The smell of cinnamon is one of those evocative scents that can instantly transport you to another place. It reminds us of festive holidays, rich puddings, sweet treats, and earthy curry dishes. In fact, we love it so much that we buy candles and home fragrances that are scented with this rich, exotic aroma. There are many benefits to consuming cinnamon which you might not already know. Research is ongoing into the health benefits of cinnamon and more human studies are required, but the results of various studies have been very promising so far. Hopefully, in the future, cinnamon or extracts taken from it will be used within medicine to protect and improve our health.
The Health Benefits of Cinnamon
Cinnamon comes from the inner parts of the bark of the Cinnamomum tree. It has a rich, spicy smell, a warm, earthy taste, and a beautiful deep orange-brown color. Let’s take a look at six often surprising health benefits of cinnamon and how you could harness them.
- Cinnamon contains Antioxidants – As we age, our cells become damaged by free radicals. Antioxidants can help reduce free radicals and the oxidative damage sustained to the cells. When experts investigated the antioxidizing power of various spices, they found a surprising winner; cinnamon. Cinnamon contains substances such as polyphenols, which are important micronutrients with a powerful antioxidant effect. They are found in many plant-based foods and are believed to have a wide range of health benefits, from improving digestion to aiding in cardiovascular (heart) and neurological (brain) health.
- Cinnamon Could Protect the Heart – Scientists studying the effects of cinnamon are hopeful that cinnamon may be able to reduce levels of unhealthy or ‘bad’ cholesterol, also known as LDL cholesterol. Animal studies have suggested that it could also raise levels of ‘good’ cholesterol, known as HDL cholesterol. We all need the good cholesterol because it acts to remove the bad cholesterol from the body. We want lower levels of bad cholesterol because it contributes to a buildup of fatty deposits in the body, and this can dramatically increase the risk of heart disease. Heart health is vitally important as we get older, so reducing bad cholesterol is especially important. There is some evidence to suggest that cinnamon may aid in lowering blood pressure, which would add significantly to its role as a protector of heart health. However, while these studies are at an early stage, the Mayo Clinic urges caution and offers alternative ways to reduce cholesterol.
- Cinnamon, Insulin Sensitivity and Diabetes – Type 2 Diabetes occurs when a your body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin, a hormone that works to stabilize the blood glucose level. This can have many serious health repercussions, and Type 2 Diabetes is one of the most serious public health issues that we face in the western world. However, there have been some very positive results in studies looking at how cinnamon may be able to reduce the body’s sensitivity to insulin.
One particular cinnamon study states, “components of cinnamon may be important in the alleviation and prevention of the signs and symptoms of metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular and related diseases.” While again, more research is required; this is incredible research and offers hope for the future treatment of conditions such as metabolic disease and diabetes.
- Cinnamon is an Anti-Inflammatory – There has been a lot of interest in recent years in the anti-inflammatory properties of a wide range of spices. Cinnamon may have powerful anti-inflammatory abilities, which could be harnessed to reduce inflammation in the body. This is reflected in the many traditional uses of cinnamon; it has been used by many different cultural traditions to treat illness and improve symptoms of pain. The anti-inflammatory effects of cinnamon are likely to be a result of how rich in polyphenols they are.
- Cinnamon has an Antifungal Effect – The substance that gives cinnamon its strong smell and taste is called cinnamaldehyde. This has been shown to reduce the action of fungal compounds. Cinnamon oil is sometimes used as an alternative to conventional treatments for fungal infections, but as it may not be equally effective in all types of fungal infections, it is best to seek medical advice for specific infections. Much research is ongoing into how extracts of cinnamon could be used to treat or prevent this type of infection. Further studies would demonstrate whether cinnamon oil or medicinal preparations made with extracts of cinnamon could be created to combat fungal infections.
- Cinnamon and Digestive Health – One of the most interesting potential health benefits of cinnamon is the benefit it could offer to the digestive system. Cinnamon may boost the healthy prebiotic bacteria in the gut, aiding in digestion and absorption of vitamins and minerals. In fact, cinnamon has been used as a traditional remedy for upset stomach and gastric problems for many years, all over the world. Cinnamon is often found in teas designed to improve digestive function and help with trapped wind.
Lots of very exciting research is ongoing into the powerful benefits that cinnamon might be able to offer, and many people add cinnamon to their diet in limited amounts to enjoy some of its purported health benefits. There are also cinnamon supplements available that can be taken (always on the advice of a medical professional). Remember that it is possible for some individuals to be sensitive or even allergic to cinnamon, so exercise caution and always consume in moderation. Why not try adding cinnamon to a warming stew, sprinkling it on porridge, or adding a pinch to a revitalizing smoothie?
For some more information on the promising health benefits of cinnamon, you can check out the following interesting study that shows how promising this amazing food really is: ‘Cinnamon: A Multifaceted Medicinal Plant.’