Cinnamon: Full of Spice and Everything Nice

Monday, November 28, 2016. Author Tyler Breedlove

This week we have a great holiday recipe using cinnamon. Rejoice! We’ve got some cookies that would help even Santa’s waistline. You can check out the recipe here.

What Is Cinnamon?

Cinnamon is a spice found from the inner bark of trees indigenous to Sri Lanka and the southern parts of India. This spice is widely known for its uses in cooking, however, holistic healing practices originating from India used cinnamon medicinally for thousands of years, where it was a remedy for many respiratory, digestive and gynecological issues.

Now, cinnamon doesn’t come from just any tree. It comes from a genus known as Cinnamomum. This tropical evergreen comes in 2 types: Cinnamomum zeylanicum and Cinnamon cassia, also known as Cinnamomum aromaticum. Let’s call the first “true cinnamon” and the second “cassia cinnamon.”

Understanding the Difference

So what’s the difference between the 2 types of cinnamon? An important distinction involves a compound called “coumarin.” In cassia cinnamon, levels of this compound are very high and there may be possible health risks if this is consumed too often in high quantities. According to the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, the exact opposite is the case for “true” cinnamon, reporting “hardly any” coumarin content.

Coumarins have been shown to have strong anti-coagulant, carcinogenic and hepato-toxic properties. With that said, it is important to mention that studies show that coumarin plays no role in the biological and health effects we will cover later.

What’s the takeaway from all of this? If you are wanting to make cinnamon an addition to your diet, “true” cinnamon is the ideal way to go, containing hardly any coumarin. However, the coumarin found in cassia cinnamon won’t interfere with its health benefits, but it should only be consumed periodically and in smaller quantities.

Healthy Bites

Cinnamon has a wide variety of health and medicinal benefits. Prepare for some spicy goodness below.

Benefits of Cinnamon:

  • It contains a very high amount of anti-oxidant activity, from various compounds found in cinnamon, as well as from several flavonoids.
  • There is strong support for the ability of cinnamon to lower blood pressure.
  • A few studies have even suggested positive improvements in cholesterol levels.
  • Several studies have shown decreases in blood glucose levels, resulting in improved insulin function.
  • Cinnamaldehyde, a primary compound in cinnamon, has been shown to hold a large amount of anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Cinnamaldehyde, eugenol (also found in cinnamon) and cinnamon oil have shown potent anti-bacterial effects against numerous forms of bacteria.
  • Cinnamaldehyde and bark extract have been shown to contain anti-viral properties, by way of inhibiting viral cell replication and growth.
  • Some animal studies suggest that cinnamon may have anti-tumor and anti-cancer effects, by way of its anti-oxidative properties. Several studies suggest cinnamaldehyde is responsible for tumor cell death, also known as apoptosis.
  • The suggested lowering of blood pressure, decrease in cholesterol levels and decreased blood glucose levels make cinnamon beneficial in reducing an individual’s risk of cardiovascular disease.

Gentlemen, Your Attention Please.

There are a large number of studies suggesting that incorporating cinnamon into the diet may increase testosterone levels. Now, it is important to note that the studies showing increases in testosterone appear to all be animal studies and use “true cinnamon.” The potential of increased testosterone levels in men, plus the high amount of health benefits makes this a must add to anyone’s diet!

The Genetic Factors

Understanding your genetics can play a key role in knowing if and how you would benefit from the consumption of cinnamon. This becomes very relevant when we look at certain genes. To the DNA chart!

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Fathiazad, F., Khaki, A., Nouri, M., & Afshin, K. A. (2013). Effect of Cinnamon Zeylanicum on serum Testosterone and anti-oxidants levels in Rats. International Journal of Women’s Health and Reproduction Sciences, 1(1), 29-35.

Gruenwald, J., Freder, J., & Armbruester, N. (2010). Cinnamon and health. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition50(9), 822-834.

Ranasinghe, P., Pigera, S., Premakumara, G. S., Galappaththy, P., Constantine, G. R., & Katulanda, P. (2013). Medicinal properties of ‘true’cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum): a systematic review. BMC complementary and alternative medicine13(1), 1.

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