Cinnamon has been used for thousands of years as a spice and medicine. It’s mentioned in the Bible as an ingredient in the oils used to anoint Moses, and as a token of friendship. Mourners burned cinnamon on funeral pyres in ancient Rome in order to cover up the smell of burning flesh.
In ancient Egypt, cinnamon was used as a medicine and an embalming agent, and at times it was even considered more precious than gold. It was also popular in China, and is mentioned in one of the earliest books on Chinese botanical medicine. 1
Slow Carbohydrate Absorption
Improve Insulin Regulation
Today cinnamon is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine (traditional Indian medicine) to treat diabetes in India. And recently Richard Anderson and his team at the US Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland, discovered the scientific evidence that demonstrates how cinnamon serves as an important antioxidant, and is beneficial in the prevention and control of glucose intolerance and diabetes. 2
How does cinnamon work?
Data from the Agricultural Research Unit in Maryland was first published in the New Scientist in August 2000. The researchers found that cinnamon triggered the ability of fat cells in diabetic individuals to respond to insulin, and it also enhanced the removal of glucose.
Cinnamon contains a water-soluble polyphenol compound called MHCP (methylhydroxy chalcone polymer), which is partly responsible for its health benefits. In unpublished test tube experiments, researchers found that MHCP mimics insulin, activates its receptor, and works synergistically with insulin in cells. When mice were given MHCP, their glucose levels fell dramatically. 3
Then, to see how it would work on humans, Alam Khan, who was a postdoctoral fellow in Anderson’s lab, organized a study in Pakistan. Volunteers with type II diabetes were given one, three, or six grams of cinnamon powder a day in capsules after meals.
All responded within weeks, with blood sugar levels that were on average 20% lower than a control group. Some even achieved normal blood sugar levels. Blood sugar started creeping up again after the diabetics stopped taking cinnamon.
“The researchers found that cinnamon triggered the ability of fat cells in diabetic individuals to respond to insulin, and it also enhanced the removal of glucose.”
Cinnamon has additional benefits. It also lowered blood levels of fats and “bad” cholesterol, which are also partly controlled by insulin. And in test tube experiments, it neutralized free radicals which are elevated in diabetics. 4
Anderson’s team found that cinnamon contains antioxidants called polyphenols that boost levels of three key proteins. Those proteins are important in insulin signaling, glucose transport, and inflammatory response. In another study, the scientists investigated cinnamon’s chemistry and found that proanthocyanidin—a type of polyphenol—may have insulin-like properties. 2
“The researchers concluded that cinnamon might be a valuable candidate for a new anti-diabetic drug. 5”
Additionally, a group at the University of Calgary, Canada, found that phenolic acids, which are a major component of cinnamon extract, lowers blood glucose levels by enhancing glucose transport. The researchers concluded that cinnamon might be a valuable candidate for a new anti-diabetic drug. 5
Why should I take a cinnamon extract supplement when I can add the spice to my food?
The good news is that you don’t have to eat fat-laden cinnamon buns or apple pie to get your daily fill of this amazing spice.
And while sprinkling cinnamon on your toast or cereal in the morning will help support healthy blood glucose levels, taking a full spectrum extract will enable you to get all the potential benefits of cinnamon in a concentrated, easy-to-take form.
What should I look for in a cinnamon supplement?
Most products contain just a water-soluble cinnamon extract and not the important fat-soluble cinnamon components. It’s important to take a supplement that provides the full spectrum of cinnamon’s active phytochemicals, including both the water-soluble and the important fat-soluble compounds including cinnamaldehyde.
Insulin resistance—also called Syndrome X—is a silent condition that increases the chances of developing diabetes and heart disease. After you eat, the food is broken down into glucose, the simple sugar that is the main source of energy for the body’s cells. But your cells cannot use glucose without insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, which directs cells to remove excess glucose from the bloodstream. Insulin helps the cells take in glucose and convert it to energy. When the pancreas does not make enough insulin or the body is unable to use the insulin that is present, the cells can’t use glucose. Excess glucose builds up in the bloodstream, setting the stage for diabetes.
Diabetes can go undetected for up to 40 years, or until serious complications begin to surface and the pancreas just can’t keep up with the demand for insulin. Some people produce two, three, or four times the normal amount of insulin. Yet, because the cells have lost their sensitivity to the hormone, they require even more of it to maintain normal glucose levels. The end result is often type II diabetes.[ads]
Type II diabetes kills 100 million people prematurely each year. In patients with the condition, fat and muscle cells gradually lose their ability to respond to insulin. As a result, glucose builds up in the blood, causing symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss, blurred vision and neuropathy (resulting in numbness in extremities), and circulatory problems.
The good news is that cinnamon extract dramatically helps to reduce risk of insulin resistance and type II diabetes.
