Today cinnamon is considered a common spice. We use it in so many ways, yet we don’t see cinnamon as being very special anymore. This is unfortunate. But in antiquity, it was a valued commodity deemed to be as precious as gold. Cinnamon ranked in value with gold, ivory, frankincense, and was among the most costly offerings in the Temple of Apollo in Miletus and 243 BC. Cinnamon may just be the miracle you need this Autumn and Winter season. (1)
Nevertheless, in spite of the many healing and health benefits of Cinnamon and its popularity worldwide, and it still maintains popularity from its ancient past, I fear we have become too familiar with it and have lost the respect it deserves.
WARNING: Do you remember the cinnamon challenge? It went viral in 2001, and increased in popularity in 2007, peaking abruptly in January 2012 and falling off almost as sharply through the first half of that year, then tapering off almost to its previous level by 2014. Most of the participants were aged from 13 to 24 years.
Why is the Cinnamon challenge so dangerous?
The stunt can be dangerous and accidental inhalation of Cinnamon can seriously damage the lungs by causing inflammation and leading to infection. The cinnamon is remarkably effective at drying out your mouth. Add in its spicy burn, and you’ve got trouble. The cinnamon coats and dries the mouth and throat, resulting in coughing, gagging, vomiting, and inhalation of cinnamon, leading to throat irritation, breathing difficulties, and risk of pneumonia or a collapsed lung. The risks can be worse, even fatal. In the first three months of 2012, American poison control centers had received over a hundred phone calls as a result of the cinnamon challenge.
While one of the benefits of cinnamon is an anti-inflammatory response by our body, too much of a good thing can create an inflammatory response. As with all herbs and spices, we must treat them with respect. After all, they are powerful medicine.
SO, What is Cinnamon? It is Sweet, Delicate, and Powerful
Cinnamon is an evergreen tree characterized by oval-shaped leaves, thick bark, and berry fruit. Cinnamon sticks are not natural branches of the tree but are created when the bark is stripped. When harvesting the spice, the inner bark and leaves are the primary parts of the plant used. The stems must be processed immediately after harvesting while the inner bark is still wet. The processed bark dries completely in four to six hours, provided it is in a well-ventilated and relatively warm environment. Once dry, the bark is cut into 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 in) lengths for sale. It can be enjoyed in stick form, as a powder, pre-ground, or even in essential oils. Watch it here.
Cinnamon is believed to come from the Hebrew word kinamon, or the Phoenician word “kinnámmon”. The Greek word ‘Kinnamon’ which means “sweet wood” is Cinnamon, from a type of tree, is a powerful spice that has been used medicinally around the world and has been used for over 4,000 years.
This bark contains several special compounds that are responsible for its many health-promoting properties. It is referenced in Egypt and in the Bible. Egyptians used large quantities of this spice when embalming mummies. Bundles of cinnamon were heaped onto funeral pyres, partly as a ritual but also to ward off odor. It is part of the Holy Anointing Oil of Moses that was given to him by God in Exodus (Exodus 30: 22-33). If someone was sick, they would mix cinnamon, cassia, calamus, myrrh, and olive oil and poured it over their heads.
22 Moreover the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 23Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels, 24 And of cassia five hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin: 25 And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil.
- During Shakespeare’s time, cinnamon was valued as a preservative for meat. It was thought that phenols, one of the properties of cinnamon, inhibit the growth of bacteria responsible for spoilage.
- Cinnamon is a multipurpose herb providing numerous health-enhancing properties most notably helpful for the digestive, respiratory and circulatory systems. This mixture has incredibly therapeutic benefits. It is still used daily in many cultures because of the widespread cinnamon benefits.
- Cinnamon is recorded in Ebers Papyrus, an Egyptian medical papyrus of herbal knowledge dating to circa 1550 BC. It is among the oldest and most important medical papyri of ancient Egypt.
- As a matter of fact, cinnamon ranks No. 1 out of 26 of the most popular herbs and spices in the world in terms of its protective antioxidant levels. Cinnamon grows in tropical and subtropical climate zones and is indigenous to regions of China, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka (2)
- Although cinnamon is mostly used in sweets and desserts in the western world, the spice is popular in savory dishes in several cuisines, including Indian, Mexican, and Greek.
- The Greeks also used cinnamon for their embalming process because of a chemical called Cinnamaldehyde. It rhymes with formaldehyde. The chemical that gives cinnamon its characteristic smell and zing is known as cinnamic aldehyde, or cinnamaldehyde. This means there’s a part of the chemical that acts like formaldehyde that binds and has the potential to “fix” human tissue.(3)(4)(5)
- Cinnamon was worth more than 15 times its weight in silver.
