What is Cinnamon?
Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several tree species from the genus Cinnamomum. It is used mainly as an aromatic condiment and flavouring additive in a wide variety of cuisines, sweet and savoury dishes, breakfast cereals, snacks, tea, and traditional foods. Cinnamon has a variety of use because of its amazing health benefits.
TYPES OF CINNAMON
Cinnamon is categorized into two (2) types, which are: Cassia cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon. They are both harvested in sheets found beneath the bark of trees belonging to the same scientific family, but they produce distinctly different products. The two types of cinnamon are differentiated by the way they are harvested, their smell, taste, and the chemical compounds found in them.
- Cassia Cinnamon: This is the most common type of cinnamon you can easily find in grocery stores. It is mostly cultivated in Southern China and Southeast Asia. Cassia cinnamon roll in thicker sheets, in its bark-like form, is rougher in texture, darker in colour, and its flavour is more intense, so a little bit of the powder goes a long way. Is commonly used for home cooking and industrial production. Cassia cinnamon has some health benefits and is safe when consumed in small to moderate amounts, but may cause health problems when consumed in large doses due to the high content of coumarin. Consuming too much coumarin may affect coagulation. Therefore, people taking anticoagulants, diabetics patients,s and those that suffer from liver conditions should speak with their health care providers before adding high doses of cassia cinnamon to their diet.
- Ceylon Cinnamon: This variety of cinnamon is usually referred to as ‘’True’’ cinnamon. It is native to Sri Lanka. It’s a little more expensive and not as commonly found in grocery stores as the cassia variety of cinnamon. When harvested the sheet can be processed by hand and rolled into flat layers, it is thinner and finer in texture, and lighter in colour, and the taste, and aroma is milder and more delicate. It possesses properties that contribute to many health benefits. Ceylon cinnamon is safer because it contains a smaller amount of coumarin contents.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon
- Cinnamon Contain Substance with Powerful Medicinal Properties
Cinnamon contains a potent chemical component called cinnamaldehyde, this compound is responsible for the spicy taste, flavour, and colour of cinnamon. It may be responsible for the cinnamon’s health benefits. Cinnamaldehyde has antifungal and antibacterial properties which may reduce infections and improve overall health.
- It is Loaded with Antioxidants
Cinnamon contains a large number of polyphenol antioxidants. An antioxidant that can help protect the body against diseases and also provide anti-inflammatory effects, improves brain function, reduce and control blood sugar levels, prevent cancer and reduce the risk of heart diseases.
- Blood Sugar Control
Consuming cinnamon has been confirmed by scientists to control blood sugar levels and in the treatment of diabetes. Cinnamon helps the body respond to insulin more effectively and regulate sugar levels.
- Prevent Cancer
Cinnamaldehyde possesses some anti-tumour and anti-cancer properties. It reduces the growth of cancer cells and the formation of blood vessels in tumours and reduces and combats the proliferation of cancer cells in the body.
- Increase Memory, Alertness, and Cognitive Development
Cinnamon is used as a physical and emotional stimulant. It has a sweet, spicy-hot aroma that can enhance cognitive functions and boost memory by smelling it. Adding cinnamon to a dish can improve quality sleep and reduce stress too.
- Effective Against Arthritis/Osteoporosis
Cinnamon has potent anti-inflammatory properties which can help reduce and give a calming effect on muscle ache that is associated with arthritis. As a potent anticoagulant, it improves blood circulation.
- Aid Weight Loss
Research also indicates that cinnamon’s effect on blood glucose levels can also help your body lose some weight and manage food cravings. It makes the body more energetic and revitalizing.
- Treats Cold, Sore Throat, and Cough
In traditional medicine, cinnamon has been used to improve oral health, and treat colds, bronchitis, and cough. Polyphenols help boost immunity naturally, they are also loaded with antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties.
- Ease Stomach Discomfort
Its aids proper digestion of food and alleviate intestinal discomfort. It has cleansing and soothing properties on the stomach. It relieves upset stomach, gas, and diarrhoea and improves colon function.
- As Preservatives in Food
Cinnamon is a natural food preservative, adding some pinch of it to your food and drink give a slight touch of spiciness and preserve it for a long time. It also prevents the proliferation of bacteria that can cause food spoilage and may result in food-borne diseases.
Cinnamon has a distinctive flavour and colour making it versatile for usage in sweet and savoury dishes. Cinnamon can liven all manners of dishes, the list is endless. Here are some of the possible ways you can add cinnamon to your diet;
- Make a tea with cinnamon or add some pinch to your beverages to replace sugar
- Sprinkle some cinnamon powder on meal and soups
- Add cinnamon to bread and cake to enhance the colour, taste and low sugar treat
- Cinnamon will give a great blend with other spices, which can be used in various cooking.
While consuming cinnamon in small to moderate amounts is harmless, consuming too much could be harmful because it contains large amounts of the compound called ‘Coumarin’.
Coumarin is a naturally occurring sweet-smelling chemical found in cinnamon.
The following has been linked to consuming a high dose of cinnamon, especially the cassia type;
Allergy: Cinnamaldehyde, a compound found in cinnamon can cause mouth sores in some people that are allergic to it. This reaction is common to people that use cinnamon oil.
Lower Blood Sugar: While consuming cinnamon has been associated to help lower blood sugar, taking too much of it while on diabetes medications can cause your blood sugar to drop lower. This can cause dizziness or fainting.
Toxicity: The tolerable daily intake of coumarin is approximately 0.1 mg/kg) of body weight, The coumarin content of ground Cassia cinnamon may range from 7 to 18 milligrams per teaspoon (2.6 grams), while Ceylon cinnamon only contains trace amounts of coumarin.
Coumarin toxicity which can lead to liver problems can only be found common in people that take cinnamon supplements without medical advice. Supplements usually provide a higher dose than you would get from a diet.
Drug Interaction: Cinnamon can interact with drugs for diabetes, heart disease, and liver disease if consumed in a higher dose. It might either make them more effective or have more negative side effects. If you take any medication regularly, talk to your doctor before you start using any cinnamon supplements.
Note From TheHealthi
At the end of the day, Cinnamon is a delicious spice that possess so many beneficial health properties, especially for it’s blood lowering properties.
Consuming small to moderate amount of Cinnamon is usually safe, eating too much has been linked to side effects especially the Cassia type of cinnamon which contain significant amount of coumarin. Contralriy, the amount of coumarin in Ceylon or true cinnamon is minimal.
If you are considering on adding cinnamon to your diet, try and source for the ‘Ceylon or True’ Cinnamon variety and use moderately. However, seek advice of health practitional before taking Cinnamon in a higher dose or supplement.