The health benefits of cinnamon weren’t on my radar when I first fell in love with it. It’s now one of my favorite, if not my all-time favorite, spices. That could be because cinnamon is a key ingredient in so many sweet treats that I love. Cinnamon rolls. Snickerdoodles. French toast casserole. I even sprinkle cinnamon on my roasted sweet potatoes and my morning oatmeal to trick my mouth into thinking it’s eating something sweet. Don’t even need sugar! Even chili gets an extra boost of flavor with cinnamon. It’s gotten to the point that now I won’t make chili without cinnamon. Of all the spices to buy in bulk at Costco, cinnamon wins, no doubt.
So can you imagine how THRILLED I was to find out that it’s SO good for you! Now I adore it even more.
Here are some of the health benefits of cinnamon and why you can smile even more when you use it.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon: Background
Cinnamon is ancient. It dates back to as early as 2700 B.C. and is even mentioned in the Bible. The versatility for both its flavor and medicinal purposes made cinnamon a valuable trade item in many countries.
There are two types of cinnamon and it’s classified according to the region from which it comes. The first type of cinnamon is called Ceylon, also know as “true” cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon comes from Sri Lanka (which used to be called Ceylon), India, Madagascar, Brazil, and the Caribbean.
The second type of cinnamon is called Cassia. This what we generally use because it is more readily available. Cassia cinnamon mainly comes from China, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon: Types
Cinnamon comes from the bark of the Cinnamon tree. So yes, you’re eating bark! You can buy it not only as ground cinnamon and whole cinnamon sticks, but also in extracts and oils. With the oils, you can not only use it to flavor your food and for aromatherapy, but some insects such as ants and spiders hate it.
BONUS TIP: Dilute a few drops in water and spray where you’re having bug problems and see if they don’t go away. The great smell the spray leaves behind is just a nice plus.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon: Chemical Makeup
The compound in cinnamon that carries its health benefits is called “Cinnamaldehyde,” which is also what gives it the flavor and wonderful smell that we all love.
Cinnamon is full of antioxidants (a substance that helps prevent damage to our body’s cells). It even beats out many other spices and superfoods, including garlic and oregano, in measured amounts of antioxidant activity. In fact, one teaspoon has as much as a ½ cup of blueberries!
It has a fantastic amount of the trace mineral manganese, supplying 46% of your daily need. Manganese is essential for healthy bones, enzyme function, hormone and blood sugar levels and metabolism.
Cinnamon also has good amounts of fiber, iron, and calcium for its weight. All of this goodness in one little spice!
Health Benefits of Cinnamon: Practical Uses
Health Benefits of Cinnamon: Bacteria and Fungi
If you are looking for an all-natural antibacterial/antimicrobial product, cinnamon is for you!
- Cinnamon essential oil can help to stop the growth of bacteria or fungi, especially Candida. However, essential oil preparations must be done by a professional to attain the correct and safe ratio. So drinking tea containing Ceylon cinnamon is the safest way to attempt to fight off a fungus.
- It may help fight respiratory infections caused by fungi.
- It can be used as a preservative, helping to stop the overgrowth of microbials in foods. By adding cinnamon’s essential oils to certain foods, or even sprinkling it in powdered form, it has been shown to improve the shelf life of certain food items.
- It also may help prevent tooth decay and it certainly helps with bad breath.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon: Brain Fog
Feeling some afternoon “brain fog”? Sniff some cinnamon extract! I’m serious and you don’t need to feel guilty about it. It has been shown to stimulate brain activity, memory, visual recognition and help with motor speed. Even just chewing cinnamon gum has been shown to improve these areas as well. Research is currently being done to study the effects of cinnamon on elderly cognitive decline and diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon: Inflammation
Inflammation in the body is its way of protecting itself. When you sprain an ankle, your body causes your ankle to swell around the injury as a way to help heal it. However, when inflammation is out of control or chronic, it is often caused by an immune system malfunction. When that occurs, it can lead to many problems, including arthritis, diabetes, certain cancers, bowel issues, and even heart disease.
There are many foods that help naturally fight inflammation and cinnamon is one of them. It has the ability to discourage the release of an inflammatory fatty acid called arachidonic acid. This helps to ease inflammation and also aids in the prevention of excessive clotting of platelets that can slow blood flow.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon: The List Keeps Going …
Other great benefits from using cinnamon in your diet include the potential for reducing blood sugar levels in diabetics, triglyceride levels, and LDL cholesterol levels.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon: Best Way to Buy It
When you are looking for cinnamon on the store shelves, you have the two options mentioned earlier, Ceylon and Cassia. Usually what we find more commonly is Cassia due to its accessibility and lower cost.
Ceylon Cinnamon doesn’t taste too different than Cassia, possibly a bit sweeter. It can be more difficult to find and more expensive (Of course, Ceylon cinnamon is available on Amazon because everything is available on Amazon).
However, the extra trouble and expense of Ceylon may be worth it. WARNING: Turns out, there is potential risk with Cassia cinnamon if used in high doses. We’re not worried at all about the occasional sprinkle here and there in your tea or on your toast. What’s worrisome is if you are using it as medicine and taking it in higher amounts deliberately. A teaspoon of Cassia cinnamon a day is considered a high dose. Cassia provides all the same great health benefits of Ceylon, but it also contains a higher concentration of a natural chemical compound called coumarin. Coumarin, if over-consumed, can cause problems with the liver and interact with other drugs. Ceylon cinnamon contains a much lower amount of coumarin, so it is considered the safer choice for daily use. That said, not even Ceylon cinnamon is recommended to use in high doses.
There are water-soluble cinnamon extract pills available in health food stores (and yes, on Amazon) that eliminate the concern of coumarin. Basically, in the process of making the extract water soluble, the coumarin does not survive. So all you are left with is the beneficial properties of the cinnamon that you wanted in the first place. As with any natural remedy, get your doctor’s approval before you proceed with trying it.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon: Wrap Up
I’m so impressed with cinnamon. The health benefits of cinnamon is only matched by it’s versatility! From making my house smell warm and inviting, taking my food to a whole new level of tastiness, all the way to making my body healthier. Cinnamon is turning out to be one of my “Superheroes of Spices”. A sprinkle here, a sprinkle there … makes me feel good that I am “spicing up” my meals AND my health!
RECOMMENDED READING: If you want additional information on cinnamon, check out this rather robust piece from CookingDetective.com entitled, “29 Surprising Health Benefits of Cinnamon.” Some great information found in there!