Cinnamon is such a pleasing spice. The mere smell of it conjures up warm, comforting feelings, and for many, is reminiscent of the holidays. What’s even better is that there are substantial ways that cinnamon benefits your health.
I’m sure you don’t think of this spice as an ultimate superfood, but once you discover all about what it has to offer, you’ll rethink that. Here’s a rundown of 11 amazing cinnamon benefits and the true impact this spice can have on your health and well-being.
How Cinnamon Benefits Your Health
1. Powerful Medicinal Properties
Cinnamon is created from the bark of the ‘cinnamomum’ tree. This bark is stripped down and allowed to dry. It then curls up into rolls that we know as cinnamon sticks. In ancient times this was regarded as a rare and valuable food that was only fit for royalty.
It’s now a common food that is relatively cheap and is sold across supermarkets all over the world. It is also found in many foods and recipes. However, did you know that there are actually two different types of cinnamon? They are:
- Ceylon cinnamon or true cinnamon
- Cassia cinnamon which is more commonly found in supermarkets and restaurants.
The aroma and taste of cinnamon is caused by the oily element termed cinnamaldehyde. This active compound is the catalyst for many of the potent ways cinnamon benefits your health.
2. Blood Sugar Control
Numerous studies have identified that cinnamon has properties that can help individuals who are insulin resistant. (1) Insulin is a hormone that is essential for regulating your metabolism and for the transport of blood sugars from your bloodstream.
For this reason, many type 2 diabetics consume cinnamon to help to control fluctuations in their blood sugar levels. Unfortunately not all cinnamon is made equally in terms of the health benefits associated with them.
Ceylon cinnamon (true cinnamon) is more popular when compared to cassia cinnamon due to the lower amounts of coumarin that it contains. One study has shown that in high doses, this compound can increase liver toxicity which can in turn lead to liver damage. (2)
In the same study it was discovered that Ceylon cinnamon was more potent at controlling blood sugar levels than cassia cinnamon. There is evidence (1) to suggest that cinnamaldehyde is the active ingredient in controlling blood sugars and this is indeed higher in Ceylon cinnamon.
The effective dose of cinnamon in blood sugar regulation is typically 2-4 grams of cinnamon per day.
3. Diabetes Protection
Cinnamon benefits the process of gastric emptying, which is the speed at which digested food leaves your stomach. This in turn blunts the sharp rise of blood sugar after you have eaten and this improves the effectiveness of insulin within the body. (2)
Another study at the University of Georgia discovered that cinnamon can stop tissue damage and inflammation which is associated with high blood sugar levels. (3)
When blood sugars are high, the sugars bond with proteins to produce advanced glycation end products or AGEs. AGEs are really bad news as they can cause inflammation and tissue damage which is associated with aging and metabolic diseases. In the same study it was discovered that there was a strong link between cinnamon and blocking the formation of AGEs due to their high antioxidant content.
What does all of this mean? Essentially, that cinnamon can help you fend off the terrible disease diabetes.
4. Weight Loss Help
Let me debunk an unfortunate fitness myth which is gaining an unfortunate amount of popularity: there is no magic bullet for weight loss and cinnamon will not melt away your body fat.
The best way to lose weight is to moderately engage in smart, effective exercise and switch to a diet of healthy nutritious foods that are not packed with ingredients you can’t pronounce.
It’s really that simple. That said, cinnamon can help.
While there are no current studies relating how cinnamon benefits weight loss, we have seen how the spice can aid in regulating blood sugar levels which then helps you control your appetite by decreasing the amount of glucose entering into your bloodstream.
In addition, cinnamon does make you feel fuller for longer and it helps with the proper digestion of foods. Fundamentally healthy foods that are digested properly enable the body to have its quota of essential nutrients and this should help with combatting over eating.
5. Irritable Bowel Syndrome Relief
Cinnamon benefits your digestives system by reducing the bloated feelings associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). (4)
Cinnamon’s main role in counteracting IBS is to kill bacteria and to heal infections in the GI tract; thus allowing your digestive system to function more effectively. A top tip is to drink 2 cups of cinnamon tea per day to help alleviate pain associated with IBS.
6. Better Brain Function
Scientists at Wheeling Jesuit University observed a cohort of subjects completing a number of cognitive tasks whilst chewing no gum, plain gum and flavoured gum with cinnamon, peppermint and jasmine. (5) The cinnamon group had the best scores in the following areas:
- The speed of a visual-motor response
- The speed of cognitive processing
- Attention scores
If the tiny amount of cinnamon in a stick of gum can have that effect, imagine what a slightly larger dose of quality cinnamon can do?
7. Antioxidants Boost
Antioxidants protect the body by combating the oxidative change caused by free radicals. Cinnamon is packed with antioxidants such as polyphenols and it is one of the top seven anti-oxidant rich foods in the world. (6) (7)
This study found that cinnamon had the highest amount of antioxidant properties when compared against 26 other spices and even beat superfoods such as garlic and oregano to the crown.
