Cinnamon is the bark of a tree of the Lauraceae family (which notably includes laurels and avocado), the cinnamon tree. There are several species, native to tropical regions of Asia. The best known and most sought after cinnamon is Ceylon cinnamon from Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon. However, much of the cinnamon on the market today is Chinese cinnamon, or “cassia,” produced by Cinnamomum cassia, which grows in China.
The bark is harvested during the rainy season when it is most heavily sap-loaded. As it dries, the bark rolls up on itself to form small sticks 8 to 10 cm long. Much of the production is for the manufacture of cinnamon essence, the rest is used as a spice in cooking.
Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices mentioned in the writings that have come down to us from ancient times. Traces found in Egyptian temples attest to the use of cinnamon in ointments used to embalm bodies from the 3rd century BC.
Cinnamon was used in ancient times not only as a flavoring but also as an ingredient in perfumes, creams, and remedies. In fact, cinnamon has stimulating, astringent and antiseptic properties.
Cinnamon was also widely used in cooking in the Middle Ages, we find in writings references to the camel mixture which was composed of cinnamon and ginger. At that time, spices were a social symbol, a heritage of the ancient elites. Cinnamon was used in particular to flavor Hypocras and Clarrey wines, respectively red wine and white wine flavored with many spices.
Today, cinnamon is produced in India, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia but also in the West Indies and Brazil.
Two main types of cinnamon
There are many types of cinnamon, but the most commonly used are the Ceylon Cinnamon and the Cassia Cinnamon. Basically, it doesn’t really matter which one you choose, because both species have similar health benefits. However, if you use a lot of cinnamon every day, you might want to opt for the Ceylon Cinnamon.
In the cinnamon there is a substance called Coumarin, which in normal quantities will not cause problems. But in large quantities, this can cause problems for the liver and for the kidneys. The amount of Coumarin in Ceylon Cinnamon is considerably lower than in Cassia Cinnamon. However, up to 2 teaspoons of cinnamon a day is acceptable independently of which species you choose.
Main health benefits of cinnamon
1. Cinnamon inhibits the growth of fungi and bacteria
The main component of cinnamon is cinnamon aldehyde. This not only gives cinnamon its known taste and smell, but also inhibits the growth of certain fungi and bacteria. For example, eating cinnamon can help treat the fungal disease, Candida.
2. Cinnamon is anti-inflammatory
Cinnamon is full of polyphenols. These are antioxidants that protect your body from bacteria and infections that cause inflammation. Cinnamon even helps repair damaged cells by activating enzymes that speed up cell recovery. Cinnamon can also be relieving in case of itching.
3. Cinnamon helps against bad breath
Bad breath in many cases occurs because the bacteria in your mouth are out of balance. Research has shown that daily gargling with a mixture of water, cinnamon and honey can keep the bad bacteria out of your mouth. This too has to do with the antibacterial effect of the spice.
4. Cinnamon reduces risk of cardiovascular disease
Research shows that cinnamon can lower cholesterol. 120 milligrams a day already makes a difference. Cinnamon also lowers blood pressure and has been shown to have positive effects on people with type 2 diabetes. This is because it causes blood glucose levels to drop.
5. Cinnamon helps digestion
Cinnamon stimulates the blood flow of the digestive system. Your body also makes more digestive juices when you regularly eat cinnamon. These juices help digest hard-to-digest food and counteract heartburn.
6. Cinnamon reduces pain caused by osteoarthritis
A recent study, conducted by the University of Copenhagen, found that cinnamon can make an important contribution to reducing the pain associated with osteoarthritis. The subjects were served both honey and cinnamon in their cereals every day. After about a week, it was found that in the vast majority of subjects, the pain had largely disappeared.
7. Cinnamon prevents blood sugar spikes after eating
There has also been scientific research into the relationship between diabetes- and too high blood sugar in general – and consuming cinnamon. Depending on what you eat, and how you eat, your blood sugar levels always rise immediately after meals. Your body will produce insulin to rebalance blood sugar levels and store the unused sugars (energy) as body fat for possible later use. The scientific study found that cinnamon keeps blood sugar levels better balanced after meals, i.e., without insulin intervention.
