Spice Up Your Health – With Cinnamon!
The period of pumpkin is done and we are now tuning our salivary glands toward the season of cinnamon! Cinnamon rolls, cinnamon lattes, cinnamon cider! One of the top ten most popular spices worldwide, cinnamon is not just a way to spice up your breads or your oatmeal. It provides one of the highest antioxidant levels of any spice and can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. Cinnamon is more than just a great taste and smell – it is chock-full of many surprising and well-documented health benefits!
Cinnamon is a spice derived from the inner bark of a specific type of evergreen tree which is native to South Asia, Sri Lanka and surrounding areas. It has been in use for thousands of years – all the way back to ancient Egypt where it was used as perfume in the process of mummification. Cinnamon was often given as a gift to monarchs and gods – such was its value and rarity.
In the 16th century Portuguese traders discovered cinnamon in Sri Lanka and their desire to command the spice for their own profit led to nearly two centuries of occupation of the small island country. Interestingly, it was the rise of chocolate – coupled with an increased range of cinnamon cultivation –that finally helped end the bittersweet battles in the region.
The comforting smell of cinnamon is one of the most easily recognizable of all the spices – and the taste evokes memories of holidays and special treats. But cinnamon is also a powerhouse for health. Cinnamon contains anti-oxidant properties (combats free radicals), anti-inflammatory properties (no one likes inflammation) and anti-microbial properties (bye-bye harmful bacteria).
Cinnamon has long been used to aid in digestion. Cinnamon can calm stomach muscles and lessen nausea. And cinnamon is a carminative, a substance that relieves flatulence. And who doesn’t need that? The holiday season is prime time to mix close encounters with digestive dalliances, and we all need all the help we can get.
Cinnamon’s extensive health benefits have also been well-studied and documented in the following conditions:
- Cancer A 2010 study found that cinnamon not only showed promise as a means to inhibit tumor growth, but that it also effected the molecular and genetic makeup of tumors in such a way as to induce active cell death. A study from 2000 explored cinnamon’s effect on the Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria. The etiologic cause of many gastric carcinomas can be traced to the presence of H. pylori. In this study cinnamon extract at 80 mg/day decreased H. pylori colonization in participants.
- Diabetes A 2011 study found that cinnamon intake – both the spice and the supplement – significantly lowered the fasting blood glucose levels in people with type-2 diabetes. A 2009 study found that cinnamon had potential to mitigate the negative effects of poor sleep on insulin resistance and glucose intolerance.
- Heart disease A 2013 study found that cinnamon use demonstrated ‘notable reductions’ in both the systolic and diastolic blood pressure of patients with pre-diabetes. A Penn State study from 2011 noted that cinnamon had positive effects on the body’s ability to deal with the triglycerides produced after consuming a high-fat meal.
- Cognitive degeneration A 2013 study found that cinnamon had ‘neuroprotective’ benefits. Chronic insulin resistance can lead to memory impairment. The study found that cinnamon’s ability to improve insulin resistance throughout the body had beneficial brain benefits. A 2015 study found cinnamon extract to have memory and learning enhancement benefits and showed potential in reducing oxidative stress to the brain.
- Inflammatory Conditions A 2013 study of female athletes found a decrease in muscle soreness that can sometimes occur as a result of the inflammatory response to strenuous exercise. A 2016 study showed that cinnamon reduced inflammatory markers in such a way as to show promise in treating patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).
- Oral health A 2013 review of scientific literature documented cinnamon’s benefit as a useful weapon in the fight against oral candidiasis. Cinnamon wards off overgrowth of the Candida organism that is always present in our mouths, but that can lead to thrush if it gets out of balance. Cinnamon also has other protective benefits for the mouth, combating bacterial growth that can lead to tooth decay, bad breath or mouth infections.
Too Much of Good Thing?
Cinnamon does contain a liver toxin called coumarin. Coumarin is toxic to select sensitive individuals in high doses. Cinnamon supplements are typically made from Ceylon cinnamon, which has lower levels of coumarin.
Cinnamon dosage varies so read the package dosage instructions carefully and always follow dosage guidelines. Speak with your doctor about possible drug interactions before starting a new supplement regimen.
All of these great health benefits and it tastes great too! What more could anyone ask of an ordinary kitchen spice?
So, break out the cinnamon gum and bring your cinnamon shaker with you as you head out on your travels to spread good cheer. Maybe buy everyone a pack and hand them out so you, too, can benefit from fresh breath with all those increased hugs.
This holiday season give the gift of spicy health goodness and fresh breath to boot.
Kwon, Ho-Keun, Ji-Sun Hwang, Jae-Seon So, Choong-Gu Lee, Anupama Sahoo, Jae-Ha Ryu, Won Kyung Jeon, Byoung Seob Ko, Chang-Rok Im, Sung Haeng Lee, Zee Yong Park, and Sin-Hyeog Im. “Cinnamon Extract Induces Tumor Cell Death through Inhibition of NFκB and AP1.” BMC Cancer 10.1 (2010): n. pag. Web.
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