Before we get started, always remember that when I post info, it is not meant to treat, diagnose or cure an illness. This information should also not take the place of what your healthcare provider has instructed you to do. Please always speak to your healthcare provider before beginning anything new, natural/prescription or otherwise.
Okay, so what is cinnamon and where does it come from? It is a spice that comes from the inner bark of a variety of trees from the genus Cinnamomum. Is is very versatile in that it can be used in savoury or sweet dishes. Some of the health benefits of cinnamon claim to be even supported by scientific research and this spice has been used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years.
The flavor of this spice comes from the essential oil that only makes up 0.5-1% of its composition. This oil is prepared by pounding and mashing the bark in sea water then distilling the mixture immediately. Both cinnamon’s taste and scent come from cinnamic aldehyde or cinnamaldehyde, which is about 90% of the essestial oil that comes from the bark. The cinnamaldehyde is responsible for most of cinnamon’s powerful effects on health and metabolism.
So how do we get the powder form of cinnamon? Since the spice comes from the bark of trees, once the inner bark is taken out and dried, it curls to form a stick. The stick can then be pulverized into the powder form. The picture below is of cinnamon from my kitchen. I have been using the more common, Cassia variety. Read more about it below.
There are two main types of cinnamon:
- Ceylon Cinnamon or “true” cinnamon
- Cassia Cinnamon, the more common variety today that we think of as cinnamon
Claims to Fame as far as health benefits:
- Full of antioxidants which protect from free radical damage because it is loaded with a substance called polyphenols (remember this from Tumeric)?.
- Anti-inflammatory action that may also be due to its antioxidant effects and this may help to decrease the risk of disease.
- Cinnamon may decrease heart disease. It may help to reduce total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol and Triglycerides, while keeping HDL (good) cholesterol stable, with even as little as 120 mg per day.
- This awesome spice can also improve sensitivity to the insulin hormone, which is one of the key hormones responsible for the regulation of our metabolism and use of energy. Cinnamon can reduce insulin resistance, thus helping the insulin to do its job! Blood sugar levels can decrease due to this action.
- Cinnamon also can decrease the level of blood sugar, thus having a powerful anti-diabetic effect. It can decrease how much glucose that enters into the bloodstream after eating by interfering with a number of enzymes that help us to digest food. This slows down the break down of carbohydrates. There is also a substance in cinnamon that can act on cells by acting like insulin. If taken at doses as little as 1/2 teaspoon per day, you may be able to see these benefits.
- It may show promise in neurodegenerative diseases such as aAlzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.
- May show some promise in protecting against cancer, but many more studies need to be done.
- Cinnamaldehyde, the main active component of cinnamon may also help to fight bacterial and fungal infections. Also can decrease bad breath and prevent tooth decay due to its antimicrobial effects. Who can use better smelling breath right!
How do I get this spice?
It is better to use Ceylon “True” Cinnamon, but most supermarket cinnamon, which is cheaper, only have the Cassia variety. Ceylon can be found in some health food stores or on Amazon.
Best to stick to small doses of the Cassia variety if this is used to avoid unwanted adverse effects. In patients with liver problems, due to the bleeding risk from the component coumarin (a blood thinner) that may be present in some Cassia varieties, the risk of toxicity and bleeding may be higher.
Also, patients with diabetes should be careful because of the blood glucose lowering action. Speak with your healthcare provider first so that you can monitor your blood sugars more closely and if needed, your healthcare provider can adjust any other anti-diabetic medications that you may be using at the same time.