Cinnamon

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Hi there! I am a freelance writer who lives and breaths content on a daily basis. I consider myself to be a living paradox. An old soul trapped in a modern world. A self-proclaimed hopeless romantic and a professional over-thinker. I can't start anything unless I have my coffee. Writing has been and always will be my way of calming the storms in my heart and mind.

A Brief History Of Cinnamon- The Benefits Of Adding Cinnamon In Your Diet – Nutritional Benefits of CinnamonCinnamon Side EffectsAre There Any?

Here’s a simple task for you: go to your kitchen cabinet and see if you have a bottle of cinnamon in it. Most likely, you have. This is because cinnamon is among the most popular kitchen products that many households have this.

In Europe alone, cinnamon importation increased by six percent per year between 2013 and 2017. Consequently, Americans were also among the top cinnamon consumers in the world.

But what exactly is cinnamon? Why is this becoming a household favorite? Is it true that it comes with tons of benefits including helping you lose weight?

All these – and more – if you read until the end.

Here’s a simple task for you: go to your kitchen cabinet and see if you have a bottle of cinnamon in it. Most likely, you have. This is because cinnamon is among the most popular kitchen products that many households have this.

In Europe alone, cinnamon importation increased by six percent per year between 2013 and 2017. Consequently, Americans were also among the top cinnamon consumers in the world.

But what exactly is cinnamon? Why is this becoming a household favorite? Is it true that it comes with tons of benefits including helping you lose weight?

Cinnamon, In A Nutshell

Cinnamon is a type of spice that comes from the bark of Cinnamomum tree, a type of evergreen tree that comes from the laurel family. It is known for its sweet and sharp taste and aroma.

This distinct smell and flavor are because of the oily part resulting from the drying process. This part is rich in cinnamaldehyde, a type of compound that contributes to cinnamon’s medicinal properties.

There are two main types:

  • Cassia – this is the most commonly used and cheaper type of cinnamon that is readily available in the market. It is also derived from Cinnamomum trees. It is native to China and commonly sold in the United States and Canada.
  • Ceylon – this is the “true” cinnamon and derived from Cinnamomum verum tree. Compared to Cassia, this is more potent and with lighter and less bitter taste. It also has more antioxidants, thereby providing more health benefits. Sri Lanka and India are the main sources of this variant. Health food stores carry this type of cinnamon.

On the other hand, below are the lesser-known types of cinnamon:

  • Burmannii – this is known as the Indonesian cinnamon.
  • Loureiroi – this originated from Vietnam. Similar to Indonesian cinnamon, Vietnamese cinnamon is not widely used in the world as well.

Surprisingly, there are approximately 250 identified species of cinnamon..

Here’s how cinnamon is made:

  1. Cut the stems from the cinnamon tree.
  2. Extract the inner bark and remove the woody parts.
  3. Dry the inner bark.
  4. Once it dries, the barks will form into strips and eventually curl into rolls. This is now cinnamon sticks and may be ground to form it into cinnamon powder.

Apart from pure bark and powder form, cinnamon can also be reproduced as an essential oil or in extract form.

Cinnamon History

Back in the day, cinnamon was not a prized kitchen ingredient. In fact, ancient Egyptians mixed cinnamon with myrrh to embalm the dead. The Romans also burned and used it on funeral pyres.

Did you know that the Bible mentioned cinnamon as well? In Exodus Chapter 30, verse 23, cinnamon is among the spices when making the holy anointing oil, together with myrrh and fragrant cane.

Eventually, cinnamon was recognized, giving it a well-deserved spot in the kitchen.

According to Pliny the Elder, Arab traders brought cinnamon from Ceylon (modern day Sri Lanka) to the west during the Middle Ages. This could also be the reason why renowned individuals like Herodotus and Aristotle names “Arabia” as the source of cinnamon. In fact, nobody from Europe and the west knew where cinnamon came from.

It was around 1270 when Europeans found out that cinnamon came from Sri Lanka. The Portuguese took control of the trade.

Because of the rise of other Mediterranean powers like the Ottoman Empire, Europeans were forced to look for others ways to Asia. Ferdinand Magellan found Cinnamomum mindanaense in the Philippines, which competed with Sri Lanka’s cinnamon.

By 1600s, the Dutch started to take control of Sri Lanka’s cinnamon. This led to the rise of Dutch Ease Asia Company, which overhauled harvesting methods among others.

