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Cinnamon as an aromatic spice is found in almost every kitchen today. The strong aroma and taste of cinnamon make it a perfect condiment for both sweet and savoury delights. But this spice isn’t just limited to the kitchen cabinets. In Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) cinnamon has been long since prized for its healing benefits. The traditional western system of medicine also puts this spice in high regard. According to recent scientific studies, cinnamon is the best antioxidant after clove. It might interest you to know that this spice has a long and rich history. The earliest use of cinnamon dates back to around 2000-2500 BC. Cinnamon is mentioned as an anointing agent in the Jewish Bible and it was also used by Egyptians in their mummification procedures. In Rome, cinnamon was in funeral rights to keep off the smell of dead bodies. In fact,  this spice was so highly priced in Rome that it remained a commodity of the rich.

Did you know?

According to some historians, Vasco da Gama and Christopher Columbus had originally started their voyage in search of spices and herbs specifically cinnamon. It is true, cinnamon is native of Sri Lanka was found originally by the Portuguese and till date still remains very costly. Nonetheless, it is one of the top favourite spice of chefs and bakers around the world. Cinnamon is obtained from the inner bark of the cinnamon tree. It is an evergreen tree (stays for a long time) found mainly in the tropical regions of the world. The cinnamon tree can grow up to a height of 18m but the cultivated varieties go anywhere from 2-3 m. It has distinct leathery leaves with parallel veins that join at both ends (like in bay leaves or tej patta). The flowers of cinnamon grow as beautiful yellow clusters and cinnamon fruit is a berry that turns black on ripening.

Some basic facts about cinnamon:

  • Botanical name: Cinnamomum verum/ Cinnamomum zylanicum
  • Family: Lauraceae
  • Common names: Cinnamon, Dalchini
  • Sanskrit name: Darusita
  • Parts used: Bark
  • Native region and geographical distribution: Cinnamon is native to South Asia but it has been introduced in most of the tropical regions of the world. True cinnamon is mostly obtained from Sri Lanka, the Malagasy Republic and the island of Seychelles. In India, true cinnamon is cultivated in Kerala.
  • Energetics: Warming. Pacifies Vata and Kapha doshas while aggravates the pitta dosha.
  1. Types of Cinnamon
  2. Health benefits of Cinnamon
  3. How to use cinnamon
  4. Safe dosage of cinnamon
  5. Cinnamon side effects

Types of cinnamon: Cinnamon has a number of varieties but the two most common types of cinnamon are: Ceylon cinnamon: Also known as true cinnamon. It is most abundantly cultivated in Sri Lanka and is very costly. It has a sweet flavour and mild aroma. Ceylon cinnamon looks like thin layers of paper wrapped up on top of each other to form a hollow tube and is lighter in colour. Cassia cinnamon: Also known as Chinese cinnamon from the place of its origin. This is the more commonly used form of cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon is darker brown in shade and has a strong aroma and spicy taste. The sticks of this type of cinnamon form a single thick sheet rolling towards the middle from one or both sides. It has a much higher coumarin content than Ceylon cinnamon and is thus toxic to the liver in higher concentrations.

Cinnamon is one of the most important spices in Traditional Chinese medicine, Western traditional herbalism, and Ayurveda. But modern medicine still lags behind on discovering its many health building and healing benefits. Let us explore what we know of this mystical spice.

