Cinnamon is believed to be one of the oldest known spices. Traces of the aromatic spice, which can also be referred to as cassia (or cinnamomum cassia), were documented as being imported from China to Egypt as early as 2000 B.C.
Cinnamon was often given as a gift to monarchs to prove wealth and importance. But it wasn’t just a fancy spice of decadence; it also proved to possess many qualities, such as the ability to preserve meat during the winter. Unfortunately, its source was one of the world’s most well-known and best-kept secrets, eliciting exciting tales of deep and dark caves guarded by snakes, or birds hoarding the cinnamon sticks high in unclimbable trees.
Lucky for us, European explorers frustrated by the limited availability and expensive price tag set out to find their own source of cinnamon. Allegedly Christopher Columbus even wrote to Queen Isabella that he found cinnamon in the New World, which would have been a mighty prize for them both.
In 1518, Portuguese sailors found Ceylon, which is another breed of cinnamon, in modern day Sri Lanka. Today most of the cinnamon we eat and drink is either the Ceylon cinnamon, which tends to have a sweeter, milder flavor and continues to be primarily produced in Sri Lanka, or Cassia cinnamon which originated in Indonesia. This is the version most commonly sprinkled on our lattes or used in apple pie.
It’s no wonder that, with such a storied history, cinnamon has some surprising health benefits shown to provide relief for a variety of illnesses.
Cinnamon Health Benefits
Cinnamon is broken down from the brown bark of the cinnamon tree. And more specifically from several layers of the inner bark of several varieties of the genus Cinnamomum. Cinnamon is then dried, which causes it to form those curly quills you may be familiar with and that are readily available at your local grocery store. It is then either cut into sticks or crushed up into powder.
Cinnamon’s researched health benefits are many, and its beneficial properties have been shown to provide relief and possible prevention of a variety of ailments.
Cinnamon has many potent antioxidants, such as polyphenols. In fact, a study of 26 different spices showed that cinnamon has more antioxidant properties than even garlic or oregano.
Cinnamon is also believed to help increase lean body mass and reduce body fat by creating a natural “heating” component within the body’s constitution.
There is also mounting evidence to suggest that cinnamon can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease by limiting the buildup of tau proteins in the brain. Tau proteins have been implicated in the degeneration of brain matter, ultimately leading to dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Cinnamon’s natural anti-inflammatory properties can also help to alleviate symptoms of inflammation and possibly improve digestive issues within the body.
Cinnamon for Colds
As a natural antioxidant, cinnamon is one of several spices that could prove to increase general health and well-being in the body.
But can cinnamon cure a common cold? There’s a lot of conflicting information to this point that ends up being some combination of old wives’ tales and backed scientific research.
Yes, there is evidence (some anecdotal, some scientific) to suggest that ingesting cinnamon for colds could reduce the length or severity of your symptoms. Indeed, the antioxidant properties of cinnamon can at the bare minimum alleviate additional inflammation, which could provide at least temporary relief of common cold symptoms. It’s also possible that incorporating cinnamon into your diet as you are experiencing symptoms of a cold may help to boost your immune system, which could further your body’s defenses against a viral infection. However, there is no cure for the common cold, and a combination of time and patience (and finding ways to lessen your symptoms) may be the only way to get through it. On average the common cold can last 3-10 days.
Cinnamon for Heart Health
Cinnamon also has cardioprotective qualities. Several studies have shown the effects of cinnamon on lowering blood pressure, blood glucose, and serum cholesterol as well as other protective effects on the cardiovascular system. It is the cinnamaldehyde component of cinnamon that is believed to specifically help thin the blood. Cinnamaldehyde is the chemical that gives cinnamon its flavor and color.
Cinnamon has been found to reduce the effects of contributing free radicals to heart disease. This alone could be beneficial for those with genetic predispositions to heart conditions, helping to regulate blood sugar levels and even prevent or alleviate symptoms of diabetes.
Cinnamon for Diabetes
Cinnamon may be best regarded for its natural ability to help regulate blood sugar levels. In fact, it’s been shown to have a significant influence on both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
This study found that just 1 gram of cinnamon was able to decrease levels of cholesterol, as well as several other factors that could contribute to type 2 diabetes. And another study conducted with 30 women and 30 men with type 2 diabetes found that incorporating just 1 gram of cinnamon into their diets for 40 days resulted in a significant reduction in the mean fasting glucose, triglycerides, and cholesterol that is commonly associated with type 2 diabetes. As a result, it’s believed that incorporating up to 6 grams of cinnamon into your daily diet could reduce risk factors often associated with diabetes.
Cinnamon and its ability to aid in the prevention of insulin spiking-properties for those with diabetes continuously proves that it has stronger abilities to fight diabetes than any other spice. Twenty times higher to be exact.
Aromatic Benefits of Cinnamon
Cinnamon is a natural antifungal and insect repellent. Its smell can even ward off some animals, such as cats and dogs, from your home garden. You can quickly get rid of that cooked fish smell in your house by boiling a couple of cinnamon sticks with a 1:1 ratio of water and vinegar. The cinnamon cuts the vinegar smell, while the vinegar cuts the fish smell.
Cinnamon essential oils are yet another way to experience the heart-healthy benefits of cinnamon—and they make your home smell amazing!
How to Get More Cinnamon in Your Diet
Unfortunately, it can be challenging to get enough cinnamon in your diet on a regular basis, at least in a quantity that can show actual benefits beyond being a yummy spike of flavor. By sprinkling it over your coffee, or adding to your Veggie Shake smoothies, you will benefit from the small addition, which is better than nothing perhaps?
However, the best way to get cinnamon in a quantity that is beneficial to your health is through a cinnamon supplement. Organic is best if you can find it.
Please note: Some people have an allergic reaction to cinnamon and it can cause blood thinning in other individuals. This is particularly common with the Cassia type of cinnamon so, as always, please consult with a health professional before taking supplements of any kind.