For most people, when they think of cinnamon, they think of it as a spice for cooking. However, for thousands of years, it has also been prized for the medicinal properties it provides. Recently, modern science has confirmed what many have known for ages—cinnamon has multiple benefits.
Powerful Medicinal Properties
The main component in cinnamon is Cinnamomum, which is derived from the inner bark of trees. Having been dated as far back as Ancient Egypt, cinnamon has been used throughout history. At one time, the spice ws considered so rare and had such high value placed on it, that is was regarded as a gift only fit for kings.
These days, cinnamon is found in almost every supermarket, is cheap in cost, and is used in a multitude of food and recipes. Cinnamon is available in two main types:
- Ceylon cinnamon—which is commonly known as “true” cinnamon
- Cassia cinnamon—the variety that is more common today and that most people refer to as “cinnamon.”
Cinnamon is harvested by way of cutting the stems from cinnamon trees. The woody parts are then removed, and the inner bark extracted. Through the process of drying, it curls into rolls, which are referred to as cinnamon sticks. These sticks can then be used as-is or can be ground into a powder.
Loaded With Antioxidants
Antioxidants are vital in protecting your body from the possible damage of free radicals. Cinnamon has an overabundance of antioxidants, most notably polyphenols. When studying the antioxidant activity in 26 different spices, cinnamon took the prize. It outranked such respected “superfoods” as those of garlic and oregano. Cinnamon is so powerful that it is substitued in food as a natural preservative.
Contrary to what most people believe, inflammation is a very important process in the body. It aids in the body’s ability to fight infections and triggers the repair of damaged tissue. However, when inflammation becomes chronic by nature, it will begin to work against your body, rather than with it. This is where cinnamon can come into play. Studies have shown that cinnamon has antioxidants that can prove to have potent levels of anti-inflammatory properties.
Reduce Heart Disease
Cinnamon has been linked in studies to the nation’s most common precursor to premature death—that of heart disease. Half a teaspoon of cinnamon taken daily has shown to lower blood sugar numbers in those individuals with type 2 diabetes. In addition, it has proved to aid in the lowering of “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while in some studies increasing “good” HDL cholesterol. Taking all of these factors into consideration, cinnamon can drastically lower your overall risk for heart disease.
One of the more vital hormones in our body that regulates both metabolism and energy is that of insulin. It is also the primary component necessary for the transportation of sugar via your bloodstream to your cells. Insulin resistance, which many individuals experience, is the hallmark of the serious health condition known as type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown that cinnamon helps to dramatically reduce the resistance to insulin, allowing the hormone to work more efficiently. Through its ability to increase insulin sensitivity, cinnamon helps in the lowering of blood sugar levels.
Perhaps one of the properties that cinnamon is best known for is its ability to lower blood sugar. Although this is achieved through insulin resistance, it is also present in several other mechanisms in the body. For instance, after a meal, cinnamon can work to decrease the amount of glucose that enters into the bloodstream. The process is achieved by way of the interference with digest enzymes, which then slows down the breakdown of carbohydrates within the digestive tract. There is also a compound present in cinnamon that can mimic insulin in its acting upon cells. Although this improves your cell’s uptake of glucose, the process is much slower than that of insulin. Studies have shown that the effects of cinnamon have proven to lower fasting blood sugars by at least 10-29%.
Characterized by the progressive decrease and loss of both the structure and function of brain cells, the two most common types of diseases are Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Cinnamon has shown to contain two compounds that prevent the buildup of tau, a protein within the brain, which has proven to be a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. In lab studies with mice suffering from Parkinson’s, cinnamon showed to protect neurons, normalize neurotransmitter levels, and improve motor function. However, these effects have, as of yet to be further studied in humans.
Protect Against Cancer
Cancer is typically characterized by the uncontrolled growth of cells. Recently, cinnamon has been studied widely as a potential use for the prevention and treatment of the disease. So far, the evidence gathered has been via test tube and animal studies however, data suggests that extracts of cinnamon may be capable of some cancer protection. Studies show that cinnamon has a three-fold effect: reduction in cancer cell growth, reduction in the forming of blood vessels that feed tumors and is toxic to cancer cells, which results in cellular death. It is vital to inform that testing so far has been in animals. Whether cinnamon would have the same beneficial effects on humans needs more studying.
Bacterial And Fungal Infection
One of the active components in cinnamon, Cinnamaldehyde, is believed to possibly fight back various forms of infection. Respiratory tract infections, commonly caused by fungi, have shown to be successfully treated with cinnamon oil. It also has the ability to prevent the growth of a variety of bacteria, including those of Listeria and Salmonella. At present, the evidence is limited as to the effectiveness of cinnamon on infections in other areas of the body.
When it is all said and done, cinnamon is not only a delicious addition to any dish but is one of the healthiest compounds today. It has multiple health benefits, with more being discovered every day.