  • Relieves stomach problems: Cinnamon helps you sort out most of the stomach problems. It is used for relieving bloating, constipation, and nausea. Cinnamon is also helpful in preventing stomach ulcers and improving appetite.
  • Anti-diabetic: Cinnamon is rich in active compounds, which in various clinical studies have been suggested to increase insulin sensitivity thus keeping blood sugar levels in check.
  • Promotes weight loss: It has been scientifically proven that cinnamaldehyde present in cinnamon promotes fat burning in body thus assisting in weight loss. Cinnamon also reduces hunger pangs and binge eating.
  • Good for heart: Cinnamon reduces cholesterol levels and prevents clot formation in arteries thus reducing the risk of heart diseases.
  • Relieves menstrual problems: It has been indicated by clinical studies that cinnamon consumption not only reduces menstrual cramps and pain but also it is helpful in preventing nausea during menstruation.
  • Reduces acne: Cinnamon is a natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. When mixed with a face mask, it helps reduce acne pain and swelling while also preventing acne scars.
  • Improves oral health: Cinnamon oil along with clove is traditionally used to relieve toothache. Studies suggest that cinnamon is useful in preventing and alleviating gingivitis symptoms as effectively as some commercial drugs.
  1. Cinnamon for stomach upset
  2. Cinnamon for diabetes
  3. Cinnamon powder for weight loss
  4. Cinnamon as antibacterial agent
  5. Cinnamon for Candida infections
  6. Cinnamon for heart
  7. Cinnamon for blood circulation
  8. Cinnamon benefits for skin
  9. Cinnamon for cough and cold
  10. Cinnamon for menstrual problems
  11. Cinnamon for oral health
  12. Cinnamon for mouth odour
  13. Cinnamon as a potential anti-cancer agent

Cinnamon for stomach upset

Cinnamon might not be the top remedy for any kind of gastric problem but it has a history of being used for the health and well-being of a stomach. Traditional western herbalism calls cinnamon a carminative and a stomachic. A carminative is a herb which helps deal with flatulence (stomach bloating) while a stomachic improves appetite by digesting the food easily. Additionally, the catechins present in cinnamon are known to be helpful in nausea. For relieving nausea symptoms, cinnamon is most commonly used in the form of tea. Cinnamon finds its use as a laxative (relieves constipation) in naturopathy. In Ayurveda, cinnamon is used for the treatment of stomach cramps, diarrhoea and colitis. Lab-based studies suggest the efficiency of cinnamon in treating dyspepsia (indigestion). Further studies claim that cinnamon yoghurt is useful in dealing with the most common ulcer-causing bacteria Helicobacter pylori. However, more research is still needed to confirm all the traditional uses of this spice so it’s best to talk to your doctor.

Cinnamon for diabetes

Studies suggest that oxidative stress is a major culprit for the onset of diabetes. And it is believed that the best defence mechanism against oxidative stress is free radicals such as antioxidants which scavenge reactive oxygen species and neutralise the risks of free radicals. As an antioxidant, cinnamon is no less than a blessing for people living with diabetes. In fact, according to a research, it’s one of the richest sources of antioxidants in the spice world right after cloves. A study was conducted with 500 people living with diabetes, they were given 6g of cinnamon per day for a period of 4-18 weeks and it was found that regular consumption of cinnamon significantly reduces fasting blood sugar levels. Another study, claims that administration of 5g cinnamon increases insulin sensitivity and causes this hormone to pick up more sugar from the blood. The hypoglycemic (reducing blood sugar) effects of cinnamon were noted to be as effective after 12 hours of the original administration. Additionally, a chemical compound, Methylhydroxychalcone, efficiently mimics the hormone insulin and helps reduce the blood sugar levels in the body.

Cinnamon powder for weight loss

Cinnamon is one of the most popular traditional remedies for losing weight. Until recently, there were not enough scientific proofs to establish a direct relationship between weight loss and cinnamon. But, a recent research in the Michigan Institute of Life Sciences claim that cinnamaldehyde, a component of cinnamon can efficiently burn fat. According to this research, cinnamaldehyde generates heat in body and cause the adipocytes (fat cells) to burn more fat for energy. Lab and animal-based studies hint that taking cinnamon slows down the digestion process and makes you feel full for a longer period of time. So, Supplementing cinnamon with weight loss programs may have its benefits. However, it is best to talk to your doctor before consuming cinnamon and also know the correct dosage to be taken as taking more than the required dose of cinnamon may lead to toxicity in the liver. 

