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Cinnamon has been highly prized since ancient times. You can find references to it in the Bible and on Egyptian papyri. And, at one time in ancient Rome, cinnamon was considered more precious than gold. In fact, this little spice was so treasured that wars were fought over it. Today, however, the value of this sweet and savory herb comes not in currency, but in the amazing health benefits of cinnamon supplements, powders, and essential oils.
Types of Cinnamon
Cinnamon comes from tree bark. The bark is stripped and sun-dried, curling into the well-known shape of cinnamon sticks, called quills.
While there are several varieties of cinnamon, there are two main types:
- Ceylon cinnamon, referred to as “true” cinnamon.
- Cassia cinnamon, referred to as “fake” cinnamon.
The Cassia type is the most common cinnamon found on supermarket shelves, as it is the primary type of cinnamon imported into the United States. It contains a compound called coumarin, which has been shown in some animal studies as toxic when consumed in large quantities.
BENEFITS OF CINNAMON VS. OTHER SPICES
One study evaluated the antioxidant activity of 26 different spices. The major types of antioxidants identified in the spice extracts that were studied included phenolic acids, phenolic diterpenes, flavonoids, and volatile oils (e.g., aromatic compounds). Outperforming such other superfoods as clove and oregano, cinnamon was the clear winner with the highest antioxidant capacity screened.
5 Top Health Benefits of Cinnamon
There are three elements in the essential oil of “true” Ceylon cinnamon, and they make it a powerful therapeutic spice: cinnamyl alcohol, cinnamaldehyde, and cinnamyl acetate. The combination of these elements gives Ceylon cinnamon its strong antioxidant properties.
Several evidence-based research studies have demonstrated five amazing health benefits of cinnamon:
- Cinnamon controls blood sugar. One of the most well-known benefits of cinnamon is that it helps lower blood sugar and fight diabetes. A systemic review of cinnamon revealed that it reduces fasting blood glucose, reduces hemoglobin A1c levels, increases circulating insulin levels, and was protective against diabetic neuropathy (diabetic nerve pain and numbness). And, research shows that eating cinnamon with a carbohydrate-laden meal can help prevent blood sugar spikes. (So, if you eat toast, be sure to sprinkle a little cinnamon on top of it.)
- Cinnamon decreases cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Research has demonstrated that cinnamon lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol as well as triglyceride levels, making it excellent for prevention of cardiovascular illness.
- Cinnamon acts as an anti-microbial. Cinnamon has been shown to fight various pathogens including bacteria, parasites, and fungi. It protects against both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria strains. It also kills the Candida albicans yeast and inhibits fungal poisions such as Ochratoxin A, which causes massive health problems in humans when consumed in foods such as corn, wheat, and cereals. And, interestingly, cinnamon has even been proven to kill mosquitos.
- Cinnamon lowers blood pressure. The exact blood pressure-lowering mechanism of cinnamon is still unknown. But the results of studies in animals have indicated that cinnamon regulates blood pressure levels through peripheral vasodilatation (the widening of blood vessels to increase blood flow).
- Cinnamon improves memory and cognition. In-vitro and in-vivo studies in animals and humans have demonstrated the beneficial health effects of cinnamon on boosting cognitive function. One reason that cinnamon may help improve cognition is that it lowers insulin resistance, and insulin resistance can lead to memory impairment.
How to Take Ceylon Cinnamon
Unfortunately, no consensus has been reached regarding how much cinnamon should be consumed daily to achieve the health benefits.
One study showed that taking 1, 3, or 6 grams (g) of cinnamon per day all had an impact on lowering glucose, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes. Therefore, the typical supplement dose ranges from 1 g to 6 g per day.
When buying a cinnamon supplement, be sure to purchase the “true” Ceylon cinnamon type (which should be noted on the label) and follow the manufacturer’s dosing instructions.
When eating cinnamon powder, Harvard Medical School suggests that consuming as little as 1/2 teaspoon (about 2 g) of cinnamon each day can reduce your blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels by as much as 12 to 30 percent.
For cinnamon oils, the typical dose is 1 to 2 drops in hot water or tea. Again, be sure the cinnamon oil comes from the Ceylon type and not the Cassia type. And, always dilute the oil before consuming.
Children should not take cinnamon essential oil or supplements without a physician’s recommendation.
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