11 Proven Health Benefits of Cinnamon

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated - Medically reviewed by Nina Repar (Ph.D. Agricultural Sciences)

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The most impressive health benefits of cinnamon include its ability to help prevent cancer, manage diabetes, protect against fungal and bacterial infections, and improve brain function. It is also helpful in preventing certain cognitive disorders, improving digestion, and boosting the immune system.

What is Cinnamon?

Cinnamon is a popular spice, derived from the inner bark of several kinds of trees that fall within the Cinnamomum family. It is widely used as a condiment and a rich flavoring agent in sweet and savory dishes, snacks, and teas. Cinnamon derives its flavor and aroma primarily from the essential oils and cinnamaldehyde, which naturally occurs in it.

Types of Cinnamon

Cinnamon is broadly divided into two main categories, which are mentioned below.

Cassia Cinnamon

Cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) is the type that is found in most spice cabinets and grocery stores around the world. The sheets of cassia are thicker than Ceylon cinnamon and they are darker in color. It is mainly grown in China, Indonesia, and Vietnam. This geographic cultivation setup makes leads to the origination of other types of cassia cinnamon such as Indonesian, Chinese, and Saigon.

A bowl of cinnamon powder with cinnamon sticks on a table

Sprinkle cinnamon powder on your coffee for a boost! Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Ceylon Cinnamon

Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) or what most people call “true cinnamon” is native to Sri Lanka. It is treasured by culinary artists around the world for its extremely unique flavor. The sheets of Ceylon variety are thinner than cassia and are rolled by hands. It has a mild taste and a truly delicate aroma that entices most of the cinnamon-flavored food lovers.

Many people refer to cassia cinnamon as fake but that is not true and both types are real. Cinnamon has frequently been mentioned in the ancient literature and used for medicinal purposes in old Egypt, China, and medieval Europe. Today, cinnamon is one of the most commonly used spices in the world.

Nutrition Facts

Spices, cinnamon, ground
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]10.58
Energy [kcal]247
Energy [kJ]1035
Protein [g]3.99
Total lipid (fat) [g]1.24
Ash [g]3.6
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]80.59
Fiber, total dietary [g]53.1
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]2.17
Sucrose [g]0.02
Glucose (dextrose) [g]1.04
Fructose [g]1.11
Calcium, Ca [mg]1002
Iron, Fe [mg]8.32
Magnesium, Mg [mg]60
Phosphorus, P [mg]64
Potassium, K [mg]431
Sodium, Na [mg]10
Zinc, Zn [mg]1.83
Copper, Cu [mg]0.34
Manganese, Mn [mg]17.47
Selenium, Se [µg]3.1
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]3.8
Thiamin [mg]0.02
Riboflavin [mg]0.04
Niacin [mg]1.33
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.36
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.16
Folate, total [µg]6
Folate, food [µg]6
Folate, DFE [µg]6
Choline, total [mg]11
Betaine [mg]3.9
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]15
Carotene, beta [µg]112
Carotene, alpha [µg]1
Cryptoxanthin, beta [µg]129
Vitamin A, IU [IU]295
Lycopene [µg]15
Lutein + zeaxanthin [µg]222
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]2.32
Tocopherol, gamma [mg]10.44
Tocopherol, delta [mg]0.26
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]31.2
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.35
10:0 [g]0
12:0 [g]0.01
14:0 [g]0.01
16:0 [g]0.1
17:0 [g]0.14
18:0 [g]0.08
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.25
16:1 [g]0
18:1 [g]0.25
18:1 c [g]0.25
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.07
18:2 [g]0.04
18:3 [g]0.01
18:3 n-3 c,c,c (ALA) [g]0.01
Phytosterols [mg]26
Tryptophan [g]0.05
Threonine [g]0.14
Isoleucine [g]0.15
Leucine [g]0.25
Lysine [g]0.24
Methionine [g]0.08
Cystine [g]0.06
Phenylalanine [g]0.15
Tyrosine [g]0.14
Valine [g]0.22
Arginine [g]0.17
Histidine [g]0.12
Alanine [g]0.17
Aspartic acid [g]0.44
Glutamic acid [g]0.37
Glycine [g]0.2
Proline [g]0.42
Serine [g]0.2
Sources include : USDA

Health Benefits of Cinnamon

Let’s look at some of the major health benefits of cinnamon.

Diabetes Management

One of the most well-known benefits of cinnamon is its potential to reduce blood sugar levels in the body and fight diabetes, and here is how it works. As you digest food made of simple sugars and basic carbohydrates, the body goes through sugar spikes. Cinnamon can counter this effect and reduces the major influx of glucose into the bloodstream by chemically slowing the process of emptying your stomach.

So, cinnamon could help in balancing glucose levels, thereby preventing drastic spikes and drops. By helping to regulate insulin and glucose balance in the body, cinnamon can be both a preventative measure and an effective treatment for diabetes.

Anticancer Potential

Many studies have revealed that cinnamon is a very potent dietary addition for all who are looking to lower their risk of cancer.

