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Benefits of Cinnamon

Updated: Jan 5

Scientific Name: Cinnamomum zeylanicum or Cinnamomum zeylanicum

Common Names: Cassia bark, Sweet cinnamon

Family: Lauraceae (Laurel)

herbal picture of cinnamon

There are two common types of cinnamon -- cassia and Ceylon. Although cassia cinnamon is the most common variety, Ceylon cinnamon is known as “true” cinnamon (1). Cinnamon trees originated from Asia and can grow 66 feet tall, producing ​​small yellow or green (sometimes reddish-pink) flowers and berry fruits (2). Cinnamon dates back to 2800 BC when our ancestors used it for anointment, embalming, and various ailments. Back then, cinnamon was rare and valuable, often regarded as a gift fit for kings in Ancient Egypt (1).


 

Benefits of Cinnamon


Rich in Antioxidants

Several studies have been done on cinnamon’s ability to act as an antioxidant. Antioxidants can help fight damage from harmful free radicals. The buildup of free radicals has been linked to chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease (3). When supplementing cinnamon, studies have demonstrated a significant increase in the blood’s antioxidant levels while reducing inflammatory markers (4). The antioxidant effects of cinnamon are so robust it can be used as a natural food preservative (5).


Antibacterial Properties

An antibacterial property is when a substance, or in this case, an herb, can destroy or suppress the growth and reproduction of bacteria (6). Studies suggest cinnamon can inhibit the growth of certain bacteria, including Listeria and Salmonella (7,8). Cinnamon’s antibacterial properties are believed to be due to bioactive phytochemicals such as cinnamaldehyde and eugenol (9). Studies have found the antimicrobial effects of cinnamon may even help prevent tooth decay and reduce bad breath (10).


Antifungal Properties

Aside from antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, cinnamon has antifungal properties. An antifungal property is when a substance, or in this case, an herb, can fight the growth of specific pathogens that could harm your health, such as ringworm, athlete's foot, tinea versicolor, toenail fungus, and jock itch (11). Studies confirm cinnamon’s antifungal effects against Candida albicans and Candida (12). Additionally, test-tube studies suggest that cinnamon oil could help kill certain fungi, especially those that cause respiratory tract infections (13).


Antiviral Properties

Aside from cinnamon’s antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties, it also has antiviral properties. An antiviral property is when a substance, or in this case, an herb, can kill a virus or suppress the virus' ability to replicate, multiply, or reproduce (14). One study found cinnamon extracted from Cassia varieties beneficial against HIV-1 (15). Another study demonstrated cinnamon’s ability to protect against other viruses, including influenza and Dengue (16).

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Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Cinnamon is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to its antioxidant compounds, which can also reduce inflammation, especially from free radical damage. Chronic inflammation has been linked with many diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, asthma, and certain cancers (17). Studies demonstrate cinnamon’s antioxidants have potent anti-inflammatory properties (18,19). One study found that cinnamon bark essential oil significantly inhibited the production of several protein biomarkers involved in inflammation and tissue remodeling (20).


May Help Control Diabetes & Blood Sugar Levels

As of 2020, 34.2 million (1 in 10) Americans have diabetes, and another 88 million (1 in 3) Americans have prediabetes (21). On the bright side, studies have found cinnamon to have anti-diabetic properties (22). Studies have found cinnamon interferes with numerous digestive enzymes responsible for slowing the breakdown of carbohydrates in your digestive tract (23). Additionally, studies have found a compound in cinnamon may mimic the effects of insulin, improving the uptake of sugar into the cells (24). Furthermore, some studies suggest that cinnamon may reduce insulin resistance (25,26).

May Promote Heart Health

Unfortunately, heart disease is the world's number 1 cause of death (27). Due to the incredibly complex determinants of heart disease and various possible contributions, it's hard to pinpoint an exact way to prevent it. Still, you can at least take steps to lower your overall risk. Cinnamon may be an answer, as it’s demonstrated significant blood pressure reduction when consumed consistently for at least eight weeks. It has been proposed as a hypotensive supplement in hypertension management (28,29).


Blood pressure aside, one review found supplementing with at least 1.5 grams of cinnamon per day in people with metabolic disease reduced triglycerides, total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and blood sugar levels (30). Another review demonstrated cinnamon’s ability to reduce triglyceride and total cholesterol levels (31).


May Improve Brain Health

Many studies have been conducted in test tubes, animals, and even humans around the possibility that cinnamon may aid various brain disorders, especially neurodegenerative diseases. Neurodegenerative diseases affect millions of people worldwide and are characterized by progressive loss of the structure or function of nerve cells (32). Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are the most common neurodegenerative diseases (33). In animal studies, cinnamon helped protect neurons, normalized neurotransmitter levels, and improved motor function in mice with Parkinson’s disease (34). Additionally, certain compounds found in cinnamon have demonstrated the ability to inhibit the buildup of a protein called tau in the brain, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease (35,36).

benefits of astragalus (May alleviate symptoms of chemotherapy, May support the immune system, May improve allergy symptoms, May lower blood sugar levels, May support kidney health, May support heart health, Anticancer properties)

⚠️ Warning: The Holistic Hipppie is not a functional medicine practitioner. The FDA has not evaluated these statements. This content is not medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or replace medical guidance. The Holistic Hipppie assumes no liability for the application of the information discussed.