- Cinnamon was one of several prized spices that Christopher Columbus tried. (He and his crew had actually discovered was a completely different plant, Canella winterana, better known as white cinnamon or wild cinnamon.)
Its special phenolic compounds, flavonoids, and antioxidants have been isolated. These compounds make cinnamon one of the most beneficial spices on earth, giving it anti-oxidant (Anthocyanins), anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-diabetic, anti-microbial, immunity-boosting and potential cancer and heart disease-protecting abilities.
TWO FORMS OF CINNAMON
Although, we in the US use two forms of Cinnamon, Ceylon or Cassia, there are others: Cassia, Saigon, and Korintje. Cinnamon are also classified under the Cassia Cinnamon category because they are very similar to each other with only slight variations in color, taste, shape, and Coumarin content.(6)
- Ceylon, Cinnamomum verum (Sri Lanka cinnamon or Ceylon cinnamon), is Latin for the word “true.”
This is one of the reasons it was originally referred to as “true cinnamon.” Ceylon is typically more expensive than cassia because it is sweeter and less pungent tasting. Ceylon is sweeter than cassia, a sweet, almost floral aroma.
- C. cassia (Chinese cinnamon) it has 80% cinnamaldehyde, cinnamon flavor, and odor.
Aldehydes are known to be calming. Cassia cinnamon types are a darker red-brown color. It is believed to be harmful in large doses due to the coumarin content. Cassia’s flavor is spicy-sweet with a mild scent. The cheaper Cassia has made inroads and has come to dominate the market.
- C. burmannii (Indonesian cinnamon or Korintje)
It is the predominant cinnamon retailed to the worldwide market and is less sweet with higher amounts of coumarin than Chinese cassia.
- Malabar cinnamon (Cinnamomum citriodorum the characteristic smell of lemongrass)
It has 45% cinnamaldehyde, cinnamon flavor, and odor.
- C. loureiroi (Vietnamese cinnamon or Saigon cinnamon)
The most prized member of Cassia family.
One of the major differences between C. verum and varieties such as C. burmannii and C. cassia is that the latter types contain much higher levels of coumarin, a naturally occurring phytochemical with blood-thinning properties.
Cinnamon’s Main Nutritional Profile (7)
Manganese (245%) – with one teaspoon providing about .46 mg of this important mineral. While that might not seem like much, men only need 2.3 mg of manganese per day on average and women just 1.8 mg. Manganese plays a vital role in collagen production, making it especially important for wound healing and bone health, as collagen is an important component of bone. Manganese also regulating blood sugar and improving brain function, among other benefits.
Calcium (28%) – Calcium is not only important for keeping your bones strong and healthy, but calcium is also needed for your muscles to contract and your blood to clot properly.
Iron (13%) – is a trace mineral needed to make hemoglobin, the protein needed to carry oxygen throughout the body. Hemoglobin gives red blood cells their color, and stores most of the body’s iron supply. Iron is also stored in muscle tissue, and helps supply the muscles with the oxygen needed to make them contract.
Vitamin K (11%) – is a fat-soluble vitamin that is important for blood clotting and bone health. Increased amounts of vitamin K in diet might lower the risk of hip fracture; over time, a shortage of vitamin K could lead to osteoporosis. Vitamin K is now being studied for its effectiveness as a cancer treatment.
Copper (5%) – is the third most abundant trace mineral in the body, and helps protect the cardiovascular, skeletal, and nervous systems. It is needed to make an enzyme that keeps your arteries from hardening and possibly rupturing, and for the production of phospholipids, which help form the myelin sheath surrounding the nerves. The body also has to have copper to produce the powerful antioxidant, Superoxide Dismutase (SOD) an enzyme that repairs cells.
Magnesium (4%) – is a mineral that is essential to a wide variety of body processes, including energy production, protein formation, DNA production, and nerve conduction. It helps maintain normal levels of potassium, phosphorus, calcium, adrenaline, and insulin and keeps the bones strong and the heart-healthy. helps to relax the heart muscles to maintain a regular heartbeat, and thus prevent sudden changes in blood pressure. protects the heart by discouraging the aggregation (clumping) of red blood cells, which can lead to the formation of blood clots, and by raising HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Cinnamon ranks as #7 on the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) score of 131,000 for an herb/spice. ORAC measures the in vitro antioxidant capacity in biological samples. That is an incredible benefit.
