Cinnamon can add more to a meal than just flavor; this popular spice possesses a wide array of properties that support various bodily functions, such as digestion, insulin production, blood circulation, and skin healing.
Main Cinnamon Health Benefits
The following benefits of cinnamon have been established by traditional uses and validated by numerous scientific studies, including human clinical trials.
Enhancing digestive function
One of the major health benefits of cinnamon is its ability to help fat metabolism, thus easing the digestion of greasy food, such as cakes, cookies, and ice cream. The German Commission E, the counter-part of the FDA, has confirmed the medicinal value of cinnamon for treating indigestion, abdominal distress, bloating, and flatulence.
A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2011) tested the use of a formula made with a mixture of dried, ground bilberry, slippery elm bark, agrimony aerial parts, and cinnamon sticks on individuals with irritable bowel syndrome and constipation.1 The formula showed a small, but significant increase in bowel movement frequency with reductions in straining, abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, and overall symptom severity.
Lowering blood sugar
Extensive research has shown that cinnamon spice can help lower blood sugar levels, which can be very beneficial for individuals with diabetes. Cinnamon extract has been shown to improve insulin activity by stimulating the enzyme that makes insulin bind to cells and preventing the enzyme that blocks insulin. This effect on enzymatic activity allows the body to remove glucose from the bloodstream.
A study published by European Medicines Agency (2011) gathered 60 patients with type 2 diabetes into groups and administered 1.3 or 6 grams of Cinnamomum cassia capsules or a placebo daily as a supplement to anti-diabetic medication.2 After a 40-day treatment and a 20-day washout period, all of the groups that consumed the cinnamon capsules showed lower levels of glucose (18-29%), triglycerides (23-30%), LDL cholesterol (7-27%), and total cholesterol (12-26%). The placebo group showed no significant changes in any of these values. These results further support the benefits of taking cinnamon for diabetes.
Secondary Cinnamon Benefits
The secondary benefits of cinnamon require further research, but have demonstrated potential through some scientific evidence in human subjects.
Cinnamon anti-inflammatory properties are believed to be a result of its polyphenol content. Polyphenols are natural chemical in plants that reduce the number of harmful cells that invade the affected site and promote the production of anti-inflammatory compounds.
The same study from European Medicines Agency found that a Cinnamomum zeylanicum dry extract, consumed orally by rats at 400 mg/kg body weight was effective in reducing chronic inflammation.2
Research is still developing, but studies suggest that the medicinal properties of cinnamon could help treat the inflammation caused by diseases such as arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes.
Lowering blood pressure
The ability to treat hypertension is another health benefit arising from eating cinnamon that requires more research. Studies have shown that cinnamon supplements can cause a significant drop in systolic and diastolic blood pressure; however, the mechanisms behind these effects are yet to be discovered.
In a study published in the Journal of Complementary & Integrative Medicine (2011), cinnamon bark extract was tested in rats to determine its ability to reduce vascular pressure.3 The study supported the idea that nitric oxide production helped lower blood pressure, along with cinnamon's effect on the potassium channels in the vascular smooth muscles.
Cinnamon antifungal and antibacterial benefits have been shown useful for treating infections caused by Salmonella, Escherichia coli, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
One study published by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (2007) tested the antibacterial properties of Korintje cinnamon (Cinnamomum burmannii) against five common foodborne pathogenic bacteria: Bacillus cereus, Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Salmonella anatum.4 The results showed that the cinnamaldehyde and proanthocyanidins in cinnamon possess significant antibacterial abilities.
Supporting skin health
Because of its antimicrobial properties, the use of cinnamon for skin health has been widely investigated. The spice seems to be able of deactivate or destroy microorganisms that could potentially infect the skin.
A study published by the journal Food Control (2014) compared the antimicrobial properties of the essential oils in cassia bark (Cinnamomum aromaticum), bay fruits, and cloves.5 While all three showed preventative effects against the tested bacteria, the cassia bark showed the greatest antibacterial activity.
The antifungal properties of cinnamon oil also work to prevent fungi and yeast growth on the skin. An additional advantage of cinnamon is the presence of eugenol, a natural anesthetic oil that can be used to relieve pain in cuts and scrapes.
Unconfirmed Cinnamon Health Benefits
The unconfirmed benefits of cinnamon have little scientific support and are not as widely used, but have been suggested by some pre-clinical trials:
Aiding weight management. A few milligrams to three grams of cinnamon may help reduce appetite, which prevents overeating and helps with weight control.
Treating neurological disorders. Pre-clinical trials have suggested that cinnamon can help fight against neurological disorders including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.
The health benefits of cinnamon contribute greatly to the long-term popularity of the spice and its global use. While scientific research has been able to confirm numerous cinnamon benefits, further research is needed to understand all of its abilities.
- Chemistry of Spices, pp.138-141
- Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, Beneficial Effects of Cinnamon on the Metabolic Syndrome, Inflammation, and Pain, and Mechanisms Underlying These Effects – A Review, 2012
- Louisiana State University, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Cinnamon
- The Complete German Commission E Monographs, 1st Edition - Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines
- University of Maryland, Health Benefits of Cinnamon
- Pharmacognosy Research, Cinnamon: Mystic powers of a minute ingredient, 2015
- Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. (2011). Effects of two natural medicine formulations on irritable bowel syndrome symptoms: a pilot study. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20954962/
- European Medicines Agency. (2011). Assessment report on Cinnamomum verum J. S. Presl, cortex and corticis aetheroleum. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from: https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/documents/herbal-report/assessment-report-cinnamomum-verum-j-s-presl-cortex-corticis-aetheroleum_en.pdf
- Journal of Complementary & Integrative Medicine. (2011). Antihypertensive and Vasorelaxant Effects of Cinnamomum zeylanicum Stem Bark Aqueous Extract in Rats. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22754922/
- Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. (2007). Antibacterial Properties and Major Bioactive Components of Cinnamon Stick (Cinnamomum burmannii): Activity against Foodborne Pathogenic Bacteria. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/jf070424d
- Food Control. (2014). Antimicrobial activity of alginate/clay nanocomposite films enriched with essential oils against three common foodborne pathogens. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from: https://pubag.nal.usda.gov/catalog/5430120