Cinnamon is a sweet, aromatic spice and a medicine. It is one of the oldest spices known to man. Its uses and benefits have been documented as early as 2700 B.C. throughout China, Europe and Egypt. There are two types of cinnamon, Ceylon and Chinese (cassia). Cinnamon offers anti-clotting and anti-microbial benefits, boosts brain function and contributes to a healthy colon. It may also help control blood sugar in people with diabetes.
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Inflammation and Bacteria
Three components found in the essential oils of cinnamon bark that offer health benefits include cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate and cinnamyl alcohol. Cinnamaldehyde works against harmful blood platelet clotting, which can result in inadequate blood flow. It accomplishes this by inhibiting the release of arachidonic acid (a fatty acid responsible for the inflammatory response) from cell membranes. Thus, cinnamon is beneficial for any condition that causes inflammation, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Because they are anti-microbial, cinnamon extracts may help stop the growth of harmful bacteria or fungi, such as those that are responsible for candida, or yeast infections. As a powerful anti-bacteria agent, cinnamon may have applications in food preservation, protecting against microbial overgrowth of certain food borne pathogens.
The benefits of cinnamon on blood-sugar control have been well documented. According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, seasoning a high-carbohydrate food with cinnamon helped lessen its impact on participants' blood sugar levels. Part of the reason that high-carbohydrate meals increase blood sugar quickly is because they are emptied rapidly by the stomach. Cinnamon reduces the rise in blood sugar after eating because it slows the rate at which the stomach empties after meals.
Cinnamon may work in another way to help lower glucose levels. It appears to bring blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes to normal by improving their cells' ability to respond to insulin. This occurs due to the ability of compounds in cinnamon to stimulate insulin receptors. In addition, these compounds inhibit an enzyme that inactivates insulin receptors, so cells are better able to use glucose effectively. The general consensus is that consuming approximately 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon daily is effective.
Brain and Gut Health
Some research suggests that the aroma and flavor of cinnamon acts as a cognitive stimulant, possibly improving working memory, visual-motor speed and virtual recognition memory. Positive early results have encouraged researchers in the area of Chemoreception Sciences to see if cinnamon may be beneficial for slowing or alleviating age-related cognitive decline.
Cinnamon is an excellent source of the trace mineral manganese and a very good source of dietary fiber, iron and calcium. Calcium and fiber are a powerful combination. They both bind to bile salts and remove them from the body. These bile salts have a reduced ability to damage colon cells, decreasing the risk of developing colon cancer. Since cinnamon is rich in dietary fiber, it may also provide relief from constipation.