In addition to the studies already mentioned, other recent studies found that:
- Cinnamaldehyde, a fat soluble cinnamon compound, decreased blood glucose levels and total cholesterol and triglyceride levels in diabetic laboratory animals. 6
- Cinnamon bark extract improved glucose metabolism in animals that were fed fructose. 7
- Cinnamon extract given at different doses to diabetic animal models for six weeks had a regulatory role in blood glucose level and lipids, and it may have also exerted a blood glucose-suppressing effect by improving insulin sensitivity or slowing absorption of carbohydrates in the small intestine. 8
In an evaluation of the antibacterial activity of 21 plant essential oils against six bacterial species, cinnamon came out on top. The selected essential oils were screened against six bacteria: Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Proteus vulgaris, Bacillus subtilis, and Staphylococcus aureus. Cinnamon oil was found to inhibit all of them, even at low concentrations, and was determined to be a good source of antibacterial agents. 9
- When cinnamon extract was tested against a resistant Candida species in five patients with HIV infection and oral candidiasis, three of the five patients exhibited improvement of their Candida infection. 10
- A recent Chinese study of cinnamon extracts found they were effective in inhibiting the growth of various bacteria including: Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, Enterobacter aerogenes, Proteus vulgaris, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Vibrio cholerae, Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Samonella typhymurium, and fungi including yeasts (four species of Candida, C. albicans, C. tropicalis, C. glabrata, and C. krusei), and molds. 11
As an anti-inflammatory agent, cinnamon may be useful in preventing or mitigating arthritis as well as cardiovascular disease. And as scientists increasingly understand the relationship between inflammation and insulin function in Alzheimer’s (causing some to refer to the neurodegenerative disease as “type 3 diabetes”), cinnamon’s ability to block inflammation and enhance insulin function may make it useful in combating that disease as well. 12
“As an anti-inflammatory agent, cinnamon may be useful in preventing or mitigating arthritis as well as cardiovascular disease.”
Helps regulate blood pressure
Many nutrients and nutraceuticals—including cinnamon extract—that enhance insulin sensitivity and/or reduce circulating insulin concentrations are capable of lowering blood pressure. When cinnamon was added to the diets of laboratory animals that included sucrose for 3-4 weeks, their blood pressure was reduced to the same levels as the animals that ate a non-sucrose diet. 13
Cinnamon is found in household spice racks around the world, and you’ve probably enjoyed its flavoring all your life. Now, thanks to scientific research and the nutritional supplement industry, you can also reap its full spectrum of health benefits in the form of an easy to take daily supplement that provides a concentrated form of cinnamon’s water-soluble and fat-soluble phytochemicals.
- Corn, Charles. The Scents of Eden: A Narrative of the Spice Trade (New York: Kodansha International, 1998), p. 202.
- Anderson RA, Broadhurst CL, Polansky MM, Schmidt WF, Khan A, Flanagan VP, Schoene NW, Graves DJ. Isolation and characterization of polyphenol type-A polymers from cinnamon with insulin-like biological activity. J Agric Food Chem. 2004 Jan 14;52(1):65-70.
- Cinnamon spice produces healthier blood, Nov. 24, 2003, Newscientist.com.
- Khan A, Safdar M, Ali Khan MM, Khattak KN, Anderson RA. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2003 Dec;26(12):3215-8.
- Kim W, Khil LY, Clark R, Bok SH, Kim EE, Lee S, Jun HS, Yoon JW. Naphthalenemethyl ester derivative of dihydroxyhydrocinnamic acid, a component of cinnamon, increases glucose disposal by enhancing translocation of glucose transporter 4. Diabetologia. 2006 Oct;49(10):2437-48. Epub 2006 Aug 9.
- Subash Babu P, Prabuseenivasan S, Ignacimuthu S. Cinnamaldehyde-A potential antidiabetic agent. Phytomedicine. 2007 Jan;14(1):15-22. Epub 2006 Nov 30.
- Kannappan S, Jayaraman T, Rajasekar P, Ravichandran MK, Anuradha CV. Cinnamon bark extract improves glucose metabolism and lipid profile in the fructose-fed rat. Singapore Med J. 2006 Oct;47(10):858-63.
- Kim SH, Hyun SH, Choung SY. Anti-diabetic effect of cinnamon extract on blood glucose in db/db mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 2006 Mar 8;104(1-2):119-23. Epub 2005 Oct 5.
- Prabuseenivasan S, Jayakumar M, Ignacimuthu S. In vitro antibacterial activity of some plant essential oils. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2006 Nov 30;6:39.
- Quale JM, Landman D, Zaman MM, Burney S, Sathe SS. In vitro activity of Cinnamomum zeylanicum against azole resistant and sensitive Candida species and a pilot study of cinnamon for oral candidiasis. Am J Chin Med. 1996;24(2):1039.
- Ooi LS, Li Y, Kam SL, Wang H, Wong EY, Ooi VE. Antimicrobial activities of cinnamon oil and cinnamaldehyde from the Chinese medicinal herb Cinnamomum cassia Blume. Am J Chin Med. 2006;34(3):511-22.
- McCarty MF Toward prevention of Alzheimers disease–potential nutraceutical strategies for suppressing the production of amyloid beta peptides . Med Hypotheses. 2006;67(4):682-97. Epub 2006 Jul 7.
- Preuss HG, Echard B, Polansky MM, Anderson R. Whole cinnamon and aqueous extracts ameliorate sucrose-induced blood pressure elevations in spontaneously hypertensive rats . J Am Coll Nutr. 2006 Apr;25(2):144-50.