A popular spice with a distinct aroma and flavor, cinnamon has been found to exhibit numerous medicinal as well as health benefiting properties. It has been used for thousands of years as a remedy for many ailments. Cinnamon is obtained from the inner bark of trees that belong to the genus, Cinnamomum. Native to Sri Lanka, Cinnamon is also grown in many other countries around the world such as Bangladesh, India, China, Myanmar and Indonesia. It is available both in the stick and powder forms. Cinnamon has long been considered as a super food and research has shown that the active elements in this spice are helpful in boosting your health.
Nutritional value of Cinnamon
Cinnamon has one of the highest levels of antioxidants amongst the various spices and food items. It contains several active components that possess antimicrobial, antiseptic, anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory properties. Cinnamon contains many health benefiting essential oils such as eugenol, linalool, ethyl cinnamate and cinnamaldehyde. It is an excellent source of important minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, copper and zinc. It is also rich in a wide range of vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K and B complex vitamins like niacin, choline and folate.
Health benefits of Cinnamon
Cinnamon is high in active substances like cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate and cinnamyl alcohol, which are responsible for not only giving it the unique smell and flavor, but also for its various health benefits. The following are some of the benefits offered by this wonderful spice:
Cinnamon is rich in antioxidants
Cinnamon is loaded with powerful antioxidants that protect your body against oxidative damages caused by the harmful free radicals. This spice has an oxygen radical absorbance clearance (ORAC) value of 267536 μmol TE/100g, which makes it one of the top antioxidants available. The antioxidants in cinnamon fight off the free radicals and help prevent deadly diseases like cancer. Studies reveal that cinnamon extracts not only provide antioxidant benefits but also help improve food palatability.
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Cinnamon helps control diabetes
According to studies, cinnamon has anti-diabetic properties that help regulate the levels of blood glucose in the body. Cinnamon has a 3 to 5 percent effect on blood sugar, which makes it ideal for pre-diabetic people. Adding cinnamon to high carbohydrate foods helps in lessening the impact on blood glucose levels. Cinnamon reduces the rate at which the stomach is emptied, thus reducing spikes in blood sugar. Studies indicate that the active compounds in cinnamon stimulate insulin receptors and also help in inhibiting an enzyme that may make the receptors inactive. This helps in increasing the ability of your cells to make better use of glucose. A study published in the 2003 issue of Diabetes care suggest that consuming even a little amount of cinnamon is effective in reducing the levels of blood sugar, LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides.
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Cinnamon has anti-clotting properties
Platelets are blood components that help prevent bleeding by clumping together. But when the clumping happens too much, it may block the flow of blood leading to dangerous health problems. Cinnamaldehyde found in cinnamon is found to have the ability to prevent the clumping together of blood platelets by inhibiting the release of arachidonic acid, an inflammatory fatty acids and also by preventing the formation of an inflammatory messaging molecule known as thromboxane A2.
Cinnamon shows antimicrobial effects
Cinnamon has the ability to fight against yeast that is usually resistant to medications. Studies indicate that cinnamon oil is effective against candida yeast. The antimicrobial effect of cinnamon is so strong that it can be used as an alternative to food preservatives. According to a study published in the International journal of food microbiology, cinnamon oil helps in inhibiting the growth of food borne pathogenic bacteria like Bacillus cereus. Studies also indicate that cinnamon is effective in fighting oral yeast infections, stomach ulcers and vaginal yeast infections.
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Cinnamon boosts brain health
Cinnamon has been found to improve the health of the brain as well as provide several neurological benefits. The sweet scent of cinnamon helps in increasing the various activities of the brain and improving memory. According to a study conducted on rats, cinnamon improves cognitive functions and delays aging of the brain by reducing oxidative damage. This spice has been found to be beneficial for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease because it increases the production of dopamine and improves the motor functions. Cinnamon is metabolized into sodium benzoate inside the body, which increases the levels of various neurotrophic factors or chemicals that support the production of new nerve cells and protect the existing ones. This helps in improving the health of the brain and in preventing neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s diseases and Parkinson’s disease.
