Cinnamon: A Powerful Healer Among Spices

by Deep, Radi, and Mithu on September 26, 2009

in Healing Herbs and Spices

Cinnamon sticks

Cinnamon is one of our favorite healing spices, not only because of its medicinal properties but also because we love adding it to hot mulled wine during the festive winter season. A toast then to the fragrance and remarkable healing benefits of cinnamon!

DESCRIPTION:

Cinnamon spice is the dried brown bark of a small evergreen tree (family Lauraceae) native to South and South-East Asia, especially southern India and Sri Lanka. It is available for medicinal and culinary use in tubular form and sticks or as a ground powder.

Of the many known varieties of cinnamon, the most commonly used ones are Cinnamomum aromaticum or Cassia (Chinese cinnamon) and Cinnamomum zeylanicum (the South Indian and Sri Lankan cinnamon also known as “true cinnamon”). Though these two main varieties have relatively similar characteristics, the Indian/Sri Lankan variety is more expensive and more refined in flavor. It is available mostly in specialty stores and ethnic markets in the US and the West whereas Cassia is widely available.

NUTRITIONAL PROFILE:

Cinnamon is an excellent source of manganese and a very good source of dietary fiber, calcium, and iron.

HISTORY:

Cinnamon has an ancient history both as a spice and medicine, the name originating from the Greek kinnamomon meaning “sweet wood.” It is mentioned in Chinese writings as far back as 2800 BC and was also used medicinally as well as in the embalming process in ancient Egypt. It holds a prominent place in the traditional Indian Ayurveda system as well as in other traditional systems of healing.

CONTEMPORARY RESEARCH:

More recently, a growing body of published research has supported the health benefits of cinnamon, which are derived mainly from the essential oils contained in its bark. These are beneficial in a variety of health disorders ranging from arthritis, yeast infections, colds and flu, digestive disorders, blood impurities, heart ailments and diabetes type two.

SPECIFIC HEALTH BENEFITS OF CINNAMON:

Diabetes Type 2 control: Several studies suggest that cinnamon has insulin-like properties. It helps to regulate blood sugar, lower LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), total cholesterol, and triglycerides. These benefits are especially important for sufferers of diabetes type 2 as well as of other cholesterol-related ailments such as heart problems and high blood pressure. Specifically for cholesterol, you could try mixing two tablespoons of honey and three teaspoons of cinnamon powder in sixteen ounces of tea water. This home-based remedy is reported to have reduced cholesterol levels in the blood by ten percent within a period of two hours. However, diabetic patients should consult their physician before using honey-based remedies.

Arthritis remedies: Cinnamon’s powerful anti-inflammatory properties have been shown to relieve painful and stiff muscles and joints. In a study at Copenhagen University, patients given half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder with a tablespoon of honey every morning before breakfast were significantly relieved of pain after a week and could walk without pain within a month.

Antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiparasitic action: In laboratory tests, the growth of yeasts resistant to commonly used anti-fungal medication (fluconazole) was often (though not always) halted by cinnamon extracts. Studies have indicated that cinnamon oil and extracts have anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-parasitic properties and have been effective in fighting Candida infections, oral yeast infections, stomach ulcers, and even head lice!

Brain function: Cinnamon is an excellent brain food. Studies at the Wheeling Jesuit University in the US have demonstrated the effect of the mere scent of cinnamon in improving brain functions by boosting cognitive activity such as attentional processes, memory, and visual motor response speed. This has fuelled much interest in cinnamon’s potential to enhance brain function in the elderly and in sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease and other degenerative neurological diseases.

Cancer Therapies: Research carried out by the US Department of Agriculture in Maryland indicated that cinnamon can reduce the growth of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells. Further, laboratory tests have demonstrated the ability of camphomin and cinnamonin – two chemicals extracted from cinnamon – to fight the growth of liver cancer and melanoma cells.

Heart ailments: Cinnamon’s potent anti-inflammatory properties have been shown to be helpful in the prevention of heart disease. It improves blood circulation due to the presence of a blood thinning compound, ensuring oxygen supply to the cells and higher metabolic activity.

