Herbs and Spices

Cinnamon plant – Nutritional value and Medicinal uses

As a very popular spice, cinnamon is obtained from the bark of several tree species from the genus Cinnamomum. It is a powerful medicinal spice that has been used for several years in traditional medicine. The aroma and flavor of cinnamon makes it to be used in a wide variety of cuisines, ranging from snackfoods, sweet dishes, to even traditional foods. In the United States, cinnamon is used along with sugar as a flavoring agent for cereals, and bread-based dishes. The Mexicans use it in the preparation of chocolates, while the Turks employ it in both savory and sweet dishes.

cinnamon-medicinal-uses

Nutritional value / properties of Cinnamon per 100 g (USDA)

  • 59 kcal of Energy
  • 10.6 g of Water
  • 80.6 g of Carbohydrates (53.1 g of Dietary fiber)
  • 1.2 g of Fat
  • 4 g of Protein
  • 31.2 μg of vitamin K, 2.3 mg of vitamin E, 3.8 mg of vitamin C, 6 μg of folate, 0.16 mg of vitamin B6, 1.33 mg of niacin, 0.04 mg of riboflavin, 0.02 mg of thiamine, and 15 μg of vitamin A
  • 1002 mg of calcium, 8.3 mg of iron, 60 mg of magnesium, 64 mg of phosphorus, 431 mg of potassium, 10 mg of sodium, and 1.8 mg of zinc

Cinnamon contains high amount of dietary fiber. It is low in fat and protein, but a rich source of calcium, iron, and vitamin K. It provides vitamin E, B6, magnesium, and zinc in moderate amounts.

Cinnamon medicinal uses

  • Protects the Heart

Heart disease and its complications must be avoided at all cost. Our diet plays an important role here, and a key factor in avoiding risk factors of heart disease such as high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Cinnamon has been proven to be a heart-friendly spice as it helps lowers blood cholesterol level (the bad cholesterol) and reduce blood pressure.

A research (1) carried out on human beings (yes, human beings not rats this time around), evaluated the effect of cinnamon on blood glucose, blood pressure, and lipid profile of 58 patients of type 2 diabetes over a period of 12 weeks. The study showed promising results, with a significant reduction in both blood sugar and pressure levels.

  • Lowers blood sugar level

This is one of the most documented medicinal application of cinnamon. Many researches have shown how it is able to lower blood glucose level, and halt insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when your body fails to respond to the action of insulin, due to this, your blood sugar level becomes high and thus, leading to type 2 diabetes.

Cinnamon has been shown to limit the quantity of sugar that is absorbed into the blood stream after a meal. This is achieved by its inhibitory effect on intestinal α-glucosidase and pancreatic α-amylase, which are digestive enzymes involved in the breakdown of carbohydrates (2).

A research that interests me the most was the one carried out by Jarvill-Taylor KJ and co, where they found a compound in cinnamon known as methylhydroxychalcone polymer (MHCP) to be able to mimic the functions of insulin. Their experiments concluded how MHCP can be an effective mimetic of insulin, and suggest its possible use in the treatment of insulin resistance.

As a diabetic, consuming cinnamon may help lower your blood sugar level, lower your blood pressure, and reduce your changes of getting heart disease.

  • Reduce the risk for cancer

Cancer is arguably the most deadly disease of the 21st century. “Prevention is better than cure” is a popular saying that befits this deadly disease, as it is easier to prevent this disease than to treat it. And one of those ways to prevent or lower the risk of developing cancers is through the consumption of cinnamon.

Cinnamon is full of antioxidants such as polyphenols, which helps protect the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. To show you how powerful the antioxidant effect of cinnamon is, researchers (3) took to the lab to compare the antioxidant capacity of 26 common spice extracts from 12 botanical families. And guess what? Cinnamon emerged the winner! It went as far as outranking great medicinal foods like garlic in terms of antioxidant capacity.

Apart from its antioxidant effect, most studies have linked its anti-cancer potential to a compound known as cinnamaldehyde, an organic compound which gives this wonderful spice its flavor and odor.

  • Fights infections

The infection-fighting ability of cinnamon has been attributed to its content of essential oils. Many studies carried out have shown it to inhibit the growth and proliferation of many types of bacteria. An interesting study (4) revealed the potential use of cinnamon oil over clove oil in the treatment of dental caries.

This great spice is a powerful immune booster. Many online publications have shown its potential in reducing the risk of contracting HIV virus. An interesting study was carried out by some Indian scholars in the year 2000 (5). The study evaluated the inhibitory effect of a whooping 69 medicinal plants against HIV. Out of these plants, cinnamon and Cardiospermum showed the most effectiveness in suppressing the virus.

An ayurvedic-claim is its potent use in treating tuberculosis, where it is believed that taking a little quantity of cinnamon oil kills the organisms that cause the disease (6).

  • Prevents Neurodegenerative diseases

This kind of disorders leads to loss of function or even death of neurons. Many researches have shown the ability of cinnamon to protect the brain against developing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. It is believed that this wonderful spice protects the brain cells by activating neuro-proteins which protects the brains cells from getting damaged or undergoing mutations.

A research (7) evaluated the effects of cinnamon extract on tau aggregation which is strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The cinnamon extract successfully inhibited tau, and was partly attributed to the cinnamaldehyde content of this great spice.

Moreover, the antioxidant effect of cinnamon reduce the effects of aging on the body and particularly the brain. In years to come, we might see cinnamon as one of the potential natural treatment for neurodegenerative disorders for the elderly.

 

The uses of cinnamon are endless. Others worthy of mention are:

  • Can be used to freshen-up breath and prevent bad breath
  • Can prevent Candida
  • Has great anti-inflammatory effects
  • Can improve Skin health

About the author

Abbati

Abbati studied Biological sciences at Ahmadu Bello Univeristy, Zaria. He loves learning about the medicinal properties of foods, and the need to explore them!