For several centuries, cinnamon has been used as a spice and traditional herbal remedy, traded worldwide and considered a precious spice in ancient times. Numerous scientific studies, including in vitro experiments and in vivo studies on animals, have indicated that cinnamon possesses anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-tumor, cardiovascular, blood sugar-regulating, cholesterol-lowering, and immune-modulating effects .
Many of these studies have highlighted the positive effects of cinnamon on diabetes control . Moreover, some experimental results have suggested that consuming cinnamon can have positive modulatory effects on conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, arthritis, and atherosclerosis. However, scientists are still in the process of fully comprehending the mechanisms behind cinnamon’s effects, whether in terms of its anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory properties, or its role in safeguarding the heart and nervous system .
What is Cinnamon?
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia), also known as Chinese cassia or Chinese cinnamon , is rich in carbohydrates, protein, choline, vitamins (A, K, C, B3), and minerals. Cinnamon root has positive effects on the digestive tract, and cinnamon powder enhances the activity of gut microbiota, thereby improving immune responses. Moreover, its extracts (such as cinnamaldehyde and cinnamon oil) contain various bioactive compounds believed to have positive effects on various diseases. Cinnamon has been widely used in Asia for over 4,000 years as a common folk remedy, traditionally used to treat inflammation-related conditions like gastritis .
You might recall the distinct taste of cinnamon-flavored candies from your childhood, or perhaps you’ve encountered cinnamon-flavored teas during trips to Europe. Cinnamon’s flavor goes beyond just enhancing these treats; it has been found to prevent both acute and chronic diseases. In the United States, there’s a growing body of research encouraging many Americans to consider using spices and herbs for treating chronic conditions or as dietary supplements .
The 6 Key Benefits of Cinnamon
1. Blood Sugar Regulation
Research has shown that consuming cinnamon tea after meals is beneficial for controlling post-meal blood sugar metabolism in non-diabetic adults. This can reduce the occurrence of postprandial hyperglycemia, suggesting a positive effect of cinnamon tea on diabetes prevention . In addition, daily cinnamon intake by type 2 diabetes patients can improve their blood sugar index and lipid profile, particularly in patients with a BMI greater than 27 . Cinnamon extracts have also been shown to increase glucose uptake, promote hepatic glycogenesis, activate insulin receptors, and enhance insulin activity in vitro . These studies indicate that daily cinnamon consumption has positive effects on blood sugar control for diabetes patients.
2. Blood Lipid Regulation
Studies suggest that daily consumption of cinnamon by type 2 diabetes patients not only improves blood sugar but also effectively reduces triglycerides (TG), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), and total cholesterol (TC) levels . Another study conducted on Indians with metabolic syndrome found that cinnamon supplementation significantly lowered their blood sugar and lipid indices, as well as waist-to-hip ratio and blood pressure .
3. Antimicrobial Effects
Cinnamon-derived cinnamon oil and cinnamaldehyde have significant inhibitory effects on bacteria, fungi, and molds . More research indicates that cinnamon extracts, cinnamon essential oil, and their active compounds inhibit microbial growth by disrupting cell membranes, altering lipid distribution, and inhibiting ATP enzymes .
4. Anti-inflammatory Ability
Cinnamon extract’s anti-inflammatory ability is notably significant . Animal studies in Taiwan demonstrated that cinnamon extract (cinnamaldehyde) effectively inhibited the activity of inflammatory substances in mice, suggesting that cinnamaldehyde could be a potential natural anti-inflammatory agent .
5. Pain Relief Effect
Research suggests that cinnamon significantly reduces the frequency, severity, and duration of migraine attacks. Cinnamon can be considered a safe supplement to alleviate migraine pain and other complications . Apart from migraine improvement, cinnamon can significantly reduce the severity and duration of pain during menstruation. Although the effect is less than that of direct analgesics (Ibuprofen), cinnamon can still be considered a safe and effective method for treating primary dysmenorrhea , and it can reduce the intensity of primary dysmenorrhea .
6. Improvement of Gastrointestinal Function
While cinnamon cannot directly kill Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria responsible for gastritis, or decrease its activity, it can inhibit the secretion of substances by H. pylori that contribute to gastritis, thus alleviating its symptoms. Cinnamon subcritical water extract (CSWE) can improve gut health by suppressing intestinal inflammation .
How to Consume Cinnamon and Recommended Daily Dosage?
Cinnamon has been recognized as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the US FDA , which means that it is generally considered safe for consumption as a food additive or ingredient. This designation signifies that cinnamon is used as a food component rather than as a medicine, drug supplement, or traditional remedy. Generally, daily intake of up to 6 grams of cinnamon has not been reported to cause significant adverse reactions.
In a diabetes study, daily consumption of 1 to 3 grams of cinnamon powder showed no adverse effects . Other studies on diabetes patients found that daily intake of 1, 3, or 6 grams of cinnamon can lower blood sugar, triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels, thereby reducing cardiovascular disease risk factors .
The recommended daily intake of cinnamon can vary based on age, health, and other factors. Therefore, consuming cinnamon supplements is not entirely risk-free. It’s advisable to consult your physician, pharmacist, or nutritionist for appropriate daily intake recommendations before use.
Are There Any Contraindications and Side Effects of Cinnamon?
Contradictions in Consumption
No specific contraindications related to cinnamon consumption have been reported, and there is no relevant toxicological data available.
Current research data is insufficient for a comprehensive risk analysis, but in general, cinnamon is considered safe when used as a food ingredient . However, pregnant women are advised to avoid high doses of cinnamon, as the safety and effectiveness of high doses have not been confirmed through research.
There is not enough research to significantly indicate direct interactions between cinnamon and drugs. However, a few studies suggest that cinnamon used in combination with diabetes medications may have an enhancing effect . Additionally, combining cinnamon with antibiotics may also lead to an enhancing effect, and caution might be needed when co-administering with hepatotoxic drugs. If you are taking other medications concurrently, it’s recommended to discuss this with your physician, pharmacist, or nutritionist.
Cinnamon has been widely used around the world as a spice and fragrance for thousands of years. Records of its use date back to 2000 BC, when cinnamon was introduced to China, and it’s even mentioned in the Bible. Today, due to its potential health benefits, cinnamon is being researched by scientists worldwide to uncover experimental results and mechanisms of action for its use in disease treatment, such as diabetes prevention and management, or its antimicrobial effects. Cinnamon extracts or related supplements are believed to contribute further to the health of the general population.