During the study, it was also measured whether the amount of cinnamon would have any influence, but it was found that 6 grams, 3 grams or 1 gram makes virtually no difference in the effect. The result of the study is therefore clear: Cinnamon causes a significantly lower spike in blood sugar levels.
8. Cinnamon prevents mold formation
Cinnamon’s effect against mold formation can be interpreted in two ways. First, it turned out that foods containing cinnamon remain good for longer than food that does not have cinnamon. Cinnamon can therefore be considered as a (possibly limited) preservative. On the other hand, this also works in the body against diseases related to fungi.
9. Cinnamon as food for your brain
Cinnamon has long been high on the list of foods that stimulates cognitive thinking, which has to do with the efficiency and alertness of your brain’s thinking ability. There is still a lot of Magnesium, Manganese and Iron in cinnamon, which make a very positive contribution to the functioning of your brain in general. This is not only an assumption, but it has also been shown by a recent study. After eating cinnamon, the subjects scored much better on a knowledge test than the subjects who had not eaten cinnamon.
10. Cinnamon helps to fight the common cold
Cinnamon is able to fight viruses and bacteria, we have already talked about that. This is very useful if, for example, you have a cold and are coughing a lot. For a few days, eat a tablespoon of honey every day and a quarter tablespoon of cinnamon immediately afterwards. This is not only good against the cough and the cold, but it also cleanses your sinuses.
11. Cinnamon to treat a bladder infection
To quickly wash away the bacteria of a bladder infection, you can dissolve two tablespoons of honey and a teaspoon of cinnamon in a glass of lukewarm water. Drink this mix every day until the bladder infection has disappeared.
12. Cinnamon to relieve stomach pain
Here too, a combination of water, cinnamon and honey can have a beneficial effect. The mix cleans your system very effectively. In addition, it would have a positive effect against a possible ulcer. Cinnamon also counteracts any flatulence.
13. Cinnamon against high cholesterol
Another beneficial effect of the combination with water and honey: Make a nice cup of tea with three teaspoons of cinnamon and two teaspoons of honey. This allows you to raise cholesterol levels.
14. Cinnamon for athletes
Cinnamon can also be used in sport: Cinnamon ensures that the number of anabolic proteins in the muscle cells is increased. As a direct result, more glucose is absorbed by the muscles, which will make more energy available.
15. Increases the insulin sensitivity of your cells
In addition to its insulin-like action, cinnamon can also improve the insulin sensitivity of your cells. This would mean that you need less insulin as a result. Adding cinnamon to something sweet can therefore help to keep your blood sugar levels a bit more stable.
16. Helps reduce period pain
A recent study has shown that the cinnamon helps reduce pain caused by menstruations in women. The results showed the mean intensity of dysmenorrhea (painful periods) significantly decreased over time in people who were given a cinnamon treatment.
Avoid taking too much
As you can see, cinnamon therefore has many good properties. However, avoid eating too much cinnamon as this is harmful to your health. Like we mentioned above, cinnamon contains the substance coumarin, which is a natural toxin. This occurs not only in cinnamon, but also in, for example, bergamot and tonka beans. Coumarin protects the plant from external threats. When people get too much of this toxin, it can lead to liver damage or blood clots.
Fortunately, the chances of this actually happening are very small. The symptoms of coumarin poisoning only occur when you get a lot of the toxin. In addition, the amount of poison decreases during the storage and processing of cinnamon. Nevertheless, it is good to know that, despite all the health benefits, it’s always better to consume anything in moderation.
Cinnamon is a delicious spice that also provides many health benefits. From its anti-fungal properties to its ability to lower blood sugar; there is no denying that cinnamon is one of the healthiest spices out there. Nonetheless, it’s always recommended to consume it in moderation.
One final warning for pregnant women: It is generally strongly discouraged to eat cinnamon, in any form, if you are pregnant or want to become pregnant.
Born in London, England and raised in Orlando, FL, Elena graduated from the University of Central Florida with a bachelors’ degree in Health Sciences. She later received her masters’ in Creative Writing from Drexel University. She writes part-time for the Scientific Origin and focuses mostly on health related issues.