CNN has just announced some news that wouldn’t come as a surprise to people living in China 3,000 years ago: cinnamon is a highly medicinal spice.
The ancient Chinese used cinnamon as a botanical medicine for conditions like epilepsy. According to Naturalpedia, its most important nutrients are found in its essential oils. It has anti-fungal, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. In addition, it contains calcium, iron, fiber, polyphenols, zinc and manganese.
There are two main types of cinnamon: the Ceylon variety grown in Sri Lanka and the Cassia variety that is widely produced in Indonesia and China. Cassia, with its strong flavor and scent and affordable price tag, is the kind that is typically found in American grocery stores. However, it’s the milder Ceylon variety that has the most health benefits.
Rich in antioxidants, cinnamon is full of polyphenols, flavonoids, and phenolic acid that can slow down aging and reduce free radical damage. In fact, cinnamon could well contain more antioxidants than superfoods like rosemary, garlic and oregano.
Powerful tool in controlling blood sugar
One of its most well-documented abilities is blood sugar control. Studies in test tubes, mice and humans have shown that it can help with glucose transport and insulin sensitivity in addition to reducing inflammation.
In one study, Cassia cinnamon was shown to be just as effective as oral diabetes medications in lowering the blood glucose levels of people with type 2 diabetes. Another study involving type 2 diabetes patients found that small doses of the spice could reduce blood sugar levels and improve levels of the bad LDL cholesterol as well as triglycerides. Best of all, the amount needed to get these benefits is relatively low.
Cinnamon’s antioxidant properties are also being examined to determine their ability to help Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. It is already known that compounds called cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin found in cinnamon can protect against the type of oxidative stress that can spur the development of dementia. It is believed to work by keeping cells healthy and helping eliminate waste products to protect your body on the cellular level.
In addition, cinnamaldehyde helps to fortify the body against the growth of tumors and mutation of cells, showing promise in the fight against cancers like prostate cancer.
It could even help fight HIV. A study found that flavonoid-rich cinnamon extracts could prevent the virus from entering certain cells and infecting them, which is similar to the way the early HIV drug AZT works.
Long list of benefits
As if those benefits weren’t attractive enough, cinnamon has also shown promise in helping fight cancer in rodents, improving diabetic neuropathy, healing wounds like liver damage, and fighting parasites. It promotes good cardiovascular health by preventing blood clots and improving blood circulation, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Other studies have found that cinnamon oil solutions can kill bacteria like E. coli and streptococcus.
It’s easy to add cinnamon to your favorite dishes, but you have to make sure you don’t incorporate it in such a way that you negate its health benefits. For example, cinnamon rolls may be delicious and contain a lot of cinnamon, but the high amount of sugar and white flour will do your body more harm than good. Likewise, a Venti-sized cinnamon roll Frappuccino from Starbucks has the equivalent of 30 cubes of sugar, but that doesn’t mean you can’t sprinkle some cinnamon into black coffee at home, perhaps with a splash of homemade coconut milk.
Other ways to consume more cinnamon without also consuming more apple pie include sprinkling it onto grilled fruit, popcorn, or oatmeal. It can also be surprisingly pleasant in savory dishes like tagine, squash, eggs, lentils and stews.
While the CNN piece did include quotes from doctors telling people they shouldn’t replace their medications with cinnamon just yet, it’s refreshing to see a mainstream media outlet admit that spices like cinnamon can indeed be beneficial.