Cinnamon is hailed all around the world for its unique aroma and potent flavor. But did you know that it offers a wide array of wonderful health benefits too?
A beloved spice that is commonly used in a wide variety of cuisine, from pastries (cinnamon buns!) to stew to teas, cinnamon is likely to be found in almost everyone’s spice cupboard.
Native to Sri Lanka, cinnamon (specifically Ceylon cinnamon) is a spice that is made from the inner bark of evergreen trees belonging to the genus Cinnamomum.1 In its whole form, also known as cinnamon sticks, it looks much like a rolled cigar, and is also ground into a powder.
Here are 15 of the top health benefits that Ceylon cinnamon has to offer.
1. Rich in Antioxidants
Cinnamon boasts powerful antioxidant properties. A study that looked at the antioxidant activity of cinnamon extracts showed that various extracts of cinnamon, including etheric, methanolic, and aqueous extracts, have substantial antioxidant effects.2
Cinnamaldehyde is the bioactive compound that gives cinnamon its scent and flavor. Multiple studies have shown that cinnamaldehyde has notable antioxidant activities, and more specifically it can help prevent fat oxidation.3, 4
2. Has Anti-inflammatory Properties
Another of cinnamons health promoting benefits is its potent anti-inflammatory properties. In a study done on the anti-inflammatory activity of 115 plant and mushroom based foods, cinnamon was one of top results.5
3. Boosts Cognitive Function & Protects Brain Health
Cinnamon can boost cognitive activity and offers protection against brain damage and neurogenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
This spice can improve memory, concentration, alertness, and visual-motor speed. Additionally, the smell of cinnamon alone has the potential to increase alertness.6
4. Contains Manganese
Manganese is found in relatively good amounts in cinnamon. One teaspoon of cinnamon contains 22% of the daily recommended value of manganese.7 This mineral plays a number of roles in the body, some of which include supporting bone health and thyroid function. It also aids in the metabolism of macronutrients and helps regulate blood sugar levels.
5. May Lower Cancer Risk
Cinnamon may help prevent and treat cancer, as it boasts antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-carcinogenic and anti-tumor properties. Multiple research studies have shown extracts of cinnamon to inhibit tumor cell growth and proliferation and induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) of certain types of tumor cells.8, 9
6. Improves Digestion
Cinnamon can act as a natural digestive aid, reducing indigestion, nausea, upset stomach, and more.10 And because of it carminative properties, cinnamon can also aid in relieving flatulence.
7. Can Help Prevent & Fight Candida
With potent antimicrobial properties, cinnamon can aid in combating the intestinal fungus Candida. One study used a combination of cinnamon oil and pogostemon oil to treat 60 Candida-infected patients, and 100% of them saw improvement or were cured; in conclusion, the combination of the two oils had strong anti-fungus effects against three species of Candida.11
8. Reduces Risk of Heart Disease
Cinnamon protects heart health and can reduce risk of heart disease. It may help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, decrease blood pressure, and reduce blood sugar levels. And as discussed above, cinnamon has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
9. Helps Boost the Immune System
Due to its phytochemicals and antioxidant content, cinnamon can help boost the immune system. It also has proven anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, anti-biotic, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties, which can help fight infections & viruses.
10. Has Anti-Diabetic Effects
Cinnamon has been shown to have anti-diabetic activities. Some reviews on cinnamons effect on diabetes conclude it could be used as an adjunct in the treatment of diabetes.12, 13 It can potentially help by increasing insulin sensitivity by activating insulin receptors, lowering blood sugar levels, decreasing blood pressure, and reducing oxidative stress.14, 15
11. Can Aid in Weight Loss
Adding a spoonful of cinnamon to your daily diet may aid in weight loss. While there have been few studies done on the effect of cinnamon on weight loss, some studies show promise for cinnamons potential to prevent obesity and aid weight loss.
Research from the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute showed that cinnamaldehyde can enhance lipid metabolism, though further research is needed on how to best harness this benefit of cinnalaldehyde.16
Additionally, some of cinnamons many health promoting properties may indirectly aid in weight loss. Cinnamon can increase insulin sensitivity and delay gastric emptying, the latter of which can result in feeling fuller for longer after a meal.17
12. Can Reduce Cramps and Related Symptoms of Menstruation
Cinnamon boasts antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory effects, which can help relieve cramps before and during menstruation. Research suggests that cinnamon can significantly reduce the severity of symptoms related to primary dysmenorrhea, including pain, nausea, vomiting, and the amount of menstrual bleeding.18
13. Protects Oral Health
Because of its strong antimicrobial activity, cinnamon can protect and maybe even improve oral health. Cinnamon boasts antibacterial and antifungal properties that can inhibit bacteria involved in dental caries.19 Because of these properties, cinnamon can also help fight bad breath and gum disease.
14. May Reduce Seasonal Allergy Symptoms
In addition to its antioxidant content, immune boosting effects, and anti-inflammatory properties, cinnamon also exhibits anti-allergic properties.20 If you suffer from seasonal allergies, cinnamon might be able to help alleviate some of the symptoms.
The results of one research study showed cinnamon bark extract sprayed into nostrils twice daily significantly reduced nasal, eye, and non-hay fever symptoms, as-well-as a decrease in emotional problems related to seasonal allergies.21
15. May Help Heal Wounds and Reduce Muscle Pain
Cinnamon may promote wound healing and increase the rate of healing. Various extracts of cinnamon, namely cinnamtannin B-1 and cinnamaldehyde, can improve wound healing by promoting the growth and/or migration of certain cells needed for wound healing.22, 23
Consumption of cinnamon may also reduce muscle soreness, as was evidenced by a study done in 2013 on the influence of ginger and cinnamon supplementation on inflammation and muscle soreness caused by exercise by Iranian female taekwondo athletes.24
Ceylon vs. Cassia Cinnamon
However, when it comes to its benefits, not all cinnamon is equal. Ceylon (true) cinnamon is far superior to the more common Chinese or Cassia cinnamon.
Although both varieties of cinnamon contain the compound coumarin, Cassia cinnamon has higher amounts than Ceylon cinnamon does. Coumarin can be harmful to your health in large doses, potentially leading to liver and kidney toxicity, and can also act as a blood thinner.
One way to tell the difference between Cassia and Ceylon cinnamon is by how it looks in its rolled “cinnamon stick” form. Cassia cinnamon has a darker color, is hard, hollow and typically rolled in only one layer, while Ceylon cinnamon is softer and lighter in color and rolled in layers.25
Cassia cinnamon is much more common and easy to find in grocery stores, but it’s definitely worth the extra effort to seek out its healthier cousin, Ceylon cinnamon.