Cinnamon conjures memories of hot teas, gingerbread cookies and spiced foods that are so closely tied to the long and cold winter months. But even in the heat of summer, “warming” cinnamon can be used for a multitude of health benefits.
Historically, cinnamon has been used in perfume, as a holy anointing oil and as incense. Legend has it that the notorious Emperor Nero burned an entire year’s worth of Rome’s cinnamon supply at his wife’s funeral pyre (Ravindran, 2004).
Today, cinnamon is used less frequently in funeral pyres, but its usefulness in the modern world is undeniable. You will typically find commercial cinnamon in the form of Ceylon cinnamon and cassia cinnamon. Studies and home remedies have proven the many benefits of cinnamon for our health.
Cinnamon contains a surprising amount of fiber and calcium which are good for the heart. Specifically, ground cinnamon contains about 4 grams of fiber and 78 milligrams of calcium per tablespoon. Fiber and calcium help transfer bile salts out of the body. Bile salts can cause damage to colon cells, which in turn can lead to colon cancer. In this way, the fiber from cinnamon is a good cancer preventative. Also, when the bile salts are removed, the body breaks down more cholesterol to create new bile. This process may lower cholesterol levels, and lowering your total cholesterol may also lessen the chance of developing heart disease.
Blood sugar regulation
A 2007 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that taking 6 grams of cinnamon with rice pudding reduced postprandial (after meal) glucose. The cinnamon also delayed the rate at which the stomach emptied the pudding from the digestive tract, which reduced the rise of blood sugar levels after eating. Interestingly, this may help diabetics by normalizing their blood sugar levels. Also, a study published in a 2003 issue of Diabetes Care found that type 2 diabetics who consumed just 1 gram of cinnamon a day had reduced blood sugar, LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides and total cholesterol.
Improved brain function
In a study led by Dr. Phillip Zoladz, researchers found that chewing cinnamon gum improved volunteers’ scores related to “attentional processes, virtual recognition memory, working memory, and visual-motor response speed.” In a neuroscience nutshell, the study found that just smelling the fragrance of cinnamon improved cognitive processing. The study also looked at the cognitive impact of gum with flavorless gum, peppermint gum and cherry gum. Among all the different types of gum, cinnamon gum enhanced cognition the most.
New research shows cinnamon has positive effects on mice with Parkinson’s disease
A recent study (2014) has shown that cinnamon can “reverse the biomechanical, cellular and anatomical changes that occur in the brains of mice with Parkinson’s.” After mice ate ground cinnamon, the cinnamon was metabolized into sodium benzoate. The sodium benzoate entered the mice’s brains and stopped the loss of Parkin (a protein) and DJ-1 (a gene). Additionally, the sodium benzoate protected neurons and normalized neurotransmitter levels, all of which improved the motor functions of the mice. The researchers of the study concluded that, if these results could be translated to people with Parkinson’s disease, then there is potential for serious advancement against this aggressive neurodegenerative disease.
Cinnamon oil may be more effective against infection than antiseptics
Antibiotic-resistant strains of MRSA can be disastrous in hospital environments. In many cases, patients who have been admitted to hospital have died from MRSA infections which were completely unrelated to the primary reason for their hospital admission. A study found that essential oil, such as cinnamon, could be used as a cost-effective antiseptic treatment option against pathogens such as MRSA. Try using a cinnamon oil blend, such as thieves oil (blend of clove, cinnamon bark, lemon, eucalyptus, rosemary), for an everyday hand sanitizer.
Cinnamon may be used for upset stomach and a cold preventative
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, cinnamon is often prescribed to ward off colds. A combination of cinnamon and ginger in tea can also be used to relieve upset stomach.
In a 2014 study published in Nature, researchers looked at the effect of cinnamon on epithelial mouse stomach cells and found that a dose of cinnamon reduced cumulative food intake. Obese mice who were fed cinnamon extract for five weeks significantly reduce their body weight, and their glucose tolerance also improved.
Relieve symptoms of PMS
A 2015 study conducted on a sample of Iranian female college students found that cinnamon significantly reduced the severity and duration of pain that occurred during menstruation when compared with a placebo. Another study found that using aromatherapy abdominal massage with essential oils (including cinnamon with almond as a base) once daily for seven days leading up to menstruation alleviated menstrual pain and even the duration of menstrual bleeding.
Cinnamon oil may stimulate hair growth
In addition to abdominal massage, you may want to try massaging some cinnamon oil into your scalp. According to Francesca Fusco, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, cinnamon oil may be a good follicle stimulator. She said cinnamon “would probably help to stimulate blood flow to hair follicles,” and this reaction is important because “proper circulation is critical to healthy hair growth.” While there are no peer-reviewed studies to back up her claims, her clients have self-reported positive results from their cinnamon scalp massages.
Aids in circulation
Perhaps one of the best known benefits of cinnamon is the way this “warming” herb aids in circulation. Improved blood circulation also benefits the skin, and by taking cinnamon, such as drinking cinnamon tea, you can help your skin stay healthy-looking and vibrant. If you are more of a coffee drinker, then try this recipe for a Pakistani coffee with cinnamon and cardamom. Simmer together three cups of water, three cups of milk, one cinnamon stick, five cracked cardamom pods and three tablespoons of coffee for 10 minutes. Continue to mix the ingredients by ladling the liquid gently until you combine everything into a frothy, delicious coffee.
Ravindran, P. (2004). Cinnamon and Cassia: The genus Cinnamomum. Boca Raton: CRC Press.