What are its benefits?
The familiar, warming flavor of cinnamon is enough of a benefit to include it in our shake blends, but there are many studies indicating its health benefits:
- Cinnamon contains large amounts of highly potent polyphenol antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory effects. The Arthritis Organization includes cinnamon (along with black pepper, turmeric, and ginger) on its checklist, “Shopping for Your Microbiome”, as part of their guidance on the gut-arthritis connection. Evidence suggests that autoimmune diseases may develop when microbes in the gut, mouth or skin send the wrong signals to the immune system.
- Studies of people with early rheumatoid arthritis (RA) show their microbiota composition is often less healthy than those without RA. One explanation for this is the ‘leaky gut’ hypothesis, in which the gut becomes more permeable. While this mechanism is not certain, researchers feel it’s clear that microbes play a significant role in immune regulation and that alterations in microbiome composition can cause an abnormal immune response.
- One study in mice showed that the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects of cinnamon essential oil (CEO) enriched with cinnamaldehyde contributed to protection against inflammatory bowel disease in mice fed the compound. These mice had an improved diversity and richness of intestinal microbiota, and had an improved microbiota composition with a decrease in opportunistic bacteria and an increase in beneficial bacteria.
- Cinnamon has been shown to increase sensitivity to insulin, a hormone which regulates metabolism and is essential for transporting blood sugar from the bloodstream to the cells. Studies have indicated that cinnamon can reduce the insulin resistance seen in some diabetics. One mechanism of cinnamon’s anti-diabetic effect may be that cinnamon decreases the amount of glucose that enters the bloodstream after a meal by interfering with some digestive enzymes. This slows the breakdown of carbohydrates in the digestive tract. Secondly, a compound in cinnamon (methylhydroxychalcone polymer) can act on cells by mimicking insulin, improving glucose uptake by the cells. Studies indicate that cinnamon may lower fasting blood sugar levels by 10–29%.
- Cinnamon may improve some key risk factors for heart disease, including cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. In people with type 2 diabetes, cinnamon has been shown to have beneficial effects on blood markers — reducing levels of total cholesterol, “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while “good” HDL cholesterol remained stable or, in another study, improved. In animal studies, cinnamon has been shown to reduce blood pressure.
- Cinnamon is high in cinnamaldehyde, which is thought to be responsible for some of cinnamon’s health benefits. Cinnamaldehyde has a role as a hypoglycemic agent, a vasodilator agent, and an antifungal agent.
What is it?
Cinnamon is made by cutting the stems of cinnamon trees. The inner bark is then extracted and dried into strips that curl into rolls, called cinnamon sticks. These sticks can be ground to form cinnamon powder.
Cinnamon provides a wide variety of nutrients. It is rich in fiber and manganese and contains calcium, iron, vitamin K, vitamin E, niacin, vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and copper.