What Is Cinnamon?
Cinnamon is a spice, sprinkled on toast and lattes. But extracts from the bark as well as leaves, flowers, fruits, and roots of the cinnamon tree have also been used in traditional medicine around the world for thousands of years. It’s used in cooking and baking, and added to many foods.
Types of Cinnamon
There are four major types of cinnamon. Darker-colored cassia cinnamon is the one most commonly sold in the United States. It’s grown in southeastern Asia. Ceylon cinnamon, also known as true cinnamon, is frequently used in other countries.
The cinnamon you buy at the store could be one of the two main types, Ceylon or cassia, or a mixture of both. Ceylon is easier to grind but it may not have the same health benefits.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon
One of the most important active ingredients in cinnamon is cinnamaldehyde. It’s used in flavorings and fragrances. It may be responsible for some of cinnamon’s possible health benefits.
Some research shows cinnamon may be good for people with diabetes. A review of 18 studies suggests that cinnamon might lower blood sugar. But it didn’t affect hemoglobin A1C, which is an indicator of blood sugar levels over a long period. It may also lower cholesterol in people with diabetes. Many of the studies don’t indicate what type of cinnamon was used or have other problems that make their findings uncertain. One review suggests that cinnamon might help with obesity and weight loss. It’s sometimes used for irritable bowel syndrome or other stomach or intestinal problems. But it isn’t clear that it works.
It’s been suggested that cinnamon also might help with:
- Heart disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Tooth decay
But many of the studies done have been done in cells or animals.
Cinnamon does have antioxidant, antibiotic, and anti-inflammatory properties, but for now, there aren’t enough studies to prove it works that well in people.
Consuming normal amounts of cinnamon isn’t likely to have a big impact on your health. It’s not a good idea to eat a lot of it either.
Because cinnamon is unproven as a treatment, there isn’t a set dose. Some experts suggest 1/2 to 1 teaspoon (2-4 grams) of powder a day. Some studies have used between 1 gram and 6 grams of cinnamon. High doses might be toxic.
Cinnamon Side Effects
- Irritation and allergies. Cinnamon usually causes no side effects. But heavy use could irritate your mouth and lips, causing sores. Some people are allergic to it. It might cause redness and irritation if you put it on your skin.
- Toxicity. Eating lots of cassia cinnamon could be toxic, especially if you have liver problems. Coumarin, an ingredient in some cinnamon products, can cause liver problems, but the amount you’d get is so small that it probably won’t be a problem. Given the lack of evidence about its safety, children, pregnant women, and women who are breastfeeding should avoid cinnamon as a treatment.
- Lower blood sugar. Cinnamon may affect your blood sugar, so if you have diabetes and take cinnamon supplements, you might need to adjust your treatment.
- Interactions. If you take any medication regularly, talk to your doctor before you start using cinnamon supplements. They could affect the way antibiotics, diabetes drugs, blood thinners, heart medicines, and others work.
You may not have ever thought about the nutritional content of cinnamon. It’s true that cinnamon contains almost no protein or fat and won’t play a big role in your overall nutrition. But, a teaspoon of ground cinnamon does include these and trace amounts of many other vitamins and other nutrients:
- About 6 calories
- About 0.1 gram of protein
- About 0.03 grams of fat
- About 2 grams of carbohydrates
- About 1 gram of fiber
- About 26 milligrams of calcium
- About 11 milligrams of potassium
- About 3 mcg (micrograms) of beta carotene
- About 8 IU (International Units) of vitamin A