(Read more: Weight loss diet chart)

Cinnamon as antibacterial agent

Numerous studies have been conducted to test the antimicrobial effects of cinnamon and it is claimed that cinnamon is an effective antimicrobial agent. Research indicates that cinnamaldehyde, an essential compound present in cinnamon is very potent in killing all kinds of bacteria, fungi, nematodes. It is also believed to be efficient against the nits and adults of head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis). Further extensive studies are being conducted to understand the exact mode of action and use of cinnamon in treating the common microbial infections.

Cinnamon for Candida infections

Candida is a fungus which is naturally found on human body. But an imbalance in the skin pH causes an abnormal spread of Candida and turn it into a medical condition known as candidiasis. In traditional western herbalism, cinnamon is well known for its anti-fungal effects against Candida species. Lab studies indicate that cinnamon oil shows marked antifungal activity in all kind of Candida infections (Candida albicans- a known vaginal yeast infection and against non-albicans type Candia). However, it is preferable to talk to your doctor before using cinnamon oil or cinnamon in any form to treat any kind of infections.

Cinnamon for heart

Traditional herbalism counts cinnamon as an excellent cholesterol-lowering agent. In a number of studies, cinnamon is claimed to be useful in reducing the Low-Density Lipoprotein or bad cholesterol of the body while it effectively increases the High-Density Lipoprotein (Good cholesterol) in the body. However, the exact mode of action or the compound responsible for lowering cholesterol has not been found. Even though it doesn’t directly help improve heart health, cinnamon may reduce the risk of common heart problems that are associated with the prevalence of high cholesterol in the body.

Cinnamon for blood circulation

Proper blood circulation is essential for the functioning of the body. Certain physical or physiological conditions may lead to either improper blood circulation of accumulation of clots in the blood vessels. According to doctors, coumarin (a biochemical agent) present in cinnamon is a natural blood thinner and an anticoagulant (stops blood clotting). Consumption of cinnamon may lead to increase in blood circulation in our body along with a reduced risk of blood clot formation. However, coumarin, in high doses can be harmful for the liver so it is advisable to talk to your doctor before taking cinnamon.

Cinnamon benefits for skin

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of cinnamon make it a superfood for the skin. Together these properties not only reduce chances of skin problems like acne but also slow down the growth of those fine lines, dark spots and other age-related skin symptoms. Even though it is an effective anti-inflammatory, cinnamon doesn’t have its own nourishing properties. So, traditional herbalism uses a mixture of honey and cinnamon to soothe acne and give a nourished glow to the skin.

Cinnamon for cough and cold

In Ayurveda, cinnamon is known to suppress kapha and vata dosha while increasing pitta in the body. Thus, it liquifies the kapha in the body and absorbs it too. Studies suggest that cinnamic acid, a component of cinnamon oil may be effective in killing Mycobacterium tuberculosis which is the causative agent of tuberculosis in humans. However, more research is still needed to determine the exact action and mechanism of cinnamic acid against this bacteria. Additionally, cinnamon has a natural warming effect so it is used in the traditional herbalism and traditional Chinese medicine as a remedy for cold.

Cinnamon for menstrual problems

Cinnamon has long since been used in ayurveda and herbalism for the treatment of menstrual cramps, nausea and vomiting that is associated with menstrual problems in females. In a recent study conducted on a group of 76 females of similar menstrual age, it was found that the administration of cinnamon capsules (420 mg) thrice a day is effective in reducing the cramps, bleeding, nausea and vomiting in females.

Cinnamon for oral health

In Ayurveda, a mixture of clove and cinnamon oil is used for alleviating tooth pain. According to a paper published in the Journal of Research in Medical and Dental science, cinnamon is very effective in dealing with gingivitis (a condition marked with infected gums). The study further suggested that the anti-gingivitis efficiency of cinnamon is similar to that of chlorhexidine, which is the common drug used in the treatment of this problem.

