Cinnamon is one of those herbs that seems to just do it all. Like turmeric and ginger, this is something that you can easily add to a meal or even a hot drink that will add to the flavour while bringing no extra calories. But that's not to say that it is completely innocuous. Because actually, cinnamon brings a ton of nutrients and can help to improve your health in a myriad of different ways.
And unlike turmeric or cayenne pepper, cinnamon is sweet. That means it's perfect for making a snack much more like a dessert, whether you're adding cinnamon to some cereal or fruit, or you're using it in a nice chai latte that has a real Christmassy feeling.
So what is cinnamon precisely? Cinnamon is a substance that is produced from the bark of certain trees. These trees belong to a category known as cinnamomum, so now you're starting to see where the name might have come from...
What makes it so nutritious is the inclusion of a lot of "active ingredients". These are eugenol, ethyl cinnamate, methyl chavicol, beta-caryophyllene and linalool among others.
Cinnamon is very commonly used in countries such as India and is found in a lot of curries and gravies. However, its popularity has also spread and especially thanks to its wide use in coffee shops. Today it is recognized all around the world. Cinnamon comes in a number of different forms, which include cinnamon verum, cinnamon tamala and cinnamomum cassia to name a few.
Some popular ways to use cinnamon include mixing it with milk and honey, or sprinkling on coffee, salads, rice and more. All these things will allow you to enjoy the many health benefits of cinnamon.
Let's take a look at what some of those benefits are...
A lot of the attention surrounding cinnamon is mainly on its potential use among diabetic patients. That's because cinnamon contains what are known as catechins and these are able to trigger the release of a hormone called insulin.
Now, if insulin sounds familiar, that's because it is the hormone that diabetic patients don't get enough of. This is why management of diabetes tends to involve injecting with insulin whenever blood sugar drops below a certain level.
This can make a big difference to people suffering with diabetes and as such, cinnamon is highly recommended as a supplementary item to assist the medication prescribed by your doctor.
2. Blood Sugar
Lowering blood sugar in this way is good for diabetic patients but it might also have benefits for the rest of the population too. Many people stick to low and no carb diets with the intention of keeping their blood sugar perpetually at rock bottom.
The idea behind this is to avoid a release of insulin and thereby prevent the onset of insulin resistance while simultaneously preventing the storage of fat.
This spike and trough is also considered unhealthy and by keeping blood sugar level, users might notice a more consistent and steady flow of energy throughout the day.
As well as catechins, cinnamon also contains a compound called cinnulin. This is an important antioxidant which should be able to help protect the cells and the heart against damage from free radicals.
In theory, this can help to stave off the visible signs of aging by avoiding cell damage that can add up to visible wrinkles. Likewise, it should be able to prevent mutated DNA which can copy and proliferate and ultimately lead to cancerous tumors.
In this way then, cinnamon might be useful for helping to combat the onset of cancer. By preventing the damage to cells caused by free radicals, it should be able to prevent damage to the DNA and thereby prevent damaged cells from spreading through the body.
But a lot of substances can act as antioxidants. What really makes cinnamon different is the aforementioned cinnulin and another called eugenol.
In one study, it was found that this substance could prevent oxidative damage by donating hydrogen atoms thereby neutralizing their effects.
Not only is cinnamon a useful supplement for those trying to maintain low blood sugar to lose weight (in one study it was found that it could reduce fasting levels of plasma glucose as well as HbA1C) but it also helps the body to burn fat stores and thereby reduce weight.
This might seem too good to be true for most people. Normally, adding something sweet to your hot drink is what makes you more likely to gain weight!
In this case, you get to enjoy nice, sweet drinks and lose weight at the same time.
Cinnamon is an anti-fungal agent which can help to reduce candida albicans. This is good news, seeing as candida albicans is the fungus responsible for candidiasis or thrush.
This can occur in the mouth or the vagina and is a distinctly unpleasant experience. It creates discharge, a burning sensation, redness and more.
In a recent study it was found that using cinnamon oil and olive oil can effectively kill off many species of candida. Even those resistant to medications!
Cinnamon is not only anti-fungal but also anti-bacterial. This means that like garlic, it could be used as a powerful natural antibiotic. Not only can cinnamon kill of regular bugs but it has also been shown to be very effective in killing e.coli, salmonella and pseudomonas.
The cinnamaldehyde in cinnamon even appears to be effective in killing multidrug resistant bacteria. So where your medications fail, cinnamon might have the answer!
Of course if you just consume cinnamon on a regular basis, this can help you to avoid infections and stay healthy. If you do get an infection, then do the smart thing and speak with your doctor. Antibiotics are still considerably more potent than cinnamon.
Another benefit of anything that kills of bacteria is that it will improve your oral health. We all know that bacteria lives in our teeth and mouths and that they are responsible for plaque and tooth decay.
By consuming natural antibacterial agents, you can kill off these invaders and thereby ensure your teeth stay glossy white all year round.
The other benefit is that this can then prevent infections and illnesses from entering the body through the mouth. This is also why flossing has been shown to actually reduce the incidence of cancer!
Halitosis is the technical term for bad breath. And guess what causes this? That's right: once again it comes down to bacteria which in this case is now producing a very unpleasant smell.
Consuming cinnamon can help to kill off that bacteria and thereby restore your mouth to smelling great - especially first thing in the morning.
