In ancient times, cinnamon was a rare and expensive spice. It was jealously guarded, as if it were a precious treasure, by King Solomon, who had received it as a gift from the Queen of Sheba. It is said that it was one of the spices with which Moses anointed the Ark of the Covenant.
Originally from Sri Lanka, with its intense perfume and its therapeutic power it has conquered nobles and aristocrats from all over the world, so much so that it has earned the title of “spice of kings”.
Although in medieval Europe it was still a rather expensive spice, it became a basic ingredient of meat and fruit dishes, typical of that time.
Cinnamon belongs to the cinnamomum genus of the lauraceae family. Cinnamon is the common name of the cinnamomum bark; there are many species that differ in smell, taste and color depending on the area or land of origin, but the most important are two: cinnamomum zeylanicum, a small Ceylon tree, also cultivated in Java and the West Indies and Chinese cinnamon cinnamomum cassia.
The precious spice is made up of very thin layers of dried bark, light brown in color, wrapped around themselves to form cylindrical sticks called sticks.
Cinnamon contains essential oils such as cineole, eugenol and phenol; the latter is a powerful natural disinfectant with a high sterilizing and antibacterial power. It has an antioxidant action, more powerful than that of vitamin C, and a toning, antispasmodic, digestive, intestinal antiputrefactive and vermifuge function. It is known for its anti-flu properties and as a cardiokinetic (accelerates the heartbeat) and vasoconstrictor, as a tonic for respiratory function and for its documented estrogenic and uterotonic action.
BENEFICIAL AND THERAPEUTIC PROPERTIES of CINNAMON
Due to the presence of the aforementioned active components, various beneficial properties have been attributed to cinnamon. Indeed, it seems capable of:
- improve digestion, especially reducing bloating and digestive disorders;
- supporting the functioning of the intestine, being a good source of fiber it can provide relief from constipation. It also contains calcium, iron and manganese;
- control blood sugar levels, thus reducing hunger attacks (thanks to blood sugar control and slowing the gastric emptying rate) and the craving for sweets. In this way it helps to keep the body weight in the normal range. Studies in the scientific literature have hypothesized a possible usefulness of cinnamon powder in the management of diabetes, as it improves the ability of sick people to respond to insulin (Khan et al., 2003);
- fight and prevent infections, especially fungal and bacterial, due to its antimicrobial activity;
- counteracting cold weather disturbs, it is widely used, together with honey, to prepare infusions or, in the form of essential oil, to make fumigations (two drops dissolved in boiling water are enough);
- reduce bad breath (halitosis conditions).
ANTI-INFLAMMATORY AND ANTIOXIDANT ACTION of CINNAMON
Thanks to the cinnamic aldehyde contained in it, cinnamon has an anticoagulant and antithrombotic action, inhibiting the release of arachidonic acid, a key molecule in the inflammatory response and, for this reason, cinnamon is also a natural anti-inflammatory.
It protects the brain and defends us from neurodegenerative diseases due to its antioxidant properties, in fact it has a protective action against damage caused by cellular aging. It is also a friend of the skin, if applied locally it protects the skin from irritation and redness thanks to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Like any type of spice, cinnamon is also not recommended in some conditions.
In the presence of ulcers or inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (esophagitis or gastritis), for example, it is advisable not to take it because it could increase gastric acidity.
Cinnamon contains coumarin, a substance that is moderately toxic to the liver and kidneys. It is therefore important to avoid too much use of cinnamon in case of impaired liver and kidney function.
Finally, at high dosages, cinnamon can stimulate uterine contractions and as such is contraindicated in pregnancy.
VALUABLE SUPPORT IN CASE OF DIABETES
As with almost all natural compounds with therapeutic properties, the potential curative effects on diabetes are also controversial in the scientific literature and, at present, still require further and in-depth studies. However, there are numerous scientific works in favor of the use of cinnamon in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Among these is a study published in 2013 which took into consideration the effects of cinnamon at different dosages on the blood levels of glucose and lipids in patients with this type of diabetes and demonstrated its effectiveness, although it did not define its dosages and duration of therapy.
Earlier, in 2003, a Pakistani study demonstrated the ability of cinnamon, administered in dosages of 1 to 6 grams per day in patients with type 2 diabetes, to significantly lower blood levels of glucose, glycosylated hemoglobin, triglycerides and cholesterol, compared to patients who had been given a placebo (pharmacologically inert substance).
While recent studies seem to downsize the role of cinnamon in diabetes therapy. In conclusion, the potential hypoglycemic and lipid-lowering effect of cinnamon is not denied, but further in-depth studies are needed.
Cinnamon has been shown to lower blood glucose levels and this action takes place through various mechanisms. First of all, it acts on the insulin receptors present on the cells, favoring the action of insulin which brings glucose back into the cells, subtracting it from the circulating blood.
At the same time, cinnamon stimulates the synthesis of glucose transport molecules and modulates the metabolism of hepatic glucose through the synthesis of certain enzymes.
In addition, it fights diabetes because it helps to reduce the blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides often associated with this disease.
“Terapia Nutrizionale: l’applicazione pratica. D. Arcari Morini, A. D’Eugenio, F. Aufiero; Red 2005
Allen, Robert W et al. “Cinnamon use in type 2 diabetes: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis” Annals of family medicine vol. 11,5 (2013): 452-9.
Khan A, Safdar M, Ali Khan MM, Khattak KN, Anderson RA. “Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes.” Diabetes Care. 2003 Dec;26(12):3215-8.
Hasanzade, Farzaneh et al. “The Effect of Cinnamon on Glucose of Type II Diabetes Patients” Journal of traditional and complementary medicine vol. 3,3 (2013): 171-4.
Medagama, Arjuna B. “The glycaemic outcomes of Cinnamon, a review of the experimental evidence and clinical trials” Nutrition journal vol. 14 108. 16 Oct. 2015, doi:10.1186/s12937-015-0098-9
Akilen R, Tsiami A, Devendra D, Robinson N. “Glycated haemoglobin and blood pressure-lowering effect of cinnamon in multi-ethnic Type 2 diabetic patients in the UK: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial.” Diabet Med. 2010 Oct;27(10):1159-67. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-5491.2010.03079.x.