Health Benefits of Cinnamon That Will Shock and Awe
Cinnamon is far more than a tasty spice that can enhance a beverage or dish. The health benefits of cinnamon are numerous. This long-sought-after ingredient, once even used as currency, contains properties that make it both delicious and nutritious. Cinnamon comes from the inner bark of a small evergreen tree. The bark is peeled off of the tree and laid in the sun to dry. While it dries, it curls up into rolls known as cinnamon sticks, these are often ground and packaged into the product we see commonly at the supermarket.
Types of Cinnamon
There are four types of cinnamon that are commonly used for commercial purposes: Ceylon cinnamon, Korintje cinnamon, Saigon cinnamon, and Cassia cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon is what you probably know as cinnamon. This type of cinnamon is the most commonly ground in form and found in cabinets and grocery stores across the world. There are three specific types of cassia cinnamon: Indonesian, Chinese, and Saigo.
- Indonesian cassia - The sweetest and most mild of the cassia cinnamons, and is the most common in America. Around 70% of North America uses Cassia Cinnamon. Indonesia is the chief supplier of Cassia Cinnamon.
- Chinese cassia - Tends to be more pungent, less sweet, and slightly bitter. Chinese cassia isn’t as common in the States and is mainly used medicinally in China for coughs, phlegm, and other illnesses.
- Saigon cassia - Is intensely fragrant and flavorful, almost spicy, and generally our preferred cassia variety. Originating in Vietnam this cinnamon admittedly makes a good first impression in terms of sheer aroma and taste. It's a little more expensive than Cassia Cinnamon but has the highest levels of Coumarin.
Ceylon cinnamon is sometimes referred to as the "true" cinnamon" and is native to Sri Lanka. Most of Europe used Ceylon Cinnamon primarily because this was the first spice European explorers traded, but due to Cassia cinnamon being cheaper to produce, it has become less common.
Risks of Cinnamon
If you are consuming large amounts of cinnamon you should know that coumarin is a naturally occurring substance it contains that can cause liver damage or complete failure. Only Ceylon Cinnamon has low levels of Coumarin, while all other varieties of Cinnamon have high levels of Coumarin. If you are taking Cinnamon for health reasons, then you must and should switch to Ceylon Cinnamon. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) established a tolerable daily intake (TDI) of 0.1 mg/kg body weight of Coumarin in Cinnamon.
The health benefits of cinnamon are incredibly diverse in part to the component cinnamaldehyde, an antimicrobial agent. As a whole, this plant has a few amazing benefits:
1. Anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal
In herbal Chinese medicine, cinnamon is frequently used as a cure-all. This is because many harmful microbes absolutely hate it. In fact, some gardeners even use it as a natural insecticide.
2. Contains antioxidants with anti-inflammatory effects
Cinnamon contains large amounts of polyphenol antioxidants which have been found to be effective to guard against UV damage. Antioxidants can also help protect the body from disease. They are found in fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices. The specific antioxidants in cinnamon have also been found to have anti-inflammatory effects.
3. Prebiotic properties may improve gut health
When included in your diet regularly, cinnamon may function similarly to yogurt, kombucha, and other probiotic-rich foods. Cinnamon may promote the growth of beneficial bacteria while helping suppress the growth of pathogenic bacteria.
4. Relieves digestive discomfort
In addition to balancing your gut health, another health benefit of cinnamon is that it can soothe an upset stomach. Many cultures around the world have included cinnamon in tea blends specifically for this purpose. In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, cinnamon bark oil is used for treating both flatulence and digestive imbalance. It is believed that the warmth of cinnamon increases blood flow and improves blood oxygen levels to help fight off illness.
5. Reduces blood pressure
Some studies suggest that the consumption of cinnamon is associated with a short-term reduction in blood pressure. Although the evidence is hopeful, this study has a very small sample size meaning that the results might not apply to the general public.
6. Skin exfoliator
When used topically, another of the health benefits of cinnamon is that it promotes healing in skin wounds. Ground cinnamon is a great exfoliant as its small particles result in a gentle scrub. The rich antioxidants can also help clear scars and blemishes.
Cinnamon has also been said to:
- Add moisture to the skin
- Function as a treatment for eczema
- Brighten your complexion
The health benefits of cinnamon alone are a convincing argument to add the spice to your diet. In addition, its skin benefits entice you to use it as a skincare product. There's no wonder why this spice is so well known and coveted all over the world. Cinnamon is a gift from nature that we are lucky enough to have easy access to today, you probably have some in your spice cabinet right now. So go ahead, add a sprinkle to your coffee, throw it in your homemade scrub, add some into a curry, scatter some over your garden or use it as an air freshener, its applications are endless!
Written by Kiana St. Onge