verum) comes from the bark of a small tree native to Asia, and it’s
been revered for its healing power for nearly 5,000 years, making it
one of the world’s oldest natural remedies. Chefs around the world
rely on cinnamon for the distinctive flavor that enhances dishes,
both sweet and savory. Today, cinnamon has captured the attention of
researchers who’ve learned that it can be a powerful tool for
helping balance blood sugar.
rooted in history
The first healer to write about cinnamon back in 2800 BC or so was
Shen Nung, known as the father of Chinese medicine. In Egypt,
cinnamon was among the several spices used for mummification. The
Phoenicians and Hebrews called it “qinamon,” and it was mentioned in
the Hebrew Bible in Exodus (chapter 30, verse 23).
By the time the Europeans
discovered cinnamon around the first century, it was so prized that
350 grams of the stuff cost 15 times more than silver. In the Middle
Ages, cinnamon was used as a remedy for coughs and indigestion,
though only by the wealthy—it was still wildly expensive.
Historically, healers have recommended the spice for an amazing and
diverse collection of human ills, including kidney trouble,
bed-wetting, morning sickness, rheumatism, heart pain, warts, and
what’s in it?
Cinnamon is rich in essential oils that contain active medicinal
compounds, including cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, and cinnamyl
alcohol. Collectively, these have significant antibacterial and
antifungal action—so much so that research shows that cinnamon can
be as effective as chemical food preservatives. Cinnamaldehyde
prevents blood platelets from clumping, which means that cinnamon
can help protect you against strokes and heart attacks. Cinnamon is
also known as a powerful antioxidant that helps lessen inflammation.
what science says
Recently, scientists discovered that cinnamon lowers blood sugar
levels in people who have type 2 diabetes and reduces heart disease
risks for overweight people. In 2009, the American College of
Nutrition published a study that helped clarify how cinnamon
accomplishes this. In the study, conducted by a researcher from the
U.S. Department of Agriculture, 22 overweight and obese people were
given either 250 milligrams of cinnamon or a placebo twice a day for
12 weeks. The fasting blood sugar of those in the cinnamon group
dropped from 114 to 102 mg/dL—a very healthy decline. The fasting
blood sugar of the people in the placebo group increased a bit, from
112 to 113 mg/dL.
Many of cinnamon’s traditional uses have been put to the test of
science. Recent studies, for example, demonstrate its abi to
stin7tulate the gastrointestinal tract, lending support to folk
healers’ long-held belief that the spice eases gas, nausea,
vomiting, and other forms of gastroiutestinal distress. That
cinnamon is also a powerful antiseptic is no longer simply a matter
of folk wisdom. A Japanese study demonstrated its ability to kill
fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms, including the bacteria
that cause botulism and staph infections.
Find powered cinnamon in your supermarket’s spice aisle. Cinnamon
‘sticks” are simply pieces of bark that have been stripped from
young trees and curl as they are dried. Pulverizing the dried bark
produces cinnamon powder. Sprinkle cinnamon freely in cereal,
yogurt, stews, and baked goods. Aim to get at least i/ teaspoon per
day for a therapeutic benefit.
Good to Know
Some people can be allergic to cinnamon, but the amounts used in
cooking are generally considered safe. In large doses, cinnamon can
cause gastrointestinal problems and kidney damage.
Cinnamon essential oil can cause redness and burning when it comes
in contact with the skin. Never take the oil internally can cause
nausea, vomiting, and kidney damage. Pregnant women and people with
stomach or intestinal ulcers should not use cinnamon medicinally.