Health benefits of cinnamon
Cinnamon is a spice made from the bark of trees called Cinnamomum. It is made by taking the inner bark which forms cinnamon sticks when dried. The sticks are ground into cinnamon powder.
There are two main types of cinnamon, namely Cassia cinnamon (the commonly used variety found in supermarkets) and Ceylon cinnamon (known as true cinnamon) available in health shops.
Besides being in food, cinnamon has a long history of use as a medicine. The ancient knowledge is being confirmed through scientific studies. When used in the form of essential oil, pure bark, powder or extract, it has many health benefits.
Cinnamon contains high levels of antioxidants that reduce cell damage caused by free radicals. That way it prevents diseases and slows down the aging process. Test tube and animal studies have shown that cinnamon’s antioxidant properties also protect cells from mutation and DNA damage and prevents the growth of cancer cells. So far scientists have identified 41 different compounds in cinnamon that protect the body.
Seven different flavonoids in cinnamon have been identified which provide anti-inflammatory properties. Through its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, it protects brain cells from damage, and helps to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Cinnamon reduces diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels and enhancing sensitivity to insulin, the hormone that maintains blood sugar levels. It also prevents heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, and blood pressure.
Cinnamon is a well-known natural antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral agent. It works by damaging cell membranes of microbes and altering their lipid profile, among other ways. Most people take it to reduce flu or cold symptoms while others use it as a mouthwash to prevent tooth decay and freshen the mouth. As an antifungal, it has been found by scientists to be a good for eliminating Candida overgrowth in the digestive tract. As an antivirus it has been found to be effective in destroying HIV-1 in test tube studies.
Cinnamon helps with many types of lung congestion by clearing up mucus and encouraging circulation. It is useful for everything from simple seasonal coughs to bronchitis if used with other remedies.
If you apply it to the skin, cinnamon’s anti-microbial action protects the skin from infections and rashes and reduces pain, inflammation, and redness. Mix it with honey (another antimicrobial) to treat acne, rosacea and skin allergies.
The two types of cinnamon are not equal. Cassia cinnamon (the cheaper and commonly found variety) contains large amounts of coumarin, a toxic compound. Too much coumarin can cause liver damage, cancer, mouth sores, low blood sugar and breathing problems. It also interacts with certain medications. It is better to use the more expensive Ceylon (true) cinnamon which is not toxic because it has no coumarin.
An adult weighing 81kg (178 pounds) can safely take 8mg of coumarin per day, which corresponds to half a teaspoon of Cassia cinnamon per day. Smaller people and children can tolerate even less. For estimation purposes, allow 0.05 mg of coumarin per pound (0.1 mg per kg) of body weight.