1. Supports the Immune System – High in Antioxidants, Antibacterial, and Antiviral Properties(Manganese)
Cinnamon is packed with a variety of protective antioxidants, such as polyphenols, phenolic acid, and flavonoids that work to reduce by helping to neutralize harmful free radical damage fighting oxidative stress, and aid in the prevention of chronic disease, which in turn slows the aging process down, therefore aging gracefully. In fact, researchers have currently identified at least 41 different protective compounds found within cinnamon to date. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to choose to age gracefully. (Cinnamon is the antioxidant bang for your buck)
In a 2015 comprehensive scientific data review, it was suggested that cinnamon might serve as an “alternative to synthetic antibiotics, especially for the treatment of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.”
Furthermore, Cinnamaldehyde is also utilized as a natural fungicide applied in alternative agriculture because of its low toxicity levels compared to synthetic alternatives.
- Treats Certain Types of Cancer – Cinnamon’s antioxidant abilities may protect against DNA damage, cell mutation, and cancerous tumor growth through its cinnamaldehyde compound. This is especially true in the colon; studies show that cinnamon can improve the health of the colon, which could reduce the risk of colon cancer. Some recent studies have shown that cinnamon also contains anticarcinogenic effects and could treat certain types of cancer like melanoma, leukemia and some types of tumors.(10)
- Acts as Anti-Inflammatory – Inflammation is a response of the human body to pain, though this kind of response is completely natural but the pain could be really hard to deal with and cinnamon contains properties that could ease up the pain.
1. The Anti-oxidants in cinnamon can help relieve inflammation, which may help lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, cognitive decline and more. Many different types of flavonoids in cinnamon are highly effective at fighting dangerous inflammation levels throughout the body: lowering swelling helps with pain management, reducing muscle soreness(CAL), decreasing menstrual pain, etc. Chronic inflammation plays a central role in some of the most challenging diseases of our time. Instead of taking a medication to reduce an inflamed area of the body, wouldn’t it be more fun to include anti-inflammatory foods and spices like cinnamon in our diet?
2. Coumarin is a natural plant substance and aromatic compound. Coumarin exhibits anti-inflammatory actions and also possess strong anticoagulant properties and are thus the bioactive constituents found in certain medical drugs such as “Warfarin” or “Coumadin” which are synthetically derived.
3. Coumarin is moderately toxic to the liver and kidneys, so even with consuming the true coumarin in cinnamon, you will want to use this spice in moderation. To stay within the safety zone of well below 6 grams (5 grams=1 tsp), taking a break after about 4 to 6 weeks. Please keep reading for safe dosages of this wonderful spice stated below in a recipes.
For those of you sensitive to coumarin intake or the harsher more overpowering flavor of cassia cinnamon, Ceylon might provide a better alternative. (11)
NOTE: Inflammation is part of the body’s inherent immune response, and it isn’t always bad. When it’s acute and not dangerous, it’s the body’s natural defense against damaged cells, viruses, bacteria, etc. It aims to remove these harmful or foreign invaders and heal itself. Without inflammation, wounds would just fester and infections could be deadly.
NOTE: Cinnamon is safe to consume during pregnancy if it is consumed in normal food amounts, say as flavoring or seasoning. It’s best to avoid the supplements and cinnamon-laden goodies. Cinnamon should be avoided by pregnant women because of its stimulating effects. It could disrupt blood glucose levels which could cause complications during childbirth, especially C-Section. It could increase your risk of bleeding, stimulating menstrual flow, which makes it an abortifacient agent causing miscarriages. If you are on blood-thinning medication, be careful, especially during or after surgery.
- Fights Infections and Viruses – Cinnamon is nature’s germ killer. It is used in many cultures to naturally help fight harmful infections and viruses. It contains natural antimicrobial, antibiotic, antifungal and antiviral properties and its essential oils contain powerful immune-boosting compounds as well.
- Gastrointestinal Disorders – Cassia cinnamon, which contains more cinnamaldehyde than the Ceylon variety, is “widely employed for gastrointestinal disorders such as dyspepsia, flatulence, diarrhea and vomiting.” dyspepsia, flatulence, diarrhea, and vomiting. It is relieving of abdominal pain and will dissolve mucus, clearing excess mucus from the body and helps resolve irritating coughs.
- Treats Diarrhea Effectively – Ceylon cinnamon contains antimicrobial agents that could kill all the bacteria and viruses that caused the conditions in the first place.
- Fights Nausea Naturally – Improves Metabolism Inside the Intestine – Cinnamon is relatively high in fiber and it is a perfect solution to improve metabolism inside the intestine and optimize the absorption of the nutrient.
