Mention the word cinnamon and images of delicious dishes rush to our minds. This ancient spice has been used to add flavor to dishes since ancient times. Other than enhancing the flavor of food, this spice has also been used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years. Some of the Health benefits of cinnamon include it lowers blood pressure, helps in the treatment of Alzheimer’s & Parkinson’s disease, fights allergies, reduces weight, lowers cancer risk, fights skin problems, fights PCOS, fights HIV, etc.
Cinnamon comes from the bark of the Cinnamomum tree. This bark contains natural compounds like cinnamaldehyde, cinnamic acid, and cinnamate, which provide this aromatic spice its health properties (1).
Moving ahead in this article, you will learn the health benefits of cinnamon in detail and also you observe two types of cinnamon which are not equal in healing properties.
Types of cinnamon
Two main types of cinnamon are available (2):
- Ceylon Cinnamon
Also known as true cinnamon, this variety of cinnamon is more expensive. It is made up of the inner bark of Cinnamomum verum tree. It is commonly found in southern parts of India and Sri Lanka. Ceylon is brown in color and has soft layers.
- Cassia Cinnamon (Also known as Cinnamomum aromaticum)
This variety of cinnamon comes from Cinnamomum cassia tree and it originated from southern China. It is more readily available and is less expensive. But it has more flavor than Ceylon cinnamon.
Cassia is dark brown in color. All in all, Cassia cinnamon is of lower quality and a large dose might cause problems to your health.
Cinnamon can add aroma and flavor to your food without adding many calories. One tablespoon of this spice contains just 19 calories. It has no fat, sugar or protein but can provide 68 percent of your daily value of manganese. It also includes some amounts of calcium, iron and vitamin K.
Health benefits of cinnamon
1. Rich source of antioxidants
Cinnamon is loaded with antioxidants. In fact, in a study that compared 26 different spices for their antioxidant properties, cinnamon ranked number one (3). Antioxidants protect us from free-radical damage and thus help in slowing down the aging process.
Researchers have identified 41 different natural compounds in the bark oil of cinnamon (4). Cinnamon contains polyphenols, flavonoids, and phenolic acid, which help fight oxidative stress that can lead to various diseases.
The antioxidants in cinnamon have anti-inflammatory effects which can help lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, brain disorders. Its anti-inflammatory properties also aid in pain management.
2. Improves heart health
Regular consumption of cinnamon can reduce the risk of heart disease. Cinnamon helps to lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels as well.
According to a study on a group of 60 people with type-2 diabetes, regular intake of cinnamon reduced serum glucose, triglyceride, LDL Cholesterol and total cholesterol (5).
Studies have also shown that cinnamon helps reduce high blood pressure and thus lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke (6).
3. Helps treat Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s
Recent research has shown that cinnamon may also help in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. During a study, the scientists at Rush University Medical Centre discovered that cinnamon could reverse the biomechanical, cellular and anatomical changes that occur in mice with Parkinson’s disease (7).
Cinnamon also prevents the tau aggregation and filament formation, which can lead to Alzheimer’s disease (9). The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of cinnamon help protect our bodies and brains from the degenerative effects of aging.
One of the biggest health benefits of cinnamon includes lowering of blood sugar. Regular consumption of cinnamon can improve sensitivity to insulin (8). Insulin resistance can lead to metabolic syndrome and type-2 diabetes.
Cinnamon can also help lower blood sugar levels. Cinnamon interferes with various digestive enzymes, which slows the breakdown of carbohydrates and decreases the amount of glucose that enters the bloodstream (9). People with type-2 diabetes can undoubtedly benefit from adding cinnamon to their diet.
5. Helps lower cancer risk
The antioxidants in cinnamon help to inhibit cancerous tumor growth in the body and protect against DNA damage. According to a study, cinnamaldehyde, an active compound found in the bark of Cinnamomum cassia, inhibits tumor cell proliferation (10).
According to another study on mice, cinnamon helps detoxify the enzymes in the colon and hence prevents further cancerous growth (11). Further studies need to be done to study these effects in humans.
6. Antibacterial and antimicrobial properties
Cinnamon has antimicrobial properties that can combat bad microbes like bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites and keep your body healthy. These antimicrobial properties also help in preventing tooth decay (12).
