Cinnamon is one of the widely used spices in the world, due to its exotic flavor and health benefits. In Ayurveda, cinnamon has proven effects in treating respiratory and digestive problems. In traditional Chinese medicine, cinnamon is also used to treat and prevent wider range of ailments. Cinnamon is obtained from the inner bark of several tree species from the genus Cinnamomum, only few are grown commercially for spice.
Two widely used varieties of cinnamon are:
- Ceylon (Cinnamomum verum): Native to Sri Lanka also called true cinnamon.
- Cassia (Cinnamomum cassia): Native to Indonesia and China also known as regular cinnamon. It is widely used spice all over the world.
Both ceylon and cassia show health benefits if consumed in safe amounts, but cassia can be harmful if consumed in large amounts because of its high coumarin content which can cause liver damage whereas ceylon contains very minute amount of coumarin which makes it much safer. Cinnamon can be used in sweet and savory dishes.
CHEMICAL COMPOSITION OF CINNAMON
- Cinnamaldehyde (60 – 70%)
- Eugenol (5-10%)
- Antioxidant (polyphenols)
Above compounds present in cinnamon contributes to most of the health benefits
HEALTH BENEFITS OF CINNAMON
- Rich in antioxidants
- Antioxidant activity of cinnamon is very high which makes it popular among people.
- Polyphenols present in cinnamon act as antioxidant which protect our body form oxidative damage caused by free radicals.
- Prevent the risk of heart disease
- Cinnamaldehyde and cinnamic acid present in cinnamon protects heart from inflammation.
- Cinnamon reduces the level of total cholesterol preventing the risk of heart disease. Coumarin is a natural blood thinner preventing blood coagulation in the arteries.
- It also lowers the blood pressure.
- Prevent Insulin Resistance and type 2 diabetes
- Insulin resistance is the key factor associated with type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
- Consumption of just half a tea spoon on cinnamon increases the insulin sensitivity.
- Natural agent methyl hydroxychalcone found in cinnamon mimics’ insulin to keep the blood glucose level stable.
- Prevents excess fat storage in the cells and improves carbohydrate metabolism.
- Antibacterial and Antifungal properties
- Cinnamon contains cinnamaldehyde which exhibits antibacterial and antifungal properties preventing many infections. It also prevents tooth decay and eliminates bad breath.
- In case of rheumatoid arthritis, it reduces inflammation.
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Polyphenols, cinnamaldehyde present in cinnamon shows anti-inflammatory effects
- Preventing the occurrence of chronic diseases.
- Improves digestion
- In Ayurveda cinnamon along with honey in a warn water boosts digestion and prevents flatulence. It helps in absorption of nutrients from food and eliminates bad bacteria form the gut.
- Enhances skin health
- Anti-inflammatory property of cinnamon is beneficial for preventing acne, pimples and other skin infections.
- Helps in healing chronic wounds.
Who should avoid cinnamon consumption
- People with liver disease
- Pregnant woman
- People taking blood thinner medicines
- After surgery
Things to consider when consuming cinnamon
- Always prefer to use cinnamon sticks
- Do not boil cinnamon
- Do not consume cinnamon for longer duration, after consuming for weeks take a break of at least one week
- Prefer Ceylon over cassia
- Avoid higher doses. Take less than 1 tsp/day