You probably associate cinnamon with the aroma of coffee cake, snickerdoodles and cappuccino, but this tasty spice has been used for centuries by various cultures.
The ancient Egyptians employed the antibacterial benefits of cinnamon as part of embalming compounds for mummies. During the Roman Empire, it was used to flavor wine and perfume. Cinnamon has also played the role of an appetite stimulator, an aphrodisiac and a treatment for sore throats and coughs.
Cinnamon also contains an incredible antioxidant content that makes it valuable as an anti-inflammatory. The spice has valuable medicinal properties, including benefits to your heart health, blood sugar levels and brain health.
If you want to take advantage of the benefits of this spice, you may wonder how much cinnamon per day you should consume. A teaspoon is a good place to start: It gives you 2 to 4 grams of the good stuff and makes the perfect addition to oatmeal, coffee, buttered toast — with a little sugar — and cut-up apples or pears.
But cinnamon is not a proven treatment for any specific disease, so no set dosage is available. Always consult your doctor before adding a daily cinnamon teaspoon to your day, because high doses can be toxic and the spice may interact with some drugs.
A teaspoon of cinnamon can add more antioxidants to your diet and offer health benefits for your heart and brain.
Cinnamon comes from the stems of cinnamon trees. Its unique smell and flavor come from the oily parts of these trees, and many of the health benefits come from the bark. Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices known.
Two primary types of cinnamon are available.
- Ceylon cinnamon is less common in the U.S., but is readily produced in Sri Lanka, India, Madagascar, the Caribbean
- Cassia cinnamon, the most common type available in the U.S., mainly
comes from China, Indonesia and Vietnam.
In addition to ground cinnamon, you can enjoy cinnamon as an oil or in the form of rolled sticks of the bark.
Antioxidants are compounds that help fight free radicals, which play a huge role in causing disease — including heart disease and cancer. Free radicals form when your body breaks down food or is exposed to pollution such as chemicals and tobacco smoke.
A review published in Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2014 confirmed that cinnamon has an extremely high antioxidant content. The antioxidants in cinnamon can protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals.
The high antioxidant capacity of cinnamon combats a number of health conditions, including the risk factors for a metabolic condition that affects women known as polycystic ovary syndrome. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine showed that cinnamon supplementation improved the antioxidant status and serum lipid profile in women with the condition.
General Benefits of Cinnamon
Along with adding a delicious aroma and flavor to baked goods, cinnamon is a proven treatment for bad breath. But its positive health effects extend far beyond this role. The benefits of cinnamon can be applied to numerous health conditions.
The previously mentioned review, published in 2014, confirms that cinnamon can help prevent bleeding and has antimicrobial, antifungal, anticancer, antioxidant and antidiabetic features. Cinnamon oil is largely useful in the antimicrobial and antifungal departments; ground cinnamon, however, can afford very real health improvements.
Heart Disease Prevention
Cinnamon can help reduce your risk of heart disease by addressing issues such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and high triglyceride levels.
A review in the Journal of Renal Injury Prevention published in 2017 confirmed that research does show how cinnamon can be used as a remedy to lower blood pressure levels, especially in people who have type 2 diabetes.
The 2014 review in the Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal also details the positive effects cinnamon has on cholesterol and lipid levels in animal subjects, which may be translatable to humans.
Inflammation is your body’s natural response to stress or injury, and it can help your body respond appropriately so you heal. However, chronic inflammation increases your risk of developing chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer and brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s.
Flavonoids and phenols in ground cinnamon (as well as whole cinnamon and cinnamon oil) are effective at fighting dangerous inflammation.
The anti-inflammatory effects of cinnamon can help reduce muscle soreness, menstrual aches and age-related pain. As one example, a study published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2013 showed that 3 grams of cinnamon — about a teaspoon — consumed daily over six weeks significantly reduced perceptions of soreness in women athletes compared to placebo.
