Cinnamon is a tasty spice that livens up culinary dishes and beverages. The vibrant spice also boasts health benefits that range from a high concentration of antioxidants to a boost in immunity. Read on to find out more about cinnamon benefits and potential side effects.
What Is Cinnamon?
Cinnamon is a spice known for its sweet smelling aroma and is widely used to brew cinnamon tea and to flavor culinary dishes. There are a few types of cinnamon including Ceylon cinnamon, which is often called true cinnamon or cinnamon verum. The most common types of cinnamon are known by the botanical names Cassia cinnamomum and Cinnamomum verum.
Cinnamon is made from the bark of these cinnamon trees. The spice is popularly sold as cinnamon sticks, ground cinnamon, and cinnamon essential oils. The cinnamon tree is native to Asia and is widely cultivated in Sri Lanka, China, and Indonesia. The spice was first imported to Ancient Egypt in 2000 B.C. where it was used in the embalming process and as a fragrance (1). In Chinese traditional medicine, the cinnamon extract and its essential oil are used for a host of ailments.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon
1. High In Antioxidants
Cinnamon contains high concentrations of antioxidants that are beneficial for human health. Antioxidants work to prevent oxidative stress damage caused by free radicals. Research shows that cinnamon antioxidants offer protective effects.
In fact, a study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that cinnamon contains polyphenols and flavonoids (2). These compounds may help prevent damage caused by oxidative stress.
2. Good For The Heart
Cinnamon may be good for heart health thanks to anti-inflammatory properties. Cinnamon may help to decrease inflammation, which improves blood circulation and reduces the risk for health problems including heart attack and blood clots.
A study published in Diabetic Medicine examined the effects of cinnamon bark on 58 patients with type 2 diabetes. The participants took either cinnamon or a placebo for 12 weeks. Researchers found that cinnamon helped to regulate blood sugar levels and decreased blood pressure levels (3).
Additional research published in Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that cinnamon helped to lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity (4). These blood glucose benefits are particularly beneficial in people who are insulin resistant.
Another study published in Diabetes Care examined the effects of cinnamon on markers of heart disease including total cholesterol and lipid levels. The study consisted of 60 people who were divided into six groups. Three of the groups were given a placebo while the other three received different doses of cinnamon powder. Results showed that cinnamon helps to reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides (5).
3. Beneficial For Brain Health
Cinnamon and cinnamon oil may be beneficial for brain health. The sweet fragrance of cinnamon essential oil can help reduce stress and induce relaxation. The antioxidants in cinnamon may also help to prevent serious mental disorders including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s.
Most research on the effects of cinnamon and brain health consists of in vitro or animal studies. Human trials are needed to confirm these potential health benefits.
One study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that Ceylon cinnamon inhibited hallmarks of Alzheimer’s including tau aggregation and filament formation (6). Cinnamon may also protect brain health by inhibiting the growth of certain types of cancer cells (7).
4. Aids The Immune System
Cinnamon boasts antibacterial properties and antimicrobial properties that can help prevent the spread of diseases such as the common cold and flu. The antioxidant activity of cinnamon also helps to fend off invading pathogens and boost immunity (8).
Cinnamon also boasts antifungal properties that can help protect health. A study published in 2012 in a Chinese journal found that cinnamon oil demonstrated protective qualities against three different species of candida (9).
5. May Aid Weight Loss
Cinnamon can help you meet your weight loss goals by changing the way you approach food. The sweet flavor and fragrance of cinnamon is the perfect addition to culinary dishes. Instead of adding processed sugars, you can add a teaspoon of sugar to get a little sweetness without the extra calories.
Side Effects of Cinnamon
Cinnamon is safe when consumed in mild to moderate amounts. Always talk to a qualified healthcare professional before taking dietary cinnamon supplements or adding the spice to your diet, especially if you have a medical condition. Side effects are rare but tend to occur when a person eats too much cinnamon.
Symptoms of cinnamon excess include stomach upset and nausea. Cinnamon may also cause allergic reactions in people who are allergic to the outer and inner bark of the cinnamon tree. Allergic reactions are also more prevalent when using cinnamon oil. To use cinnamon oil topically, mix it with a carrier oil such as coconut oil or olive oil to avoid irritation.
Cinnamon contains a compound known as coumarin, which may cause liver damage when consumed in large amounts. Cassia cinnamon contains higher amounts of this compound compared to true cinnamon. Limit intake of cinnamon and consult a physician to avoid negative side effects.
Cinnamon is a spice that offers sweet flavor and aroma to culinary dishes. Research shows that it may offer health benefits for the heart, immunes system, and nervous system. Cinnamon is safe for consumption and has few side effects when consumed in moderate amounts.