The bark of the cinnamon tree has a long and rich history of being used as a spice and medicine. The cinnamon tree is an evergreen tree of the family, Lauraceae. The dried brown bark of this tree is sold in the form of quills, or as ground powder. The actual or true cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka, and is quite expensive. The less expensive variety that can be commonly found in the market comes from a related tree, known as cassia cinnamon. It is also known as Chinese or Indonesian cinnamon.
The true or Ceylon cinnamon has a sweet taste, and the quills are softer and lighter in color than the cassia cinnamon. Both the varieties have been used for a long time as a natural remedy for a number of ailments. Several studies and research have been conducted to find out the healing properties of this spice. Today, various supplements of this spice can be found in the market, which are mainly used for regulating the level of blood sugar.
The medicinal properties of this spice have been known to mankind since ancient times. But still, this spice is mainly used as a condiment and a flavoring agent. However, the results of some scientific studies have generated a growing interest in its medicinal properties. The following are some health conditions, in which cinnamon can be used as a herbal remedy:
- It is found to have anti-clotting properties. Blood clotting is important to prevent excessive bleeding from a cut or wound. However, too much clumping of blood platelets can prove harmful, as it can adversely affect the circulation of blood. The 'cinnamaldehyde' found in this spice can prevent unnecessary clumping of blood platelets.
- It has been the traditional remedy for digestive ailments, like an upset stomach, flatulence, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- It can boost the immune system. Usually, cinnamon powder is taken along with honey to strengthen the immune system.
- It has antimicrobial properties, and it has been found to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi, including candida. So, the extract of this spice can help treat yeast infections.
- People with diabetes can also benefit from this herbal remedy. Several studies in this regard have pointed out that cinnamon may help regulate blood sugar and increase insulin sensitivity. This can be attributed to the presence of the chemical, 'hydroxychalcone'.
- In traditional Chinese medicine, it is the warming tonic that can alleviate common cold and cough.
- Many people use this spice for weight loss. Usually, honey and cinnamon are boiled together in a cup of water, and then taken in the morning on an empty stomach to lose weight, and prevent the accumulation of fats in the body.
- In addition to these, this spice can help lower the level of cholesterol and triglycerides in the body. It can reduce the pain of arthritis when applied topically. Women can find it beneficial in conditions like painful menstruation and menopause symptoms.
- It is also a good source of fiber and minerals like iron, calcium, and manganese.
Possible Side Effects
When taken in a large amount, it can cause a few side effects. The cassia cinnamon contains a compound known as 'coumarin', which is toxic in high concentration. Ceylon or true cinnamon contains a very negligible amount of 'coumarin'. But it is the cassia cinnamon that is commonly found in the market, and also included in supplements.
A high level of coumarin can damage the liver and the kidneys. This spice also has blood thinning properties, for which it should not be taken along with anticoagulant medications like warfarin. Even people having bleeding disorders should talk to their physicians before taking cinnamon and its supplements for therapeutic purposes.
People taking diabetes medications should also talk to their physicians before using this spice for medicinal purposes. Cinnamon can lower blood sugar and so, it can cause a significant drop in blood sugar if it is taken along with diabetes medications. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take this spice in excess. People with kidney diseases should also not take it without the approval of their physicians. When applied topically, this spice can cause skin irritation or contact dermatitis in some individuals.
To sum up, this spice and its supplements need to be taken with caution. It is also important to avoid the cheap supplements, in order to avoid any kind of serious side effects. In general, it is always safe to purchase supplementation from a reputed manufacturer. Lastly, do not forget to consult your physician before taking any dietary and herbal supplements, including the supplements of cinnamon.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.