Blood Sugar Stabilization
A teaspoon of ground cinnamon every day may be especially helpful for diabetics. The spice effectively lowers blood sugar levels. A 2013 review in the Annals of Family Medicine showed that the consumption of cinnamon is associated with a notable decrease in fasting glucose (blood sugar) levels. Doses of 1, 3 and 6 grams can all help.
In addition, cinnamon can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels in type 2 diabetics, which helps with management of the disease and discourages complications.
Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin is a hormone responsible for regulating your metabolism and energy. It’s critical for transferring the sugar (glucose) from the food you eat into your cells. When you are resistant to the effects of insulin, your blood sugar can rise too high, causing health complications, such as metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes.
The Annals of Family Medicine review showed that cinnamon can dramatically reduce insulin resistance, which allows it to complete its task of storing sugar in your cells — rather than allowing it to float around in your bloodstream. As a result, your blood sugar levels decrease and you better manage diabetes — or avoid it altogether.
Brain Function Improvement
The antioxidants in cinnamon may boost brain function and offer protective effects against neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s. Not a lot of human studies are available on the association between these conditions and cinnamon, but animal studies show that compounds in cinnamon have a lot of potential for protecting neurons and reducing cell damage.
The antioxidant qualities of cinnamon also guard against cell mutation, DNA damage and cancerous tumor growth. The journal Pharmacognosy Research published a comprehensive review in 2015, noting that cinnamon has shown the ability to reduce the effects of the bacteria H. pylori that can be a precursor to stomach cancer.
Plus, cinnamon has demonstrated the ability to inhibit the survival and growth of tumor cells in vitro and impede the activity of factors that promote the growth of melanoma, a deadly type of skin cancer.
Is a Teaspoon Enough?
You may wonder: "Is a teaspoon of cinnamon too much?" And the answer is most likely “No.”
But remember, even though lots of research stands behind the potential of the antioxidants in cinnamon, no conclusive research supports it as a medical treatment and therefore, no standard dose has been determined.
Cinnamon Overdose Amounts
It is possible to have too much cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon, the most common form sold in the U.S., contains a compound called coumarin, which, when eaten in larger amounts, can cause health issues, including liver damage, mouth sores and low blood sugar. You may also increase your cancer risk when you consume too much coumarin.
Researchers in the Pharmacognosy Research review advise not regularly consuming more than 0.1 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. So, if you weigh 130 pounds (or 59 kilograms) or less, you shouldn’t consume any more than 1 teaspoon per day to be safe.
If you opt for cinnamon supplements, rather than ground cinnamon, carefully follow the dosing requirements. Check with your doctor before consuming them — especially if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, have diabetes, have liver disease or are on a blood thinner, such as warfarin.
In general, however, cinnamon does not have measurable side effects and may offer numerous protective health benefits. But even with cinnamon's curative effects, never use it in place of medications or treatments provided by your doctor for any condition.
If you plan on adding a daily dose of 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to your diet, check with your doctor first. Cinnamon can negatively interact with some prescription medications, including antibiotics, diabetes medications and heart disease medications. Some people are allergic to cinnamon too.
Adding Cinnamon to Food and Drinks
Downing a straight teaspoon of ground cinnamon isn’t realistic, but this aromatic spice is easy to add to lots of foods and beverages you consume daily. Mix a teaspoon into a cup of hot tea, or mix it with your coffee prior to brewing — added bonus: a house that smells fantastic. If you’re not a coffee drinker, make a soothing hot drink with soy milk, honey and a few dashes of cinnamon.
Cinnamon is a natural addition at breakfast time. Sprinkle it over scrambled eggs, oatmeal or cottage cheese. Blend it into yogurt with chopped apples. Cinnamon may also be added to a smoothie made with blended banana, milk and blueberries. Be creative when consuming your teaspoon.
Cinnamon also makes a tasty ingredient in beef stews and chili. Sprinkle it in the pot as the meal cooks, or add a dusting to the top of your serving.
If you choose to have cinnamon daily, you don’t have to consume the teaspoon all at once — sprinkle it on foods throughout the day to add up to your desired amount.