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Articles  |  Herbal Medicine  |   What is Cinnamon?

What is Cinnamon?

Cinnamon is a well known spice used in cooking, but did you know that it can also be used therapeutically?  Cinnamon actually has a wide range of health benefits.  Read on to learn more.

What is Cinnamon?

Cinnamon is famous for its use as a culinary spice but it also has several medicinal benefits.  In fact, the health benefits of cinnamon have been known for over 5000 years and were recognised by the Egyptians, Ancient Romans, and Chinese.  Cinnamon is the brown bark of the cinnamon tree, and is available in a dried, tubular form known as a quill, or as a ground powder.  The two main varieties of cinnamon – Cassia and Ceylon – have a similar flavour however Ceylon cinnamon is slightly sweeter, and more refined.  Cassia cinnamon is the more commonly found in grocery stores and the like.

Benefits of Cinnamon

Cinnamon has several health benefits.  It can:

• lower LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), total cholesterol, and triglycerides
• have a regulatory effect on blood sugar levels, making it particularly helpful for people that suffer from type 2 diabetes
• have an anti-clotting effect on the blood
• inhibit bacterial growth and food spoilage when added to food, making it a natural food preservative
• boost cognitive function and memory when smelt
• a source of manganese, fibre, iron, and calcium
• the combination of calcium and fibre in cinnamon can help to remove bile, which prevents damage to colon cancer, which helps prevent colon cancer
• stop the growth of bacteria and fungi (such as the common yeast, Candida)
• be anti-inflammatory in the body

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, cinnamon is used for colds, flatulence, nausea, diarrhea, and painful menstrual periods.  It is also believed to improve energy, vitality, and circulation, and is particularly useful for people that tend to feel hot in their upper body but have cold feet.  In Ayurveda, cinnamon is used as a remedy for diabetes, indigestion, and colds, and it is often recommended for people with the Kapha Ayurvedic type.

The healing abilities of cinnamon come from the three basic types of components in the essential oils found in its bark.  These oils contain active components called cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, and cinnamyl alcohol, plus a range of other volatile substances.

The Safety of Cinnamon

Cinnamon is safe to take but people that are taking diabetes medication or any other medication that affects blood glucose or insulin levels shouldn’t take therapeutic doses of cinnamon without the supervision of a medical professional.  This is because taking the two together can have an additive effect and cause blood sugar levels to drop too low.  Cassia cinnamon contains a compound called coumarin, and at high levels, coumarin can damage the liver.  It can also have a blood thinning effect so cassia cinnamon supplements should not be taken by people that are taking anti-clotting medication.  Lastly, pregnant women should avoid excessive amounts of cinnamon and should not take it as a supplement.

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Topic: Herbal Medicine

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