What Is Cinnamon?
Cinnamon is a spice made from certain types of trees. Extracts from the bark as well as leaves, flowers, fruits, and roots of the cinnamon tree have been used in traditional medicine around the world for thousands of years. It’s used in cooking and baking and is 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.
Benefits of Cinnamon
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.
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 sign of blood sugar levels over time. It may also lower cholesterol in people with diabetes. Many of the studies don’t say what type of cinnamon was used or have other problems that make their findings uncertain. One review suggests the benefits of cinnamon for weight loss and obesity. It’s sometimes used for irritable bowel syndrome or other stomach or intestinal problems. But it isn’t clear that it works.
Magnesium and calcium work together to maintain a healthy heartbeat. These two minerals are essential for skeletal health, preventing the weakening of bones, a condition called osteoporosis.
In addition, cinnamon can provide other health benefits like:
Cinnamon is an effective anti-inflammatory. Researchers tested the phytochemicals found in cinnamon and discovered antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. In one study, certain cinnamon compounds also targeted free radicals with promising results.
Angiogenesis is the formation of new blood vessels to feed tumors. One of the keys to treating cancer is to stop angiogenesis. A study showed that cinnamon can slow down or hold off angiogenesis, cell growth, and cellular signaling. This suggests that cinnamon could be a tool in preventing or treating cancer.
The compound cinnamaldehyde is responsible for cinnamon’s distinct odor and flavor. This phytochemical also has proven widespread antibiotic effects. Cinnamaldehyde was tested against several bacteria and viruses, including staphylococcus, E. coli, salmonella, and candida. Researchers found that it was able to prevent these bacteria from growing.
Protection from oxidative stress
Cinnamon has a ton of antioxidants, like polyphenols. These can help your body avoid oxidative damage. The antioxidants in cinnamon are so strong that it can sometimes be used as a natural food preservative.
Experts have seen that taking cinnamon supplements can boost antioxidant levels in your blood as well as lower inflammation markers.
Heart disease prevention
Cinnamon could lower your triglycerides and your total cholesterol levels, which could help prevent heart disease. If you take supplements with at least 1.5 grams of cinnamon a day, it may lower your total cholesterol, LDL (or bad) cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar if you have metabolic disease.
It may also lower blood pressure if you consistently take it for 7 weeks.
Cinnamon also might help with:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Tooth decay
But studies are limited or have only been done in cells or animals.
Getting 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. It 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.
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 micrograms of beta-carotene
- About 8 international units (IU) of vitamin A
How to Use Cinnamon
You can usually find cinnamon powder in the baking section at most grocery stores and supermarkets. It is often available rolled in sticks or already ground into a fine powder. Ground cinnamon has many uses and adds flavor to savory dishes as well as sweet desserts.
Cinnamon stick uses
Yes, you can you eat cinnamon sticks. But they're more commonly used as ways to add flavor to drinks or dishes. Many people enjoy cinnamon sticks in warm beverages like hot chocolate, hot apple cider, and mulled wine. You can also add them to pickling brine and fruit compotes. And many ethnic recipes for stews, sauces, and marinades call for cinnamon’s unique taste.
Cinnamon powder uses
Mix some cinnamon powder with sugar, then sprinkle it on buttered toast. It can also be a delicious topping for sweet potatoes. Or you can use it to spice up plain yogurt or your morning coffee. Simply combine 2 teaspoons of cinnamon into 1 cup of granulated sugar and keep it in a sealed container.
Try making an apple cinnamon oatmeal topping.
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 apple, peeled and chopped
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
In a small saucepan, melt butter. Add apple and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add sugar and cinnamon powder and mix well. Cook for 1 minute more or until the sugar is dissolved. Pour apple mixture over prepared oatmeal.
Is cinnamon water good for you?
Cinnamon water or cinnamon tea can help lower your blood sugar levels after dinner. This can help your metabolism, aid in weight loss, and prevent metabolic disease.
Cinnamon water or cinnamon tea may also lower your appetite. This can help you avoid late-night snacking and cravings.
There are many cinnamon extracts that you can buy. You can dissolve these into hot or cool water and drink it as a dietary supplement. Just like with any other supplement, make sure you ask your doctor first.
Cinnamon is a great addition to flavor various foods and drinks. But the spice also has many health benefits. While it can be toxic for some people in large amounts, it usually doesn't cause any major side effects.