Cassia Vs. Ceylon Cinnamon

As I said earlier, there are two common types of cinnamon -- cassia and Ceylon. Cassia, or regular cinnamon, is the most common variety found in supermarkets. Cassia can be harmful in large amounts, while Ceylon cinnamon, or “true” cinnamon, is brimming with health benefits. Let’s take a deeper look at the differences between the two types of cinnamon.


Cassia Cinnamon

Cassia cinnamon or Cinnamomum aromaticum comes from the Cinnamomum cassia tree, native to East and South Asia (37). Cassia tends to be a dark brown-red color with a thicker, coarser texture with scroll-like sticks and a stronger, more bitter flavor (38).


Historically, cassia cinnamon has been used in Chinese medicine (39). Today, cassia is more commonly used for cooking, especially savory dishes. Cassia has a few medicinal benefits, like antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antihyperglycemic properties (40,41,42). Aside from these benefits, some risks are associated with cassia, especially when using large doses, like making medicine.


Cassia contains high levels of coumarin, about 7-18 milligrams per teaspoon (43). Toxicology and risk assessments demonstrate a tolerable daily intake of about 0.05 mg of coumarin per pound of body weight (44). In other words, 7.5 mg of coumarin is the tolerable daily intake for a 150-pound person, yet a teaspoon of cassia cinnamon contains upwards of 18 mg.


We’ve all seen the liver-damaging effects of acetaminophen, but did you know cassia cinnamon can be just as harmful? Consuming too much coumarin can be detrimental to liver health, inducing liver toxicity and damage (45,46). It doesn’t take long for cassia cinnamon to induce liver damage. In one case study, an older woman developed a sudden liver infection, including liver damage, after one week of supplementation (47).


Aside from liver damage, cassia cinnamon’s high levels of coumarin may also increase the risk of cancer. In animal studies, consuming too much coumarin has resulted in the development of cancerous tumors in the liver and lungs (48,49). Although the cancer-causing properties of coumarin have only been studied in animals, some scientists believe over time, coumarin can damage human DNA, increasing the risk of cancer (50).


Interestingly, cassia cinnamon is regulated or banned in other countries (51). Meanwhile, the FDA banned coumarin as an additive in the United States, but cassia cinnamon is not regulated (52). Although cassia is much cheaper and is considered safe in moderation like food, I recommend using Ceylon cinnamon, especially when making medicine.


Ceylon Cinnamon

Contrarily, Ceylon cinnamon or Cinnamomum zeylanicum comes from the Cinnamomum verum tree, originating in Sri Lanka and Southern India (53). Ceylon tends to be a dark brown-tan color, a less coarse texture with perfect circle-shaped sticks, and a sweeter flavor (38).


First and foremost, Ceylon cinnamon contains trace amounts of coumarin (54). In other words, no need to worry about liver damage or increased risk of cancer. Actually, quite the opposite. Unlike cassia, which may increase the risk of cancer, Ceylon has anti-cancer properties, unlike cassia, which may increase cancer risk. Although the evidence is limited to test-tube and animal studies, studies suggest that cinnamon extracts have anti-cancer properties (55,56,57). In vitro, cinnamaldehyde reduced the growth and spread of ovarian cancer cells (58). In animal studies, cinnamaldehyde blocked the expression of certain proteins involved in cancer growth in mice with ovarian cancer (59). A final study concluded that cinnamaldehyde is a potential novel drug for treating and preventing breast cancer (60).


Contraindications & Interactions

Like always, it’s important to understand the safety profile of herbs, even if it is a natural substance like cinnamon. With that said, let’s go over the basics regarding Ceylon cinnamon. Surprisingly, the mainstream has no major concerns about cinnamon. They warn of irritation, allergies, low blood sugar, and their potential to affect how some medications work (61).


According to trusted herbalist Richard Whelan, cinnamon in food, beverages, or herbal extracts isn’t problematic for any age, pregnancy, breastfeeding, etc. However, cinnamon as an essential oil or a concentrate needs to be treated with great caution as there is a real and high possibility of allergic reactions of the skin or mucous membranes. This is most likely because of the cinnamic aldehyde, which is known to be a potent contact sensitizer (62).


When it comes to cinnamon essential oil, according to aromatherapist Wendy Robbins, essential oils should never be taken internally or applied undiluted. Wendy Robbins indicates that the bark and the leaf oil are low risks for mucous membrane irritation, may inhibit blood clotting, and pose a drug interaction hazard. She mentions cinnamon bark oil may cause embryotoxicity and is contraindicated in pregnancy and breastfeeding. She warns there is a high risk of skin sensitization with the bark oil and recommends a dermal maximum of 0.07% for the bark oil and 0.065% for the leaf oil (63). Neither cinnamon bark nor leaf is safe for children, dogs, horses, pregnancy, or breastfeeding.

