12 Health Benefits of Cinnamon
Few things are so mentally satisfying as the lovely smell of cinnamon rolls baking or a cinnamon-infused warm beverage on a cold day, but did you know that cinnamon benefits your health as well?
Some months back, I "quit" salt (of which I was consuming a seriously alarming amount) and started using more spices as an alternative. Cinnamon has now become one of my favorite spices, and since I found myself consuming so much, I wanted to find out if there were any health benefits, or risks, associated with it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that health-related cinnamon benefits abound! I've summarized the major pros below.
I hope this overview inspires you to spice up your life with a bit more cinnamon!
Cinnamon as a Medicinal Remedy
Cinnamon has historically been used as a cold remedy, as well as a means of treating some digestive issues such as diarrhea (one Japanese study even hinted at cinnamon helping to prevent stomach ulcers).
When used to treat colds or digestive problems, cinnamon has been ingested as a tea, so don't think that eating a snickerdoodle is going to cure the runs.
Opt, instead, for some cinnamon tea. One option is to toss a cinnamon stick in with herbal tea as it is brewing. You can also have straight cinnamon tea - simply boil water, break a cinnamon stick into smaller pieces, place them in a cup, and add the boiling water. Steep the bits of the cinnamon stick for ten minutes - then enjoy!
Cinnamon as an Antioxidant
Cinnamic aldehyde, also known as cinnamaldehyde, has, in some experiments, activated antioxidant responses in human colon cells, which has led some scientists to believe it might help with the prevention or treatment of certain cancers.
When it comes to the idea of cinnamon as a cancer cure, I am a bit dubious. I have read of some other studies that suggested that elements of cinnamon may help to slow or halt the growth of specific types of tumors, but again, I'm not entirely sold, as the studies seemed pretty small and preliminary.
That said, a little cinnamon couldn't hurt! If it does aid in the prevention or stagnation of cancer, all the better!
Cinnamon & Diabetes
Some studies suggest that cinnamon might aid those with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance.
The agent within cinnamon that specifically aids in this cause is cinnamtannin B1, and in one UK-based study, a small group of patients given two grams of cinnamon daily for 12 weeks showed lower fasting glucose levels than other patients who were given conventional pharmaceutical blood sugar controlling drugs. As a small added bonus, the cinnamon test group also lost more body fat than the pharmaceutical test group.
Another smaller study showed that subjects given cinnamon supplements had both lower blood sugar levels after eating and lower fasting blood glucose levels. Other studies found associations between cinnamon supplements and improved insulin response to blood glucose, reduced body fat percentage, and improved lean muscle mass.
It should be noted that these studies were rather small in scale, ranging from a total of 58 to 22 subjects, which makes them less convincing, however the results did suggest some favorable things about cinnamon, especially with regard to diabetes, so it might not hurt to sprinkle a bit extra on your oatmeal every morning.
Keep in mind, however, that cinnamon is not a cure, but rather an additional, potentially-helpful element you can incorporate into a heart-healthy, natural, whole-grain heavy and unprocessed-food rich diet. Simple cinnamon supplements are extra credit - not substitutes for a healthy diet, regular exercise, and prudent weight loss.
Cinnamon and Weight Loss
Just a quick addendum to the research that has been done regarding cinnamon and diabetes. As was pointed out in some of the studies mentioned above (and additional studies that took place in countries ranging from the United States to Pakistan), cinnamon appears to have a positive effect on insulin levels.
Because insulin resistance can lead to weight problems, anything that may help to control it (i.e. cinnamon) may help to aid weight loss. That said, there is NO WAY you are going to lose weight by downing a dozen cinnamon rolls every day. Go, instead, for cinnamon supplements, cinnamon tea, or perhaps some extra cinnamon sprinkled on your steel-cut, water-only, sugar-free oatmeal.
Cinnamon Aiding Brain Function
There has also been some research suggesting that cinnamon may aid brain function. One preliminary study found that subjects who smelled cinnamon or chewed cinnamon gum performed slightly better on cognitive tests when it came to memory and information processing speed.
While such results may be due to subjects' being put at ease by a relaxing action (chewing gum) or smelling a comforting smell, perhaps there is something else about cinnamon that gets people's noggins going.
Cinnamon has also traditionally been used to fight both toothaches and bad breath, not to mention rheumatism and other sorts of inflation. Cinnamon is indeed a mild anti-inflammatory agent, and also has anti-spasmodic and anti-clotting properties (the latter property has suggested that cinnamon might be avoided by those with blood clotting issues).
Cinnamon furthermore acts as a mild stimulant, temporarily accelerating physiological activity.
Beyond that, studies have shown that one can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol by consuming a half a teaspoon of cinnamon daily.
One study at copenhagen university found that half of a tablespoon of cinnamon powder and one tablespoon of honey administered every morning helped relieve patients of arthritis pain.
Cinnamon has also been presented as a natural alternative to yeast infections, though I recommend going with prescribed solutions and consulting a doctor before taking any solutions into your own hands.
Additionally, cinnamon has antimicrobial properties, which means that it can inhibit bacterial growth, hence cinnamon has, from time to time, been used as a food preservative. Not that this is particularly flattering, but the earliest mention of cinnamon can be traced back to ancient Egypt as it was used in the embalming process. Preservative, indeed!
Finally, cinnamon is a source of fiber as well as some tried and true minerals, including maganese, iron, and calcium.
Absolutely the best type of cinnamon you can buy. Because it tends to be pricier, I recommend purchasing it in bulk.
Cinnamon Kitchen Tips
Here are some major tips regarding the purchase, storage, and use of cinnamon:
Saigon cinnamon is DA BOMB.
When I quit salt and turned to cinnamon as an alternative topper for my morning oatmeal, I found that the generic stuff you find at grocery stores tasted like bark. Organic cinnamon was a good, flavorful alternative, and I bought that for the longest time, but then I discovered Saigon cinnamon and never turned back. It is amazingly flavorful, with glittering top notes, and packs a very warm, comforting punch.
If you use a lot - buy in bulk!
I buy Saigon cinnamon by the pound at Whole Foods - just to keep up with my rapid consumption. When you buy a whole pound, you get a 10% discount, plus it comes in a sealed bag that's all your own.
Cinnamon stays fresh for about six months.
If you do buy in bulk, make sure that you use your cinnamon within six months. It will lose flavor and nutritional properties beyond that point.
Store your cinnamon in a sealed container in a cool, dark place.
To keep your cinnamon as fresh and aromatic as possible, store it in a sealed container in a cool, dark place.
Cinnamon is for more than just oatmeal.
You can also enjoy cinnamon as an extra flavoring agent in baked goods (both sweet and savory), as a tea, with drinks such as cider, hot chocolate, and eggnog, and even with meats - especially lamb and chicken.