This is excellent news as foods that are high in antioxidants are good for your whole body thanks to their ability to repair cells damaged by a multitude of factors such as aging.
8. May Reduce Risk of Heart Disease
Cinnamon has been linked to a reduction in the silent killer of heart disease.
In a recent study, there was strong evidence to suggest that 1 gram of cinnamon had a positive impact on blood markers associated with cardiovascular disease. (1)
Cardiovascular disease is multifactorial in nature; however by accumulatively lowering total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and blood triglycerides you will dramatically reduce the risk of this dreaded disease.
In a study from the Penn State, researchers found that a diet rich in spices such as cinnamon helped to counteract the negative effects of eating a fatty meal. Eating meals that are high in certain fats can cause your blood triglycerides to rise.
The research indicated that the subjects who ate spices such as cinnamon had a 30% reduction in triglyceride levels and a 13% increase in antioxidants levels. (8) This is good news in the fight against heart disease.
9. May Be Protective Against Cancers
Cinnamon has been widely researched for its use against prevention and treatment of certain cancers. A recent study discovered that sugar may be causing or sustaining cancer cells. (9)
Therefore cinnamon may have a positive impact by controlling the blood sugars in your body. It was noted that the active agent cinnamaldehyde was a potent cancer fighter by starving the cells of sugar that are needed for the cancer to survive.
The results in many of the research studies are promising especially with leukemic and lymphoma cells but much of the research is in its infancy.
10. May Have a Positive Impact on Neurodegenerative Diseases
Neurodegenerative diseases are primarily attributed to the progressive loss of brain structure and this can lead to a loss in brain function. There is a whole host of neurodegenerative diseases and two common types are Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. There are two compounds found in cinnamon that block the build-up of tau in the brain, which is a catalyst and marker for Alzheimer’s disease.
In terms of Parkinson’s disease, a study looking at mice discovered that cinnamon helped to protect neurons, stabilize neurotransmitter levels and boost motor function. However more human research is required within this area.
11. Bacterial and Fungal Infection Fighter
The Cinnamaldehyde compound within cinnamon may help to combat all kinds of infections within the body.
For example, cinnamon oil has been shown to successfully treat fungal upper tract respiratory infections. Cinnamon leaf oil is also far more powerful than commercial treatments in treating toenail fungus and athlete’s foot. Just soak your feet in cinnamon leaf oil to treat both conditions.
Cinnamon benefits your immunity and overall health by blocking the development of various bacteria which include listeria and salmonella. In addition, there is evidence to suggest that the antimicrobial effects of cinnamon can help to counteract gum disease and bad breath.
I imagine some or all of these amazing cinnamon benefits might be a bit surprising to you. It’s yet another example of how the food we eat can and should be a means through which we heal ourselves.
Thankfully, with delicious and amazing spices like cinnamon, we can satisfy our taste buds (see below) while we’re looking after ourselves!
Here Are Some of My Favorite Cinnamon Recipes on the Blog:
- Overnight Oats (6 Recipe Variations)
- 10 Homemade Protein Bars That Are Actually Good for You
- Almond Butter Cup Vegan Protein Smoothie
- Thyroid Home Remedy Tonic
Bolin Qin, M.D et al. (2010). Cinnamon: Potential Role in the Prevention of Insulin Resistance, Metabolic Syndrome, and Type 2 Diabetes J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2010 May; 4(3): 685–693.
Stoecker, B.T et al (2010). Cinnamon extract lowers blood glucose in hyperglycaemic subjects. FASEB 2010. 24:722:1
Rebecca P. Dearlove. (2008). Inhibition of Protein Glycation by Extracts of Culinary Herbs and Spices. Journal of Medicinal Food Volume: 11 Issue 2: July 3
Jason A. Hawrelak and Stephen P. Myers. (2010) Effects of Two Natural Medicine Formulations on Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms: A Pilot Study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Volume: 16 Issue 10: October 18
Dr, Bryan Raudenbush (2005) Cognitive Enhancement Through Stimulation of the Chemical Senses. Wheeling Jesuit University. Journal of Psychology. Vol. 11, 125-140.
Gurdip Singh (2007). A comparison of chemical, antioxidant and antimicrobial studies of cinnamon leaf and bark volatile oils, oleoresins and their constituents. Food and Chemical Toxicology 45 1650–1661
Skulas-Ray (2011). Antioxidant spices reduce negative effects of high fat meals. Pen State News. August 2011
Wei. J. (2010). Novel angiogenesis inhibitory activity in cinnamon extract blocks VEGFR2 kinase and downstream signalling. Carcinogenesis. 2010 Mar; 31(3): 481–488.
Saurabh Khasnavis, Kalipada Pahan. (2014). Cinnamon Treatment Upregulates Neuroprotective Proteins Parkin and DJ-1 and Protects Dopaminergic Neurons in a Mouse Model of Parkinson’s Disease. Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, DOI: 10.1007/s11481-014-9552-2
Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.