Cinnamon for mouth odour

Bad breath is a condition scorned and a problem which is difficult to deal with at times. According to doctors, the most common reason for bad breath is a high microbial load in the oral cavity. Fortunately, studies suggest that cinnamic acid present in cinnamon may be effective in killing the bacteria present in our mouth. So bye bye bad breath. In a study done in Canada, it was found that people who took cinnamon gum had lesser bacterial loads in their mouth as compared to the people who took normal gum. However, more studies need to be done to confirm this efficiency of cinnamon.

Cinnamon as a potential anti-cancer agent

Extensive studies have been done to test the anti-cancer potential of cinnamon on gastric and skin cancer. In one of these studies, it was found that cinnamon extracts can effectively reduce the survival and spread of tumour cells. Another study done on the skin cancer cells hints that cinnamon reduces the proangiogenic factor (a biochemical in the body) which is responsible for the spread of skin cancer in humans. The study further claimed that the cinnamon extracts stimulate CD8 T cells, which are a kind of antibody cells responsible for recognizing and killing the foreign cells in the body. Thus, cinnamon may have a potential for anti-cancer treatments in the future.

(Read more: Cancer types and treatment)

Cinnamon is most commonly used in the form of sticks which are commercially known as cinnamon “Quills”. Cinnamon quills are shavings of the inner bark of the cinnamon tree which are wrapped on top of each other form a hollow tube. This hollow tube is then filled up with tiny shavings of dried cinnamon. Smaller shavings of cinnamon bark are sold separately as “Quillings”. Cinnamon chips, powder and the oil of cinnamon bark are also available in the market.

As a condiment cinnamon is widely used in desserts and confectionaries. I am sure a few of you might have tasted the famous “cinnamon rolls” which is a sweet dish native to Europe and America but is enjoyed in all parts of the world. According to historians, cinnamon was considered an aphrodisiac in some parts of Europe. Cinnamon’s sweet aroma is still used in the cosmetic industry for making perfumes. The use of cinnamon essential oil is also pretty common.

However, if you like to make your own remedies at home, cinnamon can be used to make infused oils, Compress (a topical preparation), tinctures (Extracts in alcohol) or made in the form of tea (usually with cinnamon powder). Still, don’t know which kitchen box has cinnamon? If you haven’t seen a cinnamon stick yet you might recognise it from its distinct Christmas like the scent. In fact, a people based survey claims that cinnamon is most often associated with winters and the season of Christmas. And why not. It is one of the primary condiments used in Christmas cakes, cookies and in Christmas tree decorations.

Here is an easy recipe for brewing a yummy cup of cinnamon tea:

  • Boil water in a kettle.
  • Put one stick of cinnamon into the boiling water and let it heat on slow for about 15-20 min.
  • Switch off the burner and let the cinnamon steep for 15 min.
  • Strain and drink.

Ideally, one stick of Ceylon cinnamon makes 1-2 cups of tea.

Ideally, ½-1 tsp of cinnamon can be taken for a period of time without much side effects. But cinnamon contains coumarin which could be toxic to the liver so moderation is essential. It is best to check in with your Ayurveda doctor to determine the ideal dosage of cinnamon for your body type.

  1. Cinnamon has a natural warming effect so taking cinnamon in more than required doses may cause irritation in the stomach.

  2. Cinnamon has a component called coumarin which, when taken in excess, may lead to liver damage.

  3. Some people are inherently allergic to cinnamon. Studies show that cinnamaldehyde is the allergen (allergy causing agent) present in cinnamon and it is known to cause mouth sores in susceptible people.

  4. Cinnamon is a natural hypoglycemic agent (blood sugar lowering), so if you are having diabetes and you are on anti-diabetes medicines, it is preferable to ask your doctor before taking cinnamon in your diet.

  5. Cinnamon is a blood thinner, so if you are about to undergo any surgery or have recently undergone a surgery its preferable not to use cinnamon for some time.

  6. Undiluted cinnamon oil is a known skin irritant. Hence you are recommended to do a patch test before applying it all over the body.

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References

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