Cinnamon is a spice that comes from the branches of trees of the "Cinnamomum" family. It is native to the Caribbean, South America, and Southeast Asia.

Cinnamon has been consumed since 2000 BC in Ancient Egypt, where it was highly prized. In medieval times, doctors used cinnamon to treat conditions such as coughing, arthritis, and sore throats.

It is now the second most popular spice, after black pepper, in the U.S and Europe.

Some studies in labs and on animals have indicated that cinnamon may have some beneficial health properties, but more research and evidence is needed to confirm these benefits.

Benefits

Taking cinnamon as a supplement can have effects on health and disease. Supplements, however, are not monitored by the FDA and there might be concerns about quality, purity, and strength in varying brands of any supplements.

People use cinnamon as a supplement to treat problems with the digestive system, diabetes, loss of appetite, and other conditions.

It has also been used in traditional medicine for bronchitis.

There is a lack of evidence supporting these uses, however.

Fungal infections

Cinnamon oil may help treat some types of fungal infections, such as Candida, according to results of a lab study, published in 2016.

Diabetes

Research published in 2003 in Diabetes Care found that cinnamon may help improve glucose and lipid levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Consuming up to 6 grams (g) of cinnamon a day appeared to lower serum glucose, triglyceride, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol in 60 people with type 2 diabetes.

The authors suggested that if people with type 2 diabetes include cinnamon in their diet, this may reduce their risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

However, in a review published in 2012, researchers concluded that cinnamon does not help lower levels of glucose or glycosylated hemoglobin A!c (HbA1c)—long-term measures of blood-glucose control—in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

A further small study did not find that a combination of cinnamon, calcium, and zinc helped control blood pressure in people with type 2 diabetes.

Alzheimer's disease

Animal studies have suggested that cinnamon may help prevent Alzheimer's disease.

According to researchers at Tel Aviv University, an extract found in cinnamon bark, called CEppt, contains properties that may inhibit the development of symptoms. Mice who received the extract experienced a decrease in disease markers, such as amyloid plaques, and improvement in cognitive behavior.

If confirmed by further research, this extract, but not necessarily whole cinnamon, may be useful in developing therapies for Alzheimer's.

HIV

A study of extracts of Indian medicinal plants found that cinnamon may help protect against HIV.

Of the 69 extracts tested in a lab, Cinnamomum cassia, or cinnamon bark, and Cardiospermum helicacabum, the cinnamon shoot and fruit, were most effective in reducing HIV activity.

This does not mean that foods containing cinnamon can treat or prevent HIV, but cinnamon extracts could one day be useful as part of a therapy.

Multiple Sclerosis

Cinnamon has been tested for activity against multiple sclerosis (MS).

Researchers tested mice that had consumed a mixture of cinnamon powder and water. The findings suggested that cinnamon could have an anti-inflammatory effect on the central nervous system (CNS), incuding improvement in function in the hippocampus.

Studies have also suggested that cinnamon may protect regulatory T cells, known as Tregs. These are considered the "master regulator of immune responses." People with MS appear to have a lower level of Tregs than people without the condition. In mouse studies, cinnamon treatment has prevented the loss of certain proteins that are specific to Tregs.

Cinnamon treatment has also been found to restore myelin levels in mice with MS.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is supporting more research into how cinnamon may be effective in treating MS.

Lowering the negative effects of high fat meals

In 2011, researchers concluded that diets rich in "antioxidant spices," including cinnamon, may help reduce the body's negative response to eating high-fat meals.

Six people consumed dishes containing 14 g of a spice blend. Blood tests showed that antioxidant activity increased by 13 percent and insulin response fell by 20 percent.

Treating and healing chronic wounds

Research published in the journal ACS Nano suggests that scientists have found a way to package antimicrobial compounds from peppermint and cinnamon in tiny capsules that can both kill biofilms and actively promote healing.

In this way, peppermint and cinnamon could become part of a medicine for treating infected wounds.

However, according to the NCCIH, "Studies done in people don't support using cinnamon for any health condition."

Nutrition

  • Energy: 6 calories (kcal)
  • Fat: 0.3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 2.1 g
  • Protein: 0.1 g
  • Calcium: 26 milligrams (mg)
  • Iron: 0.2 mg
  • Magnesium: 2 mg
  • Phosphorus: 2 mg
  • Potassium: 11 mg
  • Vitamin C: 0.1 mg
  • Vitamin A: 8 IU

It also contains traces of vitamins B and K.

Types

  • Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum), often considered to be "true cinnamon"
  • Cassia cinnamon or Chinese cinnamon (Cinnamomum aromaticum), which originates from southern China

Ceylon cinnamon is very expensive, so most foods in the United States and Western Europe, including sticky buns, breads and other products use the cheaper Cassia cinnamon (dried Cassia bark).

Side effects

However, cinnamon contains coumain, a natural flavoring. Consuming too much coumarin can lead to liver damage and affect coagulation. For those on anti-coagulants or other drugs, or those who have diabetes, it is important to discuss taking cinnamon supplement with your health care provider.

Cassia cinnamon powder, commonly used in foods in the USA and Western Europe, contains more coumarin than Ceylan cinnamon powder.

A German study study published in 2010 found that coumarin content varies widely, even in samples of cinnamon from the same tree. Cassia cinnamon was particularly high in coumarin.

People with liver disease should limit their consumption of cinnamon.

Cinnamon should not be used instead of treatment for health conditions. Anyone who is considering increasing their intake of cinnamon or taking supplements should first speak to a doctor.