- Natural Enemy to Salmonella – Got a problem with salmonella? This bacteria sometimes is hard to avoid but the effect could be really painful that leads to food poisoning conditions. Well, consider it is lucky because cinnamon is a natural enemy to salmonella.
- Battles Stomach Flu – Stomach flu is well known as gastroenteritis medically which caused by bacteria or viruses and cinnamon could battle stomach flu with its antibacterial properties.
- Eases Up IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome – IBS occurs in the large intestine and the symptoms could be really painful. As anti-inflammatory cinnamon will ease up the pain and as anti-bacteria will remove the bacteria that cause the condition.
- Using Cinnamon in Gardening – Cinnamon is one of the best-kept secrets of organic gardeners. Because of its antifungal properties, you can sprinkle it on the soil around your plants to discourage the growth of fungus, mildew, and mold while conveniently warding off annoying fungus gnats and other flying pests like mosquitoes. It can also be used to encourage a seedling’s growth by gently covering the roots with cinnamon, which will also help prevent root rot. Ants hate walking over ground cinnamon, so simply sprinkle some wherever you don’t want ants to cross, such as outside your front door or windows.(12)(13)(14)
- Prevents Candida(B6) – The powerful anti-fungal properties in cinnamon could be effective in treating and preventing Candida overgrowth in the digestive tract.
- Benefits of Skin Health(B6) – Cinnamon’s antibiotic and antimicrobial properties can help protect skin from irritation, rashes, allergic reactions and infection. Using both honey, raw honey or Manuka honey, and cinnamon together can boost skin health even more and may be beneficial for acne, rosacea and skin allergies.
- Optimizes Oral Hygiene – Cinnamon benefits oral hygiene and could protect against certain strains of bacteria that cause bad breath, tooth decay, cavities, and mouth infections.
3. Protects Heart Health(Vitamin K)
- Lowers the Cholesterol Level – Cinnamon has been shown to reduce high cholesterol levels, high triglyceride levels, and high blood pressure to keep your heart healthy and strong.
- Effective as Anti-coagulant – Cinnamon is a helpful blood coagulant and can stop excess bleeding by helping the body to form blood clots. Perhaps switching it to the natural solution by replacing it with Ceylon cinnamon is a good idea. If you are currently taking anti-coagulant medication, you should discuss this with your doctor.
- Promotes Healthy Blood Flow – Cinnamon promotes healthy blood flow means less pressure for your heart to work. It improves tissue repair, especially helpful for regenerating heart tissue. This means a lower risk of stroke and heart attack, stroke, and heart disease conditions.
- Promotes Proper Blood Clotting – It is a common knowledge that cinnamon is a natural anticlotting tool, that’s why it promotes only proper blood clotting and reduces the risk of the accumulation of blood clot in the wrong places.
4. Diabetic Friendly – cassia cinnamon which is not recommended for diabetic patients because it is higher in coumarin.
- Stabilizes Blood Sugar – Cinnamon is well-known for its anti-diabetic effects, which is why it’s considered one of the best foods for diabetics. It can lower blood sugar levels and improve sensitivity to the hormone insulin, which helps transport sugar from the bloodstream to the tissues to keep blood sugar levels balanced.
Cinnamon for diabetes can help block the activity of several digestive enzymes to slow the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream after a high-carb meal. There’s a growing incidence of illnesses that, when traced back to the source, appear to be linked to nutrient malabsorption due to a lack of digestive enzymes. Digestion is a complex process that first begins when you chew food, which releases enzymes in your saliva. So it is important to CHEW well to activate these enzymes in the fats, carbs or protein foods we eat.(B6)
- Reduces the Insulin Resistance – Ceylon cinnamon works both sides, by normalizing the insulin level and at the same time is reducing the resistance.
According to the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BFR), who currently set the strictest standards for the use of cassia cinnamon in food products, “Cinnamon capsules have been on the market for some time now as food supplements or as dietetic foods to reduce blood sugar in type 2 diabetes mellitus. The taking of these capsules in line with the indicated amounts leads to exposure (up to several grams cinnamon a day as continuous administration) which is far higher than the amounts of cinnamon normally consumed as a spice.”
- Assists Glucose Metabolism in the Liver – Glucose metabolism is the key in all diabetic conditions, when its metabolism is disturbed, the spike of the blood sugar level is the direct effect of this condition. Cinnamon could be effective in reducing complications, morbidity, and mortality in metabolic syndrome, including reducing blood pressure, plasma glucose, obesity, and dyslipidemia. But more studies are needed for a true conclusion on this matter.
