely believed that this compound is responsible for most of the cinnamon’s health benefits.
According to some studies on cinnamaldehyde and the natural properties of cinnamon, using this spice as a supplement may provide users with valuable health benefits. People use cinnamon as a supplement to help with inflammation, infections, and even memory loss.
When it comes to antioxidant content, cinnamon outranks other spices, including “superfoods” like garlic and oregano.
Naturally, cinnamon is rich in antioxidants, such as polyphenols. Antioxidants are compounds that help prevent harm caused by free radicals, which are unstable molecules that damage cell structure and could potentially cause serious health problems.
Cinnamaldehyde, the main active component of cinnamon, may help fight bacterial and fungal infections. In small doses, cinnamon has been shown to help with respiratory tract infections caused by fungi, as well as bacterial infections like Listeria and Salmonella. The infection-fighting properties of cinnamon may also help prevent tooth decay and bad breath.
Cinnamon has been shown to significantly increase sensitivity to insulin, the hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. Additionally, cinnamon may lower blood sugar by limiting the amount of glucose (sugar) that enters the bloodstream after every meal.
If you are looking to use cinnamon to reduce fasting blood sugar levels, the recommended use is 0.5-2 teaspoons per day.
A few studies suggest that cinnamon may help prevent memory loss and other neurodegenerative symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
According to researchers, cinnamon bark contains properties that may slow or prevent the development of symptoms. While studies regarding this matter are still relatively new, further research may confirm cinnamon’s usefulness in developing therapies for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
May Reduce Risk of Heart Disease
Over time, cinnamon may be able to reduce the risk of heart disease by improving symptoms and risk factors associated with heart problems.
Cinnamon is linked with lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Other studies have shown cinnamon may reduce blood pressure levels and increase “good” HDL cholesterol levels. When combined, these factors may significantly decrease the risk of heart disease.
How to Use Cinnamon as a Supplement
In addition to cinnamon sticks and ground cinnamon powder, this popular spice comes in other forms that deliver the same potential benefits, such as cinnamon tea and even cinnamon pills.
To benefit from cinnamon’s natural properties, most experts recommend the use of cinnamon daily. However, since federal agencies do not regulate cinnamon as a supplement, there isn’t a set dose. Generally, experts suggest 1-6 grams of cinnamon, or 0.5-2 teaspoons, per day.
Even though further research is needed to confirm all of the potential health benefits associated with cinnamon, studies so far suggest this tropical spice may be more useful than previously believed. Daily use of cinnamon may lower blood sugar levels, improve inflammation, and reduce the risk of heart disease, among other potential benefits.
While cinnamon powder may be the most popular way to incorporate cinnamon into your routine, other cinnamon products like cinnamon pills and cinnamon tea may provide an easier alternative.