Although research is in a preliminary stage, cinnamon may help fight some symptoms of diabetes. It is also unlikely to cause blood pressure spikes, or disrupt blood sugar. So, people with diabetes who miss a sweet pop of flavor may find that cinnamon is a good replacement for sugar.
Can cinnamon affect blood sugar?
Studies suggest that as a treatment tool for diabetes, cinnamon may be useful. It may also be used as a healthful alternative to sugar and salt.
Cinnamon has shown promise in the treatment of blood sugar, as well as some other diabetes symptoms.
Research on the effects of cinnamon on blood sugar in diabetes is mixed and in the early stages. Most studies have been very small, so more research is necessary.
People with diabetes who are interested in herbal remedies, however, may be surprised to learn that doctors are serious about the potential for cinnamon to address some diabetes symptoms.
All three levels of cinnamon intake reduced blood sugar levels and cholesterol. The effects were seen even 20 days after participants were no longer taking cinnamon.
A small 2016 study of 25 people, published in the Journal of Intercultural Ethnopharmacology, found that cinnamon may be beneficial for people with poorly controlled diabetes. Participants consumed 1 g of cinnamon for 12 weeks. The result was a reduction in fasting blood sugar levels.
However, a 2013 study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine had a different result. The study, which used a more reliable method, had slightly more participants, at 70. The researchers found that 1 g of cinnamon per day for 30 days and 60 days offered no improvements in blood sugar levels.
A 2016 analysis published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, attempted to bring together existing research on the role of cinnamon in blood sugar reductions.
The authors looked at 11 studies of cinnamon in the treatment of diabetes. All 11 produced some reductions in fasting blood sugar levels. Studies that measured HbA1C levels also achieved modest reductions.
However, only four of the studies achieved reductions in line with the American Diabetes Association's treatment goals. This suggests that cinnamon may be a useful treatment tool, but is not a replacement for traditional diabetes treatments.
An earlier analysis published in 2011 in the Journal of Medicinal Food, also points to the potential for cinnamon to lower blood sugars. Researchers comparing the results of eight previous studies, found an average blood sugar level reduction of 3-5 percent.
There is no research that suggests cinnamon negatively affects blood sugar. That means that it is a safe bet for people with diabetes who want a more healthful alternative to sugar, salt, and other diabetes-unfriendly flavoring agents.
Other health benefits of cinnamon for diabetes
Cinnamon has also shown promise in addressing other diabetes symptoms. The 2003 Diabetes Care study also found a reduction in blood fat levels and so-called "bad" cholesterol. The levels remained lower even 20 days after participants had stopped consuming cinnamon.
A 2016 study published in Blood Pressure, compared the effects of various intake levels of cinnamon to cardamon, ginger, and saffron. Cinnamon and the other herbs did not affect blood pressure, body measurements, or body mass index.
Tips for using cinnamon
Before trying new diabetes remedies people should speak to their doctor.
The studies done so far on cinnamon's effects on diabetes have used small quantities of cinnamon - usually a teaspoon or less.
People interested in trying cinnamon as a supplement to traditional diabetes medication should start small, with about 1 g per day (about ¼ to ½ teaspoon).
Just as different diabetes medications produce varying results and side effects in different patients, cinnamon won't work for everyone. Some people may even experience side effects.
Some strategies to improve the chances of success while lowering risk include:
- Keeping a food log.
- Sticking with normal diabetes care plans. Cinnamon is not a substitute for blood sugar monitoring, a healthful diet, or diabetes drugs.
- Speaking to a doctor before trying any new diabetes remedies, including cinnamon and other herbal remedies.
- Using cinnamon as a flavoring agent for healthful foods, such as oatmeal and muesli. People should avoid eating cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, or other sugary foods that are rich in cinnamon.
- It's also possible for people who dislike the taste of cinnamon to purchase cinnamon herbal supplements.
Who should avoid cinnamon?
Cinnamon is a safe flavoring for most people with diabetes. However, people with liver disease or who believe they are at risk from liver disease may need to avoid cinnamon, particularly in large amounts.
Cinnamon comes in two forms: Ceylon and cassia. Cassia is commonly used in the United States and contains small amounts of a substance called coumarin. Some people are sensitive to this chemical and, if they take it in large doses, they can develop liver disease. People who already have liver disease are especially at risk.
Most research on the role of coumarin in liver failure looks at significantly larger quantities of cinnamon than are recommended for diabetes management. This highlights the importance of starting with very small quantities of cinnamon.
People should consider also using a Ceylon cinnamon supplement rather than the more readily available cassia cinnamon.
Cinnamon is safe to take with most drugs and herbal remedies. People taking another remedy should always consult their doctor first. Even natural remedies such as cinnamon can trigger negative interactions.
People with diabetes who take a drug that can harm the liver should consult their doctor before using cinnamon. They should also consider Ceylon instead of cassia cinnamon.
Cinnamon may also interact with anti-blood clotting drugs, such as warfarin, and some blood pressure medications.
To reduce the risk of negative interactions and other side effects, people with diabetes should keep a log of any new or unusual symptoms. People with diabetes should also report any side effects to a doctor as soon as they appear. This helps people with diabetes to make good medication decisions and avoid potentially serious side effects.