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Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties
Inflammation is the natural mechanism of the body by which it fights infections and repairs damaged tissues. However, chronic inflammation can lead to serious health problems. The powerful antioxidants in cinnamon help in lowering inflammation, relieving pain and stiffness of the joints and muscles. Because of its anti-inflammatory effects, this spice is used in the treatment of inflammatory diseases like arthritis. Having a tablespoon of honey along with half a teaspoon of cinnamon every morning is effective in reducing the pain and swelling associated with arthritis.
Cinnamon reduces the risks of heart diseases
Cinnamon possesses potent anti-inflammatory properties that help in the prevention of heart diseases. It contains compounds that help increase blood circulation, which in turn ensures proper supply of oxygen to all parts of the body. Cinnamaldehyde found in cinnamon has anti-clotting effects that prevent the clumping together of platelets. This spice also helps in lowering the levels of LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides. It also helps increase the levels of good cholesterol or HDL. Animal studies indicate that cinnamon is capable of reducing high blood pressure. All these properties of cinnamon make it a heart healthy food.
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Cinnamon fights cancer
Cinnamon is a spice that has been found to be beneficial in preventing and treating cancer. It reduces the growth and proliferation of cancer cells and prevents the formation of blood vessels in cancer cells. It also induces death of cancer cells, a process known as apoptosis. Cinnamon stimulates the production of enzymes that produces a detoxifying effect and prevents the growth of colon cancer cells. It also eliminates the excess bile in the digestive tract, thereby lowering the risk of colon cancer. According to a study, cinnamon reduced the growth of lymphoma and leukemia cancer cells.
Cinnamon against HIV virus
A study of various medicinal plants in India revealed that cinnamon may be effective against HIV-1 and HIV-2 viruses. It can be used in conjunction with antiretroviral treatments to improve the health and well-being of people suffering from AIDS. Researchers have succeeded in extracting a molecule known as IND-02 that is believed to help in preventing the replication of the virus and keeping the disease under control.
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Cinnamon helps you lose weight
Increase in blood sugar levels can lead to the storage of excess glucose as fat. Cinnamon has the ability to lower the levels of blood glucose by regulating insulin levels in the body. The consumption of this spice helps in speeding up the metabolism, which causes your body to burn more calories, thereby assisting in weight loss. Cinnamon also helps suppress your appetite by making you feel full for a longer period of time. As a result you are not tempted to eat high calorie food items.
Cinnamon improves digestive health
Cinnamon is loaded with essential nutrients that give a boost to your digestive health. They help in improving digestion and assimilation of food by stimulating the production of gastric juices. The fiber content in this spice makes your bowel movements regular and prevents constipation. Cinnamon has powerful anti-inflammatory properties that help prevent inflammatory problems like ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome. Drinking cinnamon tea mixed with mint is a great remedy for getting relief from upset stomach.
Cinnamon for cold and flu
A combination of cinnamon and honey is a well known remedy for cold and flu. Both these ingredients have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties that boost your immune system and help reduce the severity of colds and protect your body against further infections. Drinking cinnamon tea is effective for treating sore throats. To make the tea, just add cinnamon sticks in boiling water and boil for about 2 to 3 minutes. Strain the tea and drink it twice a day to get relief from sore throat.
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Cinnamon for healthy teeth
Cinnamon, being an antimicrobial agent and pain killer is great for improving dental care. Cinnamon oil is can be used for destroying the bacteria that cause periodontal disease, tooth decay, bad odor and cavities. Researchers have discovered that cinnamon flavored chewing gum is beneficial in reducing bacteria in the mouth because the compound cinnamaldehyde found in this spice inhibits the growth of infection causing bacteria. Because of these properties, cinnamon is used in many dental care products.
Cinnamon is a fragrant spice that has been used for a long time for its amazing culinary and medicinal properties. It occupies an important position in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. Nowadays cinnamon is used for treating a wide variety of health problems including diabetes, heart diseases, respiratory problems and skin infections. The benefits offered by this spice are numerous that it is ideal to include it in your daily diet.Image Credits: Wikimedia - VanRobin