The characteristic flavor and aroma of cinnamon comes from a compound in the essential oil of the bark called cinnamonaldehyde.
Cinnamon is probably one of the most edible spices and should be a part of your daily diet. Of the spices, cinnamon has the most antioxidants after cloves. Just one teaspoon of this spice contains 6,956 ORAC units. It falls just below ground cloves in ORAC power. Its spicy-sweet flavor makes it the perfect touch in everything from cookies to stew. Get a huge shot of antioxidants by adding simply cinnamon and cocoa to your diet. Cinnamon is appropriate for dishes both sweet and savory.
Cinnamon is the fine inner skin of the fragrant tree bark of cinnamon and cassia trees, which grow wild throughout Asia. Although there are four main varieties of cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon and Cassia cinnamon are the most popular. Cassia cinnamon, which comes from the cassia tree, is native to Southeast Asia, especially southern China and northern Vietnam. It has the strong, spicy-sweet flavor most Americans are familiar with. The second type of cinnamon, Ceylon, has a much different flavor: a less sweet, more complex, citrusy flavor. Ceylon cinnamon is also known as old-fashioned cinnamon. The special flavors of English and Mexican sweets comes from Ceylon cinnamon.
In traditional Chinese medicine, Cassia cinnamon is used for colds, flatulence, nausea, diarrhea, and painful menstrual periods. It's also believed to improve energy, vitality, and circulation and be particularly useful for people who tend to feel hot in their upper body but have cold feet.
Recent studies have found that cinnamon may have a beneficial effect on blood sugar.
One of the first human studies was published in 2003 in a medical journal called Diabetes Care. Sixty people with type 2 diabetes took 1, 3, or 6 grams of cinnamon in pill form daily, an amount roughly equivalent to one quarter of a teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.
After 40 days, all 3 amounts of cinnamon reduced fasting blood glucose by 18 to 29%, triglycerides by 23 to 30%, LDL cholesterol by 7 to 27%, and total cholesterol by 12 to 26%.
People taking diabetes medication or any medication that affects blood glucose or insulin levels shouldn't take therapeutic doses of cinnamon unless they're under a doctor's supervision. Taking them together may have an additive effect and cause blood glucose levels to dip too low.
Also, people who have been prescribed medication to manage their blood sugar should not reduce or discontinue their dose and take cinnamon instead, especially without speaking with a doctor. Improperly treated diabetes can lead to serious complications, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and nerve damage.
Cassia cinnamon, the kind of cinnamon normally found in grocery stores and in supplement form, naturally contains a compound called coumarin. Coumarin is also found in other plants such as celery, chamomile, sweet clover, and parsley.
At high levels, coumarin can damage the liver. Coumarin can also have a "blood-thinning" effect, so cassia cinnamon supplements shouldn't be taken with prescription anti-clotting medication, such as Coumadin (warfarin), or by people with bleeding disorders.
Cinnamon can also be found in a concentrated oil form that comes from cinnamon bark. Some of these products are not intended for consumption, but instead are used for aromatherapy essential oils. Also, the oil is highly potent and an overdose can depress the central nervous system. People should not take the oil to treat a condition unless under the close supervision of a qualified health professional.
Pregnant women should avoid excessive amounts of cinnamon and shouldn't take it as a supplement.
Khan A, Safdar M, Ali Khan MM, Khattak KN, Anderson RA. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 26.12 (2003): 3215-3218.
Verspohl EJ, Bauer K, Neddermann E. Antidiabetic effect of Cinnamomum cassia and Cinnamomum zeylanicum in vivo and in vitro. Phytotherapy Research. 19.3 (2005): 203-206.
Always consult your doctor. This site is for information purposes and does not prescribe products. Confirm all details with a specialist (see disclaimer).