Two substances, cinnamic aldehyde and cinnamyl aldehyde, present in cinnamon extracts can both actively prevent cancer cells from spreading, as per a 2010 research paper.

A study conducted by the Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute, Kolkata, India, has found that cinnamon has anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative, and apoptosis-inducing properties that help in killing harmful colon cancer cells. Another study published in the journal BMC Cancer revealed that cinnamon could also help eliminate cervical cancer cells.

A recent study published in the Science Heritage Journal discovered that cinnamon could also help fight human breast cancer cells. What’s more, cinnamon also shows promising results in fighting leukemia, ovarian, cancer, and lung cancer.

Because of its amazing cancer-fighting properties, cinnamon could be incorporated into a new drug to fight and prevent cancer in the future.

Mental Health

There is a chemical connection between the brain and the scent/taste of cinnamon. When research subjects chewed cinnamon-flavored gum or simply smelled the fragrance of the spice, their cognitive activity increased. This means that cinnamon can be helpful in boosting brain health.

Bone Health

The high levels of magnesium and calcium found in cinnamon sticks give a significant boost to your bone health. This is because magnesium and calcium help in preventing osteoporosis and boosting bone health into your old age. Cinnamon also contains manganese, a special microelement that is an essential co-factor in bone cartilage and bone collagen formation.

So, if you’d like to keep your bones healthy and strong as you age, cinnamon could be an important ally.

Cognitive Disorders

There is no known cure for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. However, a 2011 research paper suggests that consuming cinnamon capsules can stimulate new neural pathways and increase cognitive ability. This makes cinnamon a potentially useful remedy for keeping people lucid and aware for longer as they age.

Cinnamon could also be helpful against Parkinson’s disease and even reverse its effects on the brain.

Antioxidant Effects

Cinnamon bark contains various essential oils and organic compounds that can actively seek out and neutralize free radicals. These antioxidants in cinnamon are praised for their ability to improve heart health and also prevent certain chronic diseases that are exacerbated by the activity of free radicals.

Digestive Health

Anecdotal evidence shows that cinnamon was used as a remedy for many digestive ailments. It was being used by Asians, Africans, and Europeans as a treatment for diarrhea.

More recent studies show that it can also help in decreasing gastric emptying when consumed with rice pudding.

Antibacterial Effects

The natural antibacterial quality of cinnamon essential oil is more widely respected due to its potency. Adding cinnamon supplements to your diet can also prevent certain fungal and bacterial infections from affecting your health. This is precisely why the spice was used as a food preservative for so many centuries; it can prevent the growth of dangerous pathogens.

Cold & Flu

Cinnamon has a naturally warming quality, which helps to treat the common cold and flu. This warming ability can also help break the fever and prevent the onset of chills or pneumonia in cases of bronchitis.

HIV Inhibition

A collaborative study conducted by six well-known universities found that cinnamon may be helpful in naturally inhibiting the HIV-1 infection. While the results of this research have been a ray of light in the dark, the analysis also shows that cinnamon may interact with ongoing medications. We suggest you consult with your doctor before trying anything new.

May Help Treat MS

An interesting research by the Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, United States of America suggests that oral administration of cinnamon powder may be beneficial in MS patients and that no other existing anti-MS therapies could be so economical and trouble-free as this approach.

How to Use Cinnamon?

Cinnamon comes in many different forms like ground cinnamon, essential oil, rolls, and moreover, you can also find cinnamon pills in the market now. It has been used as a food preservative and as a spice for foods, including:

  • Bread and cakes
  • Chocolates and candies
  • Desserts
  • Beverages
  • Donuts
  • Cereals
  • Fruits
  • Meat and vegetable dishes
  • Curries and soups

The flavor of this brown spice makes it desirable in almost every cuisine in some way.

Side Effects of Cinnamon

Despite all the health benefits, there are also some risks associated with cinnamon, especially when it is had in large quantities. Take a look at the potential side effects below.

Allergies

A latest collaborative research published in the Clinical Nutrition journal suggests that cinnamon can show allergic reactions in people.

Gastrointestinal Disorders

The 2019 study also revealed that although cinnamon is used frequently as a spice, it can cause gastrointestinal disorders when consumed for a longer duration.

Liver Damage

Coumarin, found in cinnamon, may cause liver toxicity. In 2015, researchers from Providence Hospital and Medical Center found that cinnamon supplements could prove to be fatal to liver health. The use of supplements resulted in an occurrence of hepatitis in a 73-year-old woman, who was simultaneously administering statin for coronary artery disease.

Oral Disorders

The Open Dentistry Journal has published research showing that consuming cinnamon flavoring agents can result in mouth sores, swelling in the gums and tongue, white patches, and burning sensation. It suggests that people witnessing any of these symptoms should discontinue using cinnamon and its related products.

Low Blood Sugar

Cinnamon can help in lowering high blood sugar but studies show that consuming it for an extended period can make your sugar levels fall drastically.

The benefits of cinnamon, however, outweigh its side effects. It is a delicious addition to many foods around the world so enjoy the sweet flavor but keep in mind to do it in moderation.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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