Fast forward today, cinnamon is among the most sought after kitchen ingredients and a widely traded commodity. Apart from Sri Lanka, Indonesia, China, and Vietnam likewise produce cinnamon for the world’s consumption.

Cinnamon Nutrition Facts

Cinnamon is known for its health benefits. But what exactly does it contain?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one teaspoon of ground cinnamon has the following contents:

  • Water – 0.275 grams
  • Protein – 0.104 grams
  • Fat – 0.032 grams
  • Carbohydrates – 2.1 grams
  • Fiber – 1.38 grams
  • Sugars – 0.056 grams
  • Fructose – 0.029 grams
  • Calcium – 26.1 milligrams
  • Iron – 0.216 milligrams
  • Phosphorus – 1.66 milligrams
  • Magnesium – 1.56 milligrams
  • Sodium – 0.26 milligrams
  • Zinc – 0.048 milligrams
  • Potassium – 11.2 milligrams
  • Manganese – 0.454 milligrams
  • Vitamin C – 0.099 milligrams
Nutrition Facts
Per 1 tbsb ( 21g )

Amount % Daily Value*
Calories 9.104
Total Fat 0.032g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 0.26mg 0%
Potassium 11.2mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 2.1g 1%
Dietary Fiber 1.38g 6%
Sugars 0.056g
Protein 0.104g 0%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

What does this imply? Find out by reading the next section.

Cinnamon Benefits

Despite being “late” in the game compared to other spices, cinnamon is known for its many health benefits. This includes:

Full Of Antioxidants

Antioxidants are substances that slow down or prevent free radicals from damaging the cells. It can be natural or artificial, with plant-based foods having richer antioxidant components compared to other food sources.

The good news is cinnamon is full of those antioxidants, including polyphenols, flavonoids, and phenolic acid. When these compounds work together, they are more powerful in fighting oxidative stress. This enables your body to fight, or at least prevent diseases.

Based on a 2005 comparative study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, cinnamon is among the ingredients with the highest antioxidant activities. Surprisingly, it even outranked superfoods like oregano and garlic.

Because of this, cinnamon is also used as a natural food preservative.  

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Cinnamon is rich in antioxidants. Don’t be surprised to find out that it has anti-inflammatory properties as well. This means your body is more capable of fighting infections and repairing damages on the body tissues.

In a 2015 study published in Food and Function, experts identified cinnamon, particularly Sri Lankan cinnamon, is one of the most poteen anti-inflammatory drugs they tested.

Fights Bacterial And Fungal Infection

You already know that cinnamon is rich in antioxidants and comes with anti-inflammatory properties. Does this mean it could also help infection?

The answer is yes.

This popular kitchen ingredient contains cinnamaldehyde, one of cinnamon’s most active components that help fight different kinds of bacteria and infection.

A 2006 study noted cinnamon’s antimicrobial activities, which inhibits the growth of various bacteria, including salmonella and listeria. In a separate study, experts found out that cinnamon could help prevent tooth decay and halitosis or bad breath.

Protects Heart’s Health

Did you know that heart disease is the most common cause of premature death in the world? Did you also know that cinnamon could help prevent this?

According to a 2003 study published in Diabetes Care, cinnamon helps in reducing bad cholesterol and triglycerides. On the other hand, HDL or good cholesterol remains stable.

Another study published in Annals of Family Medicine showed that 120 milligrams of cinnamon everyday reduces bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol. One animal study also showed that cinnamon helped reduce blood pressure.

This only shows that when taken properly, cinnamon lowers bad cholesterol, stabilizes or increases good cholesterol, and helps reduce blood pressure levels. This reduces your heart risk, too.

Lowers Blood Sugar

Cinnamon may have sweet taste but worry not. It comes with properties that help lower blood sugar.

When taken, cinnamon interferes with various digestive enzymes, thereby slowing down the breakdown of carbohydrates in the digestive tract. As a result, smaller amount of glucose enters the bloodstream.

That’s not all. Cinnamon contains hydroxychalcone, a type of compound that mimics the function of insulin. As a result, cells’ glucose uptake is improved even if it acts much slower than the real insulin.

Apart from this, there are studies showing how cinnamon acts as anti-diabetic agent. A 2009 study published in Diabetes, Obesity, & Metabolism showed that cinnamon could lower blood sugar levels by up to 29 percent.

Improves Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin is one of the most important hormones to regulate metabolism and energy levels. Unfortunately, there are people who are resistant to insulin. This means they could be a candidate for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes among other conditions.