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How I Use Cinnamon

When I make my own products herbal remedies, I try to buy herbs locally. When buying locally isn’t an option, I typically purchase from one of the following brands I trust:

I haven't had the opportunity to make herbal remedies with cinnamon, but I enjoy a few premade herbal products.


Products Recommended with Cinnamon Ingredients

  • Earthley’s Anti-Inflammatory was created for the common inflammation that can flare up from low immunity or an illness. This herbal extract helps to calm the body, reduce inflammation, and provide immune support. It can even help improve your mood!

  • Earthley's Candida Cleanse helps to fight yeast and candida overgrowth to restore gut health. Made with 100% natural ingredients, this herbal tincture is safe and effective in bringing the relief you’ve been looking for.

  • Earthley’s Castor Oil Detox (Warm Formula) is an herbal-infused castor oil that can help detox your liver, relieve the pain of cysts, reduce joint pain, promote lymphatic health, and more.

  • Earthley's Digest-Support {Digestive Bitters} relieves gas, bloating, and digestive distress. These natural bitters promote better nutrient absorption –alleviating symptoms like gas, bloating, indigestion, constipation, and diarrhea.

  • Earthley’s Elderberry Syrup DIY Kits make it easier than ever! No need to overbuy herbs or spend time researching the best recipe. Simply boil in water and add honey, syrup, or a sweetener of your choice.

  • Earthley’s Feel Better Fast is an herbal tincture created to quickly knock out coughs, sniffles, and upset tummies. Rather than cover up your symptoms with OTC meds that have side effects, nourish yourself with vitamins and minerals to help your body actually heal itself quicker!

  • Earthley's Healthy Heart is an herbal supplement that supports the heart and a proper immune response. This tincture is rich in anti-inflammatory properties and vitamin C. It can help lower blood sugar and blood pressure, increase insulin activity, and even help with symptoms of type 2 diabetes.

  • Earthley's Lunamore is for special metabolic support and a woman’s moon cycle. This tincture provides herbal support for hormone balance, helps to reduce cramps and cysts, and supports healthy blood sugar levels.

  • Earthley's Spice Tea is perfect for cinnamon and spice lovers. This tea combines green rooibos, ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric to create a warm, tasty blend. Rich in antioxidants, this tea has cognition-enhancing abilities and also anti-nausea effects, which are great for soothing an upset tummy.

  • Plant Therapy's Cinnamon Bark Essential Oil can help during times of seasonal illnesses. It is also a great addition to essential oil blends as it adds a great warm, spicy aroma to other essential oils in the citrus, mint, or wood families.

  • Plant Therapy's Cinnamon Leaf Essential Oil is a perfect contender for getting in the holiday spirit. For many years, Cinnamon Leaf has also been used as part of a cleaning blend or to help soothe aching pains associated with aging.

  • Simply Earth's Cinnamon Leaf Essential Oil is often used for colds, flu, digestive issues, menstrual complaints, and as a general stimulant. Believed to be one of the oldest plants on Earth, it is still very popular for its various health benefits.

  • The Brother's Apothecary's CBD Blue Moon Milk is carefully blended with freshly pressed coconut milk powder, low-glycemic coconut sugar, our Apothecary Moon Blend (including Jujube, Chamomile & Polygala), and an autumnal-inspired blend of five spices.

  • The Brother's Apothecary's CBD Chai Awakening Tea is crafted with simple ingredients like Darjeeling tea plus spices including ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves & nutmeg. Each cup provides a full-bodied, spicy, and tantalizing drinking experience. More spicy than sweet, with a unique toasted flavor that’s among the most popular at The Brothers Apothecary.

  • The Brother's Apothecary's CBD Horchaga is blended to taste like your traditional horchata, with a smooth rice flavor alongside sweet cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Although horchaga includes a whopping 1 gram of bioavailable chaga mushroom per serving (with the antioxidant equivalent to about 500 blueberries), you won’t get any gritty bitter taste.

  • The Brother's Apothecary's CBD Lover's Latte is a superfood creation made with nutty coconut milk, rose petals, Ashwagandha, and a touch of cocoa and cinnamon. This latte mixes into a uniquely vibrant pink tonic and is the perfect couple’s companion. It’s caffeine-free, and the powerful herbal ingredients inspire a sense of focus, energy, and clarity.

  • The Brother's Apothecary's CBD Pumpkin Chai Tea is a seasonally spectacular blend of organic black tea, traditional & delicious Chai spices, and real pumpkin. A robust, tantalizing drinking experience reminiscent of fall (but delicious all year round!).

  • The Brother's Apothecary's CBD Spiced Cacao is a uniquely rich, distinctly spiced cocoa that’s inspired by traditional recipes. Made with Peruvian cacao, coconut, bold spices, and a touch of sweetness to make a uniquely dense superfood drink.

Have you ever used cinnamon? If so, what's your favorite way to use it?

Sarena-Rae Santos

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