5. Preserves Brain Function(manganese) – Because cinnamon is rich in antioxidants, research shows that it may boost brain function and can help defend and protect against the development of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Cinnamon is metabolized into sodium benzoate. Eating cinnamon significantly elevates the level of sodium benzoate in your brain.
Cinnamon may be fragrant medicine for the brain. Simply smelling cinnamon is enough to wake you up and improve your cognitive function. This means that things like focus, memory, and concentration will come easier to you. If you find that you feel anxious when you need to take a test or go to a big meeting, cinnamon can help you to calm down and find your focus. (15)
6. Acts as a Natural Preservative – For centuries humankind has been using preservatives to extend the shelf life of various foods, making them last longer and keeping their color, taste, and nutrients intact. Today, processed foods come with a lot of artificial preservatives, but there are several natural preservatives that you can use to preserve food as well.
I have heard of salt, sugar, lemon (citric acid), vinegar, but it is a first for me to learn about cinnamon as a preservative. it does not protect food from all bacteria and microbes from decay. It is more organism-specific. Cinnamon kills a wide variety of micro-organisms. Cinnamon is lethal to Escherichia Coli 0157 H7 causing outbreaks of food poisoning. Cinnamon inhibits the growth of certain bacteria, including Listeria and Salmonella. Cinnamon oil in the range of 50 to 500 ppm showed activity against certain fungi such as Colletotrichum coccodes, Rhizophas, Stolonifer Botrytis cinerea, Cladosporium herbarum, Aspargillus niger (common fungus). (16)
A recent study reported that when pectin from fruit was coated with cinnamon leaf extract, it yielded high antioxidant and antibacterial activities and stayed fresh for longer. Cinnamon also possesses antityrosinase activities, which can be useful in stopping the discoloration of fruits and vegetables as they oxidize and begin to rot.
7. Pain Killer (Cinnamon vs Ibuprofen) – In a Randomized Double-Blind Clinical Trial, a clinical trial that is conducted that neither the patients nor the researchers know who is getting a placebo and who is getting the treatment, that was given found that it actually reduced the severity of menstrual bleeding in women, making it a win-win as far as difficult or inconvenient menstruation symptoms go. A reason for its effectiveness is that the cellulose matrix of tree bark acts as a sustained-release medicine. Yes, cinnamon for menstrual pain beats ibuprofen.
Why is cinnamon superior to ibuprofen? Considering the well-known dangers of ibuprofen, which is estimated to kill several thousand a year from its cardiovascular side effects alone, cinnamon’s potential role as a natural alternative to this drug is highly promising. Ibuprofen is a petrochemical-derivative and has been linked to a significantly increased risk of heart attack with over two dozen serious adverse health effects of an inflamed Default Bodily State. Some are listed below. It is estimated that a thousand people every year die from cardiovascular side effects that were caused by Ibuprofen. It is known to have both blood pressure-lowering and blood sugar lowering properties, both of which may confer protection against cardiovascular disease. (17)(18)
- Anemia 2. DNA Damage 3. Hearing Loss 4. Hypertension 5. Influenza Mortality 6. Miscarriage
8. Infection and Diabetes-Fighting Properties
Cinnamon’s medicinal potential is as rich and complex as its flavor and aroma.
Anecdotal evidence going back generations suggest that gargling with a cinnamon mouthwash can alleviate the pain of mouth ulcers and clear throat infections. Millions of people drink cinnamon and honey tea regularly as part of their general health routine. Honey mixed with cinnamon can help relieve a sore throat or fight off infection, few realize it has been confirmed to have extensive anti-infective properties against a wide range of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Find a recipe below.
Cinnamon has an impressive range of pathogens that appear to resist the following: (19)
- Aspergillus niger – fungus
- Campylobacter Infections – causes abortions and poisoning
- Candida Infection – fungus
- Coronaviridae (SARS-associated) Infections – viruses
- Escherichia coli Infections – bacteria
- H1N1 Infection
- Head Lice
- HIV Infections
- Insect Bites: Repellent
- Klebsiella Infections – a bacterium that causes respiratory, urinary, and wound infections.
- Legionnaires’ disease – a form of atypical pneumonia caused by any type of bacteria producing signs and symptoms that include cough, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle pains, and headaches
- Pseudomonas aeruginosa – infection
- Staphylococcal Infections
How much of cinnamon is it safe to take?
- Ceylon cinnamon bark oil – 1-3 drops per day in 8 oz hot water, ginger, or black tea.
- Take one 3 inch stick 3 times a day Do not take straight powder because it is corrosive on the stomach. Take 1.2 tsp. powder with food.
- Take cinnamon only for 5 days and take a rest for 2 days
(2) Dr. Axe
(13) Dr. Axe