Food As Medicine: Cinnamon

Cinnamon is arguably the most common and most used household spice. Even for those of you, like myself, who grew up with bland diets, flavored only by salt and pepper, I bet you still had cinnamon in your repertoire. The unique smell, color and flavor of cinnamon is due to the oily part of the tree that it grows from. The health benefits of cinnamon come from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum verum (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) tree. The bark is peeled and laid in the sun to dry where it curls up into rolls known as cinnamon sticks. Cinnamon can also be found ground into a powder. In addition to adding sweet flavor to recipes, cinnamon has been used medicinally around the world for thousands of years.

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Cinnamaldehyde

Cinnamaldehyde is the active compound within cinnamon bark that provides most of the health benefits. Cinnamic acid and cinnamate are two other compounds found in cinnamon that may also be responsible for some of the medicinal properties of cinnamon.

What Does The Research Show

According to researchers, compared to 26 different common herbs and spices, cinnamon ranks #1 in its level of protective phytonutrient antioxidants! In fact, according to the ORAC scale, cinnamon ranks #7 in antioxidant value of all foods, spices, and herbs across the world. It has an even higher ORAC score than Turmeric. Antioxidants are free radical scavengers and therefore play a role in preventing many different diseases.

  • Inflammation: Cinnamon’s high antioxidant level leads right into its ability to lower inflammation. It may also have a role in pain management by reducing swelling and muscle soreness. And can help reduce allergies by both lowering inflammation and decreasing histamine.

  • Cancer Risk: Cinnamon may help protect against DNA damage, cell mutation, and cancerous growth (study). In particular, cinnamon seems to improve the health of the colon and may help to reduce the risk of colon cancer.

  • Blood Sugar Management: Cinnamon can help to lower blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity. (study, study) Both of these actions help to keep blood sugar balanced and reduce the risk for Diabetes. In Diabetic patients, cinnamon has been shown to have a modest impact at lowering blood glucose levels.

  • Heart Health: Cinnamon may help protect the heart by helping to lower cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and blood pressure. Its anti-inflammatory properties are also supportive of heart health.

  • Brain Health: In animal studies, cinnamon has been shown to help protect against both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. (study)

  • Anti-Microbial: Cinnamon, like many spices and herbs, is also a natural anti-microbial (anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal). Specifically, it has been shown to be effective against Candida and may even play a role in fighting HIV infection. The oils found in cinnamon have the most anti-microbial activity.

Cinnamon Uses

Thanks to cinnamon’s wide culinary acceptance, it’s not that hard to start adding more to your diet. Let’s look at all the ways you can start adding more cinnamon to your diet; both in sweet and savory dishes.

For more inspiration on cooking with cinnamon, turn to cuisines that naturally include it in their cooking; Mexican, North African, Middle Eastern, and Asian.

Dosing

Whenever you’re using food as medicine, the goal is really to just start including it more in your cooking and see if you can make cinnamon a regular part of your diet. With cinnamon, it’s easy to do that because a little goes a long way. Just 1/2 – 1 tsp of ground cinnamon contains between 2-4 grams. That is well within the range included in most research studies. So really even if you just got 1/4-1/2 tsp of cinnamon each day, you would be getting a therapeutic dose.

Cautions

There are two types of cinnamon; Cassia and Ceylon. Cassia has a stronger color and flavor and because of it’s lower cost is the one most commonly used in prepared spices. The problem though with Cassia is that it also contains higher levels of coumarin; a naturally occurring compound that when taken in large doses can be toxic to the liver. An occasional exposure to Cassia Cinnamon is not going to be concerning. But when you’re intentionally trying to include cinnamon on a daily basis for its medicinal properties, it will be much safer to stick with Ceylon Cinnamon. As with all herbs and spices, organic is best. Unfortunately spices are some of the most heavily sprayed foods with pesticides.

Take Home Message

Cinnamon is not only a sweet, warming, and delicious spice to add to your food, it provides incredibly high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. As we saw above, there are many great reasons to start adding more cinnamon to your day and lots of easy ways to accomplish this. For more Food As Medicine posts, along with other great inspiration and recipes, delivered straight to your Inbox every week, Join The Tribe.

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This FREE Guide will help you take the First Step in helping your body heal!
By knowing what foods will feed your cancer vs. slow it down, you and your family can begin to take control again.


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