Cinnamon is a spice that comes from the branches of trees of the Cinnamomum family. It is native to the Caribbean, South America, and Southeast Asia.
People have used cinnamon since 2000 BC in Ancient Egypt, where they regarded it highly. In medieval times, doctors used it to treat conditions such as coughing, arthritis, and sore throats.
It is now the second most popular spice, after black pepper, in the United States and Europe.
As a spice, cinnamon is available in powder form or whole, as pieces of bark. People can also use cinnamon essential oil and supplements.
There are two main types of cinnamon: cassia and Ceylon. The two have different nutritional profiles.
Some studies have suggested that the compounds in cinnamon have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, and antimicrobial properties, and that they might offer protection from cancer and cardiovascular disease, among other conditions. However, more evidence is needed to confirm cinnamon’s benefits.
This article will look at the alleged health benefits of different types of cinnamon and how to include them in the diet.
Scientists have found evidence of some possible health benefits of cinnamon. These include:
Improving fungal infections
Cinnamon oil may help treat some types of fungal infections.
A 2016 laboratory study found that cinnamon oil was effective against a type of Candida that affects the bloodstream. This may be due to its antimicrobial properties.
If further research confirms these findings, cinnamon oil could play a role in treating this type of infection.
Influencing blood sugar levels
Animal studies have shown that cassia cinnamon may reduce blood sugar levels, according to a 2015 review.
The review also noted that after 60 people with type 2 diabetes consumed up to 6 grams (g) of cinnamon per day for between 40 days and 4 months, they had lower serum glucose, triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and total cholesterol.
However, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), a 2012 review concluded that cinnamon does not help lower levels of glucose or glycosylated hemoglobin A1c — which are long-term measures of blood glucose control — in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
Another small study looked at the impact of cinnamon, calcium, and zinc on blood pressure management in people with type 2 diabetes. The results did not show that this treatment had any impact.
Preventing Alzheimer’s disease
Some animal studies have suggested that cinnamon may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
According to researchers, an extract present in cinnamon bark, called CEppt, contains properties that may prevent symptoms from developing.
Mice who received the extract experienced a decrease in features of Alzheimer’s, such as amyloid plaques, and improvements in their ability to think and reason.
If further research confirms its effectiveness, this extract — but not necessarily whole cinnamon — may be useful in developing therapies for Alzheimer’s.
Protecting against HIV
In 2000, a study of extracts of Indian medicinal plants found that cinnamon may help protect against HIV.
Scientists tested 69 extracts in a laboratory. Cinnamomum cassia, or cinnamon bark, and Cardiospermum helicacabum, which is the cinnamon shoot and fruit, were most effective in reducing HIV activity.
In a 2016 laboratory study, scientists found that an extract from cinnamon showed anti-HIV activity.
This does not mean that foods containing cinnamon can treat or prevent HIV, but cinnamon extracts could one day become a part of HIV therapy.
Preventing multiple sclerosis
Experts have tested cinnamon for activity against multiple sclerosis (MS).
In one study, researchers gave mice a mixture of cinnamon powder and water and ran some tests. It appeared that cinnamon could have an anti-inflammatory effect on the central nervous system, including parts of the brain.
Studies have also suggested that cinnamon may protect regulatory T cells, or “Tregs,” which regulate immune responses.
People with MS appear to have lower levels of Tregs than people without the condition. In mouse studies, cinnamon treatment has prevented the loss of certain proteins specific to Tregs.
Scientists have also found that cinnamon treatment restored myelin levels in mice with MS. MS occurs when the myelin coating on nerve cells becomes damaged.
Lowering the effects of high fat meals
In 2011, researchers concluded that diets rich in “antioxidant spices,” including cinnamon, may help reduce the body’s negative response to eating high fat meals.
Six people consumed dishes containing 14 g of a spice blend. Blood tests showed that antioxidant activity increased by 13%, insulin response fell by 21%, and triglycerides fell by 31%.
Treating and healing chronic wounds
Research from 2015 says that scientists have found a way to package antimicrobial compounds from peppermint and cinnamon into tiny capsules that can both kill bacterial biofilms and actively promote healing.
In this way, peppermint and cinnamon could become part of a medicine for treating infected wounds.
Reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease
Various compounds in cinnamon may benefit the cardiovascular system. Cinnemaldehyde, for example, lowered blood pressure in an animal study.
In a 2014 study, rats that received long-term treatment involving cinnamon and aerobic training had better heart function than those that did not.
The authors of one article note that cinnamaldehydes may have antitumor and anticancer properties.
In the study, scientists treated mice with cancer using an extract of cinnamon and cardamom. Tests found lower levels of oxidative stress in the melanoma cells of the mice that received the treatment.
Some people use cinnamon supplements to treat digestive issues, diabetes, loss of appetite, and other conditions. It also plays a role in traditional medicine for treating bronchitis.
However, according to the NCCIH, “Studies done in people don’t support using cinnamon for any health condition.”