Surprising Health Benefits of Cinnamon

The warming spice cinnamon has been valued for its culinary, medicinal, and natural preservative powers since ancient times. First described by Shen Nung, the father of Chinese Medicine, circa 2800 BC, ancient Egyptians used cinnamon as part of the mummification process.

In the first century CE, Europeans treasured the spice so much that they paid 15 times more for it than silver. Cinnamon is actually the brown bark of the cinnamon tree. It can be found in quill form (the dried “stick” variety) or ground as a fine powder.

Rich in essential oil, cinnamon contains active components including cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, and cinnamyl alcohol, which account for some of its many therapeutic benefits.

9 Surprising Reasons to Eat More Cinnamon

There’s good reason to use cinnamon for far more than just a dash in your morning coffee or tea. Cinnamon is known to enhance your antioxidant defenses, and it's been found to kill E. coli and many other bacteria. Its anti-inflammatory compounds help relieve pain and stiffness of muscles and joints due to arthritis.

It also helps prevent urinary tract infections, tooth decay, and gum disease, and helps with blood sugar control. Specifically, seven top reasons to add more cinnamon to your diet include:

1. Calm Inflammation

Cinnamon is an anti-inflammatory, in part due to its cinnamaldehyde content. According to research published in the journal Molecular Biology, chronic inflammation plays a major role in the development of various neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, brain tumor, and meningitis.

In Asia, where people regularly consume spices, rates of certain neurodegenerative diseases are much lower than in the US.

The study suggests that cinnamon (and other spices like turmeric, red pepper, black pepper, licorice, clove, ginger, garlic, and coriander) target inflammatory pathways, thereby potentially helping to prevent neurodegenerative diseases.

2. Boost Brain Function

The scent of cinnamon boosts brain function, according to research presented at the 2004 annual meeting of the Association for Chemoreception Sciences.

Participants who smelled cinnamon (or chewed cinnamon-flavored gum) had improved scores on tasks related to attentional processes, virtual recognition memory, working memory, and visual-motor response speed.6 The scent of cinnamon worked better than both peppermint and jasmine at enhancing cognitive function.

3. Support Weight Loss

Cinnamon reduces blood glucose concentration and enhances insulin sensitivity. In obese and healthy-weight individuals, cinnamon is also effective in moderating postprandial glucose response (or the amount of sugar in your blood after a meal).7

By helping to regulate blood sugar spikes, cinnamon may have a favorable impact on hunger and weight gain. Nutritionist Tara Ostrowe, RD, MS, of Columbia University told The Express Tribune:

“Cinnamon really is the new skinny food. Scientists already credit cinnamon in helping lower blood sugar concentration and improve insulin sensitivity. When less sugar is stored as fat, this translates to more help for your body when it comes to weight loss.”

4. Soothea Sore Throat or Cough

By soaking cinnamon sticks in water, you create cinnamon water with a water-soluble fiber called mucilage. This helps to coat and soothe your throat.

Cinnamon also has antibacterial properties that may help certain sore throats, and its warming properties increase blood flow and blood oxygen levels to help fight infection. According to traditional Chinese medicine, cinnamon is useful for phlegmy coughs.

5. Anti-Cancer Properties

The cinnamaldehyde in cinnamon appears to suppress colon cancer cells and may also be effective against human liver cancer cells. As reported by the George Mateljan Foundation:

“In addition to its unique essential oils, cinnamon is an excellent source of fiber and the trace mineral manganese while also a very good source of calcium.

The combination of calcium and fiber in cinnamon is important and can be helpful for the prevention of several different conditions.

Both calcium and fiber can bind to bile salts and help remove them from the body. By removing bile, fiber helps to prevent the damage that certain bile salts can cause to colon cells, thereby reducing the risk of colon cancer.”

6. Relieve Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Children with ADHD who received cinnamon aromatherapy along with rehabilitation had significantly reduced symptoms.

For starters, cinnamon has been shown to enhance motivation and performance, while decreasing frustration and anxiety while driving, which may explain some of its beneficial effects on ADHD symptoms.

In addition, children with ADHD have been shown to be under increased oxidative stress, and cinnamon is a powerful antioxidant that may help counteract this.

7. Diabetes Support

Cinnamon is known to help improve glycemic status, including levels of fasting blood glucose, among people with type 2 diabetes. Another study found that the spice increased glucose metabolism by about 20 times, which would significantly improve your ability to regulate blood sugar.