Garlic also does this but the problem with using garlic is that in many cases, it smells worse than the halitosis itself! So try adding a little cinnamon to your morning glass of milk or mug of coffee and you might see yourself breathing more easily.
More recent research demonstrates another way in which cinnamon might help to reduce cancer: by altering the expression of genes.
In one study, it was found that cinnamon could help to reduce the expression of genes like VEGF. This is important because that gene is responsible for perpetuating the growth of cancer.
In another study, it was found that cinnamon could help to reduce the supply of blood to the cancer cells, likely as a result of this alteration. This can effectively starve and suffocate the cells, thereby causing them to die.
IBS is irritable bowel syndrome. This is a condition that causes sensitive bowels and that can leave patients often running for the nearest toilets. It causes general gastrointestinal distress and that can include flatulence and more. It has also been linked with CFS - chronic fatigue syndrome.
So if you struggle with IBS, you might benefit from cinnamon. Cinnamon appears to treat many of the symptoms of IBS, even if it doesn't necessarily solve the root cause of the problem.
ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a condition that causes some children to misbehave in class. Rather than being naughty, these children often demonstrate lower levels of dopamine production.
This in turn reduces their attentiveness by making things seem less interesting and making it harder for them to work toward goals. They might also exhibit other symptoms such as RLS (restless leg syndrome).
ADHD can be treated to some extent it seems through the use of cinnamon. This appears to have something to do with compounds that boost the health of the neurons.
Many different health foods and nutrients appear to claim to be anti-inflammatory so you may want to take this with a pinch of salt (which isn't inflammatory...).
But the good news with cinnamon is that there's an actual active ingredient that we know can help to reduce inflammation. This is a substance called zeylanicum which has been shown in studies to be effective at reducing swelling in arthritic patients and others. This may also be useful for "healthy" individuals, as many of us live with low levels of inflammation without realizing it.
Waking up with brain fog? This might be a result of pro inflammatory cytokines which can affect the brain and make us feel cloudy and confused.
According to research, cinnamon is likely also useful for lowering levels of cholesterol.
In one study, cinnamon was taken alongside some other herbal substances including cardamom and it was found to have among the best anti-cholesterol effects of all.
Anti-cholesterol is misleading however. Rather, it is effective at increasing the levels of LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol and increasing the good kind of high density lipoprotein - HDL.
Reduces Muscle Soreness
If you're a gym rat and you find yourself often feeling pain and soreness after workouts (called DOMS), then you might want to consider raiding your fridge for cinnamon.
Only this time, you're not going to be eating it but rather adding a few drops to your bath tub prior to taking your bath. You might find that you feel very reinvigorated when you get out, which is likely a result of the anti-inflammatory properties affecting the muscles locally.
Cinnamon can also help to improve blood flow which is important because it means you get more blood flow to the muscles for enhanced recovery when you eat it, too!
Cold and Sore Throat
Living with a long protracted cold or flu is no fun. You can find yourself feeling stuffy, tired, headachy and full of coughs and phlegm.
Well, the good news is that cinnamon is able to help you recover from this illness a little quicker. The main way it does this of course is by acting as a natural antibacterial and antifungal and thereby waging an all-out war on the tiny invaders making you sick.
Cinnamon contains something called epicatechin, which is the same nutrient that makes dark chocolate so impressive.
Epicatechin has a range of very important and useful benefits but the first one we're interested in is that it can help you to increase blood flow around the body. This delivers more oxygen and nutrients to the brain, which in turn can make you feel more awake and more alert.
Studies show that increasing blood and oxygen to the brain in this manner can actually improve your performance on concentration and memory tasks. This can help to wake you up and give you a boost at work!18. Muscle Mass
Epicatechin is also interesting because it can increase the number of satellite cells surrounding the muscles. This is again accomplished through a boost in nitric oxide and recent studies demonstrated this link.
The reason that's interesting, is that satellite cells are what the body uses in order to repair and restore tissues. When you combine this with enhanced bloodflow to said muscles, you have a very potent strengthening effect to enhance hypertrophy.
But it gets even better. That's because epicatechin also appears to reduce myostatin. All you need to know about this substance is that it inhibits muscle growth. The more you suppress myostatin then, the more the muscles increase in size with relatively little work on your part!
We've seen that cinnamon can help to increase brain function, so it shouldn't come as too huge a surprise to learn that it can also help to reduce the onset of Alzheimer's.
This is likely the effect of epicatechin as well as cinnamaldehyde, which prevent the formation of degenerative changes.
Cinnamon can help to enhance energy through a number of methods. We've already seen that it can encourage blood flow for instance and because it can also encourage the burning of sugar and production of insulin (which basically means the body is able to use sugar rather than ignore it or store it as fat), you can see improvements across the board.
By also fortifying the immune system and curing infections, cinnamon can basically improve your energy levels to a huge degree through a number of different methods.
The great thing about this is that if you are constantly waking up in the mornings feeling tired and listless, you should now have a bit more spring in your step. That can lead to many more positive changes in your life.
Finally, it's also a huge benefit that cinnamon is such a versatile, tasty and convenient addition to any meal.
Rather than being something you have to work to fit into your routine and force yourself to eat, this is something that will make your meals even tastier and which hopefully you might actually look forward to adding to your drinks, yogurts and cereals!