Blood purifier: Cinnamon helps to remove blood impurities, destroying germs in the gall bladder and bacteria in staph infections. It also helps to stop bleeding and facilitates the healing process.

Help for Indigestion: When used as a flavoring spice, cinnamon aids in digestion and is helpful in nausea, diarrhea, and flatulence.

Respiratory disorders: Cinnamon is used in Ayurvedic medicine for treating colds, flu, sore throats, and congestion, as well as for diabetes.

Dysmenorrhea: Cinnamon helps to alleviate discomfort and cramps during menses.

Diuretic: Cinnamon is a diuretic food and helps to promote urine flow.

Natural mosquito repellent: Cinnamon oil is a good and environmentally-friendly mosquito repellent. Research has proved that its bark is a rich source of cinnamaldehyde, which is an active mosquito-killing agent.

Treatment for hair loss and balding patches: For hair loss, one could try making a creamy paste of hot olive oil, one tablespoon of pure organic honey, and one teaspoon of powdered cinnamon. Massage this paste into receding hairlines and bald spots and leave for around fifteen minutes before rinsing off. This treatment has been found effective even when the paste is left on for just five minutes. The cinnamon might leave the skin a little brown for a few minutes, which is nothing to worry about. The paste should be stored in the refrigerator and not allowed to dry out.

Toothache relief: A home-based natural remedy for toothache involves making a paste of one teaspoon of cinnamon powder and five teaspoons of pure organic honey. This should be applied to the aching tooth three times a day till relief is obtained.

Miscellaneous: Another potential use of cinnamon is for treating infertility. It is also reported to be helpful with weight loss.

SELECTION AND STORAGE:

Cinnamon sticks can be stored for longer than the ground powder though the powder has a stronger flavor. If possible, you should smell cinnamon for the characteristic sweet smell that proves its freshness. You should also try to select organically grown cinnamon which has not been irradiated since this process significantly reduces its Vitamin C and carotenoid content. Cinnamon can be preserved for a longer time if kept in a sealed glass container in a dark, cool, and dry place. While ground cinnamon will remain effective for about six months when stored this way, the sticks will stay fresh for about a year.

CAUTIONS:

  • People who are on diabetes medication should not take therapeutic doses of cinnamon without medical supervision as together these may have an additive effect, causing blood glucose levels to dip too low.
  • The Cassia variety of cinnamon naturally contains Coumarin, a toxic compound which at high levels can damage the liver and kidneys. It also has a blood thinning effect so Cassia supplements should not be taken with anti-clotting medication.
  • Cinnamon oil, often used as an aromatherapy essential oil, is highly potent and an overdose can depress the central nervous system. It should therefore be used only under close supervision of a qualified healthcare practitioner.
  • Pregnant women should avoid cinnamon supplements.
  • People suffering from prostrate problems should avoid cinnamon.
  • People who are allergic to balsam of Tolu should avoid cinnamon oil.

Please Note: For our recommended source of the finest quality pure and organic “true cinnamon,” which is not commonly available, please visit our page on Organic Herbs and Spices. You may also consider trying a cinnamon bark supplement for enhanced health benefits of this wonderful spice.

Key Reference Sources:

  • The George Mateljan Foundation (http://whfoods.org)
  • Organic Facts (http://www.organicfacts.net)
  • Cancer Lynx (http://www.cancerlynx.com)
  • Home Remedies Web (http://www.homeremediesweb.com)
  • HealthDiaries.com (http://www.healthdiaries.com)
  • Nutritional Supplement Educational Centre (http://www.nutritional-supplement-educational-centre.com)
  • Antioxidants for Health and Longevity (http://www.antioxidants-for-health-and-longevity/com)
  • Cathy Wong About.com Guide to Alternative Medicine (http://altmedicine.about.com)
  • Prerna Salla. 2004. Honey and Cinnamon (http://www.buzzle.com)


Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is only intended to educate and inform our readers. It is in no way intended to provide medical advice or to diagnose or treat any disease. If you have a health problem, you should consult a healthcare practitioner before taking any substances for medicinal purposes.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Apples and Doctors is affiliated with Herbal Remedies.

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