Cinnamon has been around since the early 2000 BC in Egypt where it was first imported and used as a gift or offering to monarchs and gods. It was one of the most prized possessions in the Mediterranean for many centuries because of its limited supply. Cinnamon has two main species available in the market: the Cinnamomum verum or Ceylon Cinnamon is considered to be the “true cinnamon” and also the best type of cinnamon while the Cinnamomum cassia or also known as Chinese Cinnamon, is the one used in cinnamon rolls and other pastries. Cinnamon cassia is the most common and available species in the international trade scene where it is mostly exported from India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Bangladesh. There are other species of cinnamons from these countries too where each has its own uses. Because of its growing popularity, cinnamon has been used for food, beverage and even for its medical benefits. What is the health benefits of cinnamon?
There are various studies that back-up the benefits of taking cinnamon:
- Lowers down blood sugar – Cinnamon cassia in some researches was believed to lower down blood sugar in people suffering from diabetes. It has also helped people with type 2 diabetes to improve responses to insulin and normalize its blood sugar levels.
- Antioxidants- Cinnamon ranks #7 in the list of food, spices, and herbs rich in antioxidants in the world. It even exceeds garlic, oregano, and rosemary which are all filled with antioxidants.
- Reduces Heart Risks- The special compounds in cinnamon help reduce the levels of LDL (Low-density lipoprotein) “bad cholesterol” and triglycerides while helping the stability of the HDL “good cholesterol”. Cinnamon also helps in blood circulation which is necessary to avoid major heart risks.
- Anti-Inflammatory Properties- Cinnamon helps reduce swelling or inflammation in PMS (Premenstrual syndrome) commonly experienced by women before their monthly period, muscle sores, aging pains, and allergy-related pains.
- Improve Brain Function- The aromatic scent of cinnamons is believed to have a link to how the brain functions. The scent improves memory retention, response speed, and recognition memory.
- Reduces Cancer Risks – Cinnamon intakes can be linked to the prevention of certain cancer diseases because it activates protective antioxidants that can greatly reduce cancer risks.
- Fights HIV Virus – Studies showed that Cinnamon cassia is said to fight HIV virus. It has treated HIV-1, the main type of HIV in humans among 69 other medicinal plants used in the test.
- Boost Skin Health – Together with honey, cinnamon has antimicrobial ingredient that can help protect skin from acne and other skin allergies.
Cinnamon is an almost close to perfect spice because of its many health benefits. However, one must fully understand how to consume cinnamon properly to enjoy its advantages. Choosing the best kind of cinnamon is a great factor to consider. Always seek advice from health experts regarding the required cinnamon your body needs if using it for medical benefits. According to the US Department of Health, an average of 6 grams daily for 6 weeks or less is the safest intake. Ceylon Cinnamon is best in treating cold or flu because of its lower coumarin content. Regular coumarin intake can harm the liver and may cause damages. Cinnamons are available in sticks, powder, and extracts. Each of which has its own usage and dosage to consider. If planning to use as condiments, choose cinnamon powder. If planning to use as food ingredients, but the cinnamon stick and if planning to try it as medicine, consider buying the cinnamon extract where the coumarin content has already been removed.
At some cases, side effects of taking cinnamon have been reported such as the coumarin content which is commonly found higher in Cinnamon cassia.
- Allergic reactions to cinnamons or its contents are reported as well.
- Cinnamon oil is not advisable to pregnant women because it causes premature labors or uterine contractions.
- Blood thinning can also be caused by too much cinnamon cassia intake due to its anti-clotting agent.
- Cinnamon oil can cause rapid heart rate if taken above the normal usage. Cinnamon oil should be diluted to less than 2% for safe usage.
Cinnamon is definitely a “wonder spice” but just like everything else; use it in moderation to achieve its optimum benefits. Always consider the risks when planning to use it for food, beverage, or medicine. There may be different arguments as to how and why cinnamon became a wonder spice but one thing remains that there are still great discoveries in this world that humans are yet to uncover.