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Cinnamon Has Healthy Benefits

Updated on January 19, 2011
Cinnamon Tree
Cinnamon Tree | Source

Cinnamon is a delightful spice!

Most likely cinnamon is one of the most recognizable spices because of it's tantalizing aroma. Cinnamon is used in breads, bagels, cookies, pies, tea and even chili. Quite often during the holidays, the warm inviting aroma of cinnamon fills many kitchens.

What is cinnamon and where does it come from?

Cinnamon is a small tree that can be found growing in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Brazil, Vietnam and Egypt. The Latin name for cinnamon is Cinnamomum zeylanicum or Cinnamomum cassia. The bark of a Cinnamon tree is dried and rolled into a stick. It can be also dried and ground into a powder-like substance. Cinnamon is one of the oldest known spices to man.

The unmistakable flavor and aroma of cinnamon is derived from a compound in the oil of the bark, called cinnamonaldehyde.

There are four main varieties of cinnamon, however, Ceylon and Cassia cinnamons are most popular.

Sometimes Ceylon cinnamon is referred to as true cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon is more expensive and has a sweet taste. The cinnamon sticks or quills are softer and can easily be ground at home in a coffee grinder. Ceylon cinnamon is only sold in specialty stores.

Cinnamon sound in the supermarkets of North America is the less expensive variety, Cassia cinnamon. Cassia has a darker color and the sticks are harder than that of the Ceylon cinnamon variety. Because Cassia cinnamon is harder than Ceylon cinnamon, it cannot be ground into a powder with a common coffee grinder.

Why do People Use Cinnamon?

Cinnamon is used in cooking, baking and even roasting recipes. But, cinnamon is believed to offer health benefits. Cassia cinnamon is often used to relieve colds, flatulence, nausea, diarrhea and menstrual cramps. Cinnamon is also believed to possess energy improvement, vitality, and circulation.

Cinnamon is used as medication for diabetes, indigestion and colds in Ayurveda (the ancient Hindu art of healing with foods, herbs. Cinnamon is often recommended for people who have problems with balancing (kapha Ayurvedia). Cinnamon is widely used as an ingredient in chai tea, and some believe cinnamon helps with the digestion of fruit, milk and other dairy products.

Scientific Evidence for Cinnamon's Health Benefits.

Recently, studies have found that cinnamon may have a beneficial effect on blood sugar. One of the first studies was published in 2003, in the medical journal Diabetes Care. In this study, 60 people with Type 2 diabetes took 1, 3 or 6 grams (amounts averaging between one-quarter and one teaspoon) of cinnamon in pill form daily.

After 40 days, cinnamon reduced fasting blood glucose by 18 to 29%, triglycerides by 23 to 30%, LDL cholesterol by 7 to 27%, and cholesterol by 12 to 26%.

Lab and animal studies found that cinnamon contains antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Cinnamon has been found to be active against the fungus causing yeast infections (Candida albicans), and bacterial that causes stomach ulcers (Helicobacter pylori).

How Safe is Cinnamon?

People taking diabetes medication or any medication that affects blood glucose or insulin levels should do so under a doctor's supervision. Taking large dosages of cinnamon may affect medications and cause blood glucose levels to drop too low. People taking a prescribed medication to control their blood sugar should not reduce or discontinue their dose and take cinnamon instead, without speaking to their doctor. Serious complications, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and nerve damage can occur when diabetes is not managed.

Cassia cinnamon, the most common cinnamon sold in grocery stores and supplement forms, naturally contain a compound called coumarin. Coumarin is also found in other plants such as celery, chamomile, sweet clover, and parsley.

However, at high levels, coumarin can damage the liver and/or have a "blood-thinning" effect. So,cassia cinnamon supplements should not be taken with prescription anti-clotting medication, such as Coumadin (warfarin), or by people with bleeding disorders.

Cinnamon can also be purchased in a concentrated oil form derived from the cinnamon bark. Some of these products are not intended to be eaten, but are used for aromatherapy essential oils. Cinnamon oil is extremely potent, and an accidental overdose can depress the central nervous system. Never ingest cinnamon oil without being under a qualified health-care professional.

And, pregnant women should avoid ingesting excessive amounts of cinnamon, and never take it as a supplement.

Cinnamon and Type 2 Diabetes and Insulin Resistance

Not everyone, but in today's world a substantial percentage of people are insulin resistant or diabetic. Weight control and decreased heart disease risk can be realized by improving insulin resistant people. Although results of preliminary studies produce mixed opinions, the majority of research does indicate that cinnamon can be beneficial to diabetic people.

Everyday "normal cinnamon use" is very unlikely to cause problems in non-allergic people and up to one-half teaspoon of cinnamon at a time is thought to be safe. As with most supplements some caution needs to be known:

* Negative reactions can form as skin rashes

* Tissue of the mouth or stomach can become irritated

* Cinnamon has an anti-clotting effect within the blood, which can be beneficial. However, combining cinnamon with blood thinning medications, like aspirin, could increase bleeding problems.

* High doses of cinnamon are not given to pregnant women due to possible stimulating effects on the uterus.

How to Store Cinnamon

Most grocery stores have numerous cinnamon sales, so freshness is not usually a concern. At home, store cinnamon in a dark, cool and dry place to keep it fresh. Cinnamon sticks stay fresh for 2 to 3 years, but powdered cinnamon will gradually lose flavor. Cinnamon is best when used within six months, although is not bad for you after this time but it is less fresh-tasting.

Serving Cinnamon

People in the United States usually refer to cinnamon as a spice used in baking, but it is also used in savory dishes throughout the world. For instance, rubbing a turkey with a blend of spices that include cinnamon will give a hint of spiciness taste. Cinnamon can be sprinkled on toast, added to a cup of coffee, top yogurt or cottage cheese. Adding cinnamon to a warm glass of milk adds a delicious taste and fragrance to your nighttime beverage.

Cinnamon is found in meat, stew, soup, candy and an uncountable array of baking recipes. Cinnamon is a favorite of many as a candle scent or air freshner. Virtually, it is a powerhouse tree-bark spice that comes loaded with great flavor and aroma.

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    • ivori profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Eisenberg 

      7 years ago from Titusville

      Thank you, Reprieve26. Glad you enjoyed the hub.

    • Reprieve26 profile image

      Reprieve26 

      7 years ago from Oregon Coast

      Fascinating article!

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