Arthritis describes inflammation in a joint. There are dozens of types of arthritis; all cause pain, swelling, warmth, redness and reduced motion in your joints. Anti-inflammatory medications are usually recommended by doctors who treat arthritis, but these medications have side effects, such as stomach irritation, kidney damage or gastrointestinal bleeding. Some arthritis patients are hesitant to take conventional drugs, and may turn to alternative therapies, such as cinnamon, even though such remedies are not approved for treating arthritis.
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Cinnamon’s Diverse Effects
Cinnamon has been used for centuries as both a spice and a medicinal agent. Research has shown that cinnamon possesses anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. Cinnamon has been shown to alleviate many of the manifestations of metabolic syndrome, a risk factor for diabetes and heart disease. According to the May 2010 issue of "Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition," cinnamon may even be helpful in brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. Cinnamon has not been approved for treating any of these disorders.
Cinnamon and Inflammation
Arthritis is not the only condition that is driven by inflammation. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s dementia, cancer and many other chronic illnesses are inflammatory disorders. Inflammation is a complex process which involves the production of chemical messengers called cytokines, and tissue damage which results from immune cell activity. A 2008 study in “Bioresource Technology” demonstrated cinnamon oil’s ability to suppress the production of inflammatory cytokines by macrophages, a special type of immune cell. Similarly, a study in the October 2007 issue of "Biogerontology" showed that extracts of cinnamon bark slowed the cellular processes that contribute to aging and inflammation.
Cinnamon and Arthritis
Some forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lead to abnormal loss of bone from joint spaces. This bone loss, caused by the excessive activity of cells called osteoclasts, contributes to the pain, deformity and loss of mobility associated with these conditions. In the October 2008 “Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry,” Japanese scientists demonstrated that cinnamon reduces the activity of overactive osteoclasts. The study’s author suggested that cinnamon might one day prove useful for treating specific types of bone disorders.
Considerations and Precautions
Although cinnamon exhibits anti-inflammatory properties in laboratory studies and some clinical trials, it has not yet been shown to be an effective treatment for any form of arthritis. Cinnamon is available in both oral and topical preparations. If you are allergic to cinnamon, you should avoid these products. Topical formulations of cinnamon can cause skin irritation, so you should apply them to small “test patches” on your inner elbow before using them for broader application. If you have arthritis and think cinnamon could be useful for you, talk with your doctor first.