Thankfully, cinnamon could help you in case you are insulin resistant. Based on a study published in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, cinnamon could reduce insulin resistance as well as elevated glucose.

Protection Against Cancer

Cancer is among the deadliest diseases in the world. It is characterized as uncontrolled cell growth that could potentially attack other organs in the body.

The good news is experts are constantly looking for treatments to help address cancer. One of these treatments they are looking into is cinnamon.

So far, animal studies are promising. A 2010 study revealed that cinnamon could be an effective inhibitor to help prevent or treat cancer. Another study also showed that polyphenols from cinnamon may stop the proliferation of tumor cells. One study published in Cancer Letters mentioned the role of cinnamon’s cinnamaldehyde against leukemia cells.

How is this possible?

Cinnamon works by reducing cancer cells’ growth as well as the formation of blood vessels in tumors. This leads to the death of cancer cells. One study also suggested that cinnamon is a potent activator in detoxifying enzymes in the colon, thereby slowing down cancer growth.

A more recent study also showed that cinnamon potentially activates the antioxidant responses in human colon cells.

Still, take note that these are animal and test tube studies. Experts have yet to check the efficacy of cinnamon against cancer on humans.

Helps Fight HIV Virus

According to the UNAIDS, there are 74.9 million people infected by HIV worldwide. Consequently, 37.9 million people are living with this condition.

There is no exact cure yet for HIV but experts are continuously looking for ways to address it. Believe it or not, Cassia cinnamon could help with that.

One study revealed that the Cassia variety could fight against HIV-1, which is also the most common strain of the virus among humans.

Another study was conducted in 2000 wherein experts looked into 69 medicinal plants. They found out that cinnamon was the most effective against HIV-infected cells.

Keep in mind that these are animal studies and experts have yet to conduct human trials. Nonetheless, this is a good start.

Cinnamon Side Effects

Over the years, cinnamon gained its reputation because of its many health benefits. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean you are safe. Here are some of the possible things that could happen from taking too much cinnamon:

Liver Damage

One of the main components of Cassia or regular cinnamon is coumarin. It has seven to 18 milligrams per teaspoon compared to Ceylon cinnamon’s merely traces of coumarin.

Unfortunately, too much coumarin could cause liver toxicity and damage.

Based on a research published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, 0.1 milligram per kilogram of body weight is the recommended intake. This means a teaspoonful of cinnamon could lead to adverse effects.

Mouth Sores

Did you experience any of the following after eating cinnamon?

  • Burning or itching sensation
  • Swollen tongue or gums
  • White patches in the mouth

If yes, then you could be allergic to cinnamon.

It turns out that cinnamon has cinnamaldehyde, a type of compound that triggers allergic reaction, especially when taken in large amounts. Thankfully, this is not a serious condition and often uncommon.

Nonetheless, take note of the effects after consuming cinnamon since you might be allergic to it.

Low Blood Sugar

Cinnamon is known to help lower blood sugar. This reduces your risk of developing diabetes and heart concerns among many health problems.

Here’s the thing: if you eat too much cinnamon, you might develop hypoglycemia, a condition wherein blood sugar is too low. This results to dizziness, tiredness, and the possibility of fainting.

If you are diabetic and currently taking medications, then it is advisable not to take cinnamon. This ingredient could enhance the effects of your current medication and may cause your blood sugar to fall low.

Cancer Risk

One of the health benefits of adding cinnamon in your diet is that it could potentially protect you against cancer. Unfortunately, too much cinnamon could reverse this benefit.

A 2010 study involving animals showed that eating too much coumarin, a main component in Cassia, could increase cancer risk. Another study noted that rodents that ate too much coumarin developed cancerous tumors in the lungs and liver.

Unfortunately, experts are still unsure as to how exactly coumarin influences the development of cancerous tumors. They are also unsure of the cancerous effects of coumarin on humans since most studies involved animals.

In the meantime, reduce your intake.

Breathing Problems

Have you tried eating a spoonful of cinnamon? Don’t. It is known to cause breathing problems because of its fine texture. As a result, it would be easier to inhale and cause you to cough, gag, or have difficulty catching your breath.

That’s not all. According to the National Library of Medicine, cinnamon contains cinnamaldehyde, a known throat irritant. This could trigger breathing problems as well.

That being said, if you have asthma or any condition that affects breathing, then be careful when around cinnamon.