Cinnamon can also control the growth of listeria and salmonella and can treat respiratory infections caused by fungi (13).
Studies have indicated that one of the health benefits of cinnamon is also found in weight reduction. It lowers blood sugar and controls insulin levels, which further aids in speeding up the metabolism. A boost in metabolism helps in burning off calories faster.
Cinnamon also helps sweeten the taste of food without adding extra sugar, which is beneficial for weight loss. A recent study found that when rats were fed a high-fat diet along with cinnamon, they weighed less than the rats that weren’t fed cinnamon (14).
Other studies also indicate that cinnamaldehyde, the oil that gives cinnamon its flavor, is helpful in warding off weight gain.
8. Helps fight allergies
Cinnamon contains essential oils that help fight various allergies. It helps reduce inflammation and fights histamine reactions. Though further human research is needed, the results of numerous animal studies have been very encouraging (15).
Cinnamaldehyde also helps to boost our immune system and improves nutrient absorption during digestion. Cinnamon also helps to reduce auto-immune reactions that are caused by food that can lead to allergic reactions.
9. Fights skin problems
The antibacterial and antimicrobial properties of cinnamon make it a popular choice for treating acne, eczema, rashes, and irritation. Cinnamon essential oil can be applied directly to the skin to reduce pain, inflammation, redness, and swelling (16).
Cinnamon essential oil also helps make your skin look younger by promoting collagen production (17). Cinnamon can also be used as a scrub to make your skin look soft and clean.
10. Relieves PMS symptoms
The anti-inflammatory properties of cinnamon help in reducing PMS symptoms like cramps and bloating. Its anti-spasmodic properties help relieve pain during menstruation.
According to a study, cinnamon can be used as a safe and effective treatment for primary dysmenorrhea (18).
11. Fights PCOS
Insulin resistance plays a big role in polycystic ovary syndrome. Since cinnamon is helpful in improving sensitivity to insulin, it can help treat PCOS as well.
Researchers at Columbia University’s Department of Medicine discovered that women with PCOS who took 1500 mg of cinnamon daily began to have more regular menstrual cycles as compared to those who took placebos (19).
Two women participating in this study even became pregnant within a few months.
12. May help fight HIV
Recent research has suggested that cinnamon extracted from cassia variety can help fight against HIV-1 (20). According to the study, cinnamon can block HIV-1 from infecting other cells in the body and prevent HIV from developing into AIDS.
According to another research that studies 69 medicinal plants for their affectivity against HIV, the cinnamon extract was found to be most effective against HIV-1 (21).
13. Prevents tooth decay and bad breath
One of the health benefits of cinnamon is that it can be used as in mouth refreshing agent. It is used as a flavoring agent and found its usage in chewing gums for providing refreshing breath.
Cinnamon extracts have been found to be very effective against bacteria that cause bad breath and mouth infections. This refreshing property of cinnamon is the reason why it has been used traditionally to treat toothaches and bad breath (22).
14. Helps cure the common cold
The antioxidant and antibacterial properties of cinnamon help fight bacterial infections that lead to the common cold. Cinnamon tea is very useful in treating symptoms of common cold like a sore throat and coughing.
Apart from several health benefits of cinnamon, this spice does have some minor side effects.
- Cinnamon generally does not cause any side effects if taken in small amounts. However, if taken in large quantities, it can cause soles in the mouth and lips.
- People with liver problems should avoid taking large quantities of cassia cinnamon as it can have a toxic effect.
- Since cinnamon is effective in lowering blood sugar levels, people with diabetes should consult with their doctors and adjust their medicines accordingly before taking cinnamon supplements.
- Cinnamon can also have an allergic reaction in some people when taken orally or applied to the skin. The symptoms include hives, nausea, red eyes, itchy skin, runny nose, and diarrhea.
Over to you on health benefits on cinnamon
Not only does cinnamon add delicious flavor to food, but it is also highly beneficial for your health. So, whether you are looking to cure an ailment or to stay healthy, make sure you add this aromatic spice to your diet. If possible, consume Ceylon cinnamon as it is healthier than Cassia cinnamon.