May Interact With Certain Medications

Generally, cinnamon is safe for consumption. You may add some even when on medications. However, cinnamon must be consumed in small amounts if you are taking pills for diabetes, liver disease, or heart disease.

Coumarin, when not taken properly, could intensify the effects of medications related to these conditions.

Medications related to liver such as acetaminophen, paracetamol, and statin could also increase your chances of liver damage if you take Cassia cinnamon excessively.

Dry Cinnamon Challenge

Cinnamon challenge became popular lately. In this challenge, you have to eat tablespoons of dry, ground cinnamon within one minute with no water.

The challenge looks harmless but the truth is, this is potentially dangerous. This is because dry cinnamon could:

  • Irritate throat and lungs
  • Cause choking or gagging
  • Permanently damage the lungs since the lungs are unable to break down the cinnamon’s fibers. As a result, cinnamon will accumulate in the lungs and cause lung inflammation. This is called aspiration pneumonia.

The key here is to consume cinnamon in moderation. Anything in excess, regardless of its nutritional content, is not good for the body.

Cinnamon Storage

Just like any other spices, storage is crucial in prolonging cinnamon’s shelf life. This ensures that the taste is preserved and helps you save money in the long run.

Cinnamon sticks could last between two and three years, although some say it could stretch up to four years. On the other hand, ground cinnamon is only good for up to one year. You may use ground cinnamon past its expiration date; however, flavor is lost over time.

Whether you have cinnamon sticks or the dried variant, placing these in airtight container is a must. This prevents any air or moisture that could affect the flavor of cinnamon.

It should be placed in dry, cool area and away from heat or sunlight. Placing it in a freezer is also not advisable.

More than the storage tips, how you handle cinnamon is also crucial in prolonging shelf life.

Here are some tips to remember:

  • When using cinnamon sticks, only grate what you need.
  • Avoid mixing other spices with cinnamon inside the container. This will prevent contamination as well.

More importantly, check for any molds, clumps, or wet spots. This indicates that the cinnamon is no longer safe for consumption.

Cinnamon Recipes

There are several ways on how to use cinnamon. In its simplest form, you can soak cinnamon sticks in a glass of water and drink it first thing in the morning. You can also steep cinnamon barks and add it on your tea, coffee, or hot cider.

Or, sprinkle cinnamon powder on baked fruits and vegetables. Stir it into puddings and other desserts.

You can also use the ground form as flavoring for meat. If you’re into baking, then cinnamon is also a great addition to the recipe.

Here’s the thing: why limit cinnamon inside the kitchen?

Aside from being a spice, here are other ways you can use cinnamon:

  • Cinnamon oil as a natural mouthwash
  • Use cinnamon sticks for arts and crafts. Look for an old vase or pen holder and glue the sticks on it.
  • Sprinkle ground cinnamon on areas infested by ants. The fine substance will suffocate them.
  • Dust the seedlings with cinnamon powder to protect them against rotting and diseases.
  • Sprinkle ground cinnamon on plants to keep mosquitoes and bugs away.

Cinnamon Alternatives

Cinnamon is a widely popular and readily available kitchen ingredient. In case you ran out or you are allergic to this spice, here are alternatives you can try:

Allspice

This is the best alternative in case you ran out of cinnamon. It contains several spices including cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Since there are more spices in this alternative, use only one-third of the measurement of allspice that the recipe suggests for cinnamon.

Cinnamon Extract

This is done by soaking cinnamon bark in light rum for two weeks. It also has longer shelf life, although potency may decrease over time.

Cardamom

This kitchen ingredient is often used alongside cinnamon. But in case you ran out of cinnamon, cardamom is an excellent substitute. There won’t be an adjustment in measurement, too.

Pumpkin Pie Spice

This contains cinnamon, thus making it a good alternative. You can also use the same measurement as cinnamon, which means if the recipe calls for one teaspoon cinnamon, then you can use a teaspoon of pumpkin spice as well.

Combination Of Spices

You may also mix nutmeg and allspice or cardamom and coriander as a replacement for cinnamon. Nonetheless, combining spices makes the mixture more potent. This means you need to divide the mixture in half every time the recipe calls for cinnamon.

The Bottom Line

In a nutshell, cinnamon is among the most popular kitchen ingredients – and it’s not surprising why. It is packed with antioxidants, antibacterial, and antifungal properties; thus providing tons of health benefits.

Don’t be too complacent. Despite the many health benefits, cinnamon could be detrimental to your health, especially when taken excessively. The key here is moderation.

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