Cinnamon


  


INTRODUCTION

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum, synonym C. zeylanicum) is a small evergreen tree 10-15m tall, belonging to the family Lauraceae, native to Sri Lanka and Southern India. The bark is widely used as a spice. It is of a golden-yellow colour, with the characteristic odour of cinnamon and has a very hot aromatic taste. The characteristic taste and scent come from cinnamic aldehyde or cinnamaldehyde garnered by the absorption of oxygen. As cinnamon ages it darkens in colour and develops resinous compounds. The name cinnamon comes from Greek kinnámōmon, from Phoenicia and akin to Hebrew qinnâmôn, itself ultimately from a Malaysian language, cf. Malay and Indonesian kayu manis "sweet wood".
Today, cinnamon is used all over the world and is found particularly in baked foods such as buns, breads and donuts. It is ironic that the disease these foods causes (gut bacterial overgrowth, diabetes and high blood pressure) are the three diseases most commonly treated by cinnamon.

HISTPRICAL/MEDICAL USES OF CINNAMON

Cinnamon is mentioned in several ancient books. The Bible cites it as an ingredient in anointing oils used by Moses and as a token of friendship between lovers or friends. Those people who could afford the spice used it in meals for flavour and to impress those around them with their ability to purchase a condiment from the "exotic" East. Some scholars speculate that the ‘upper crust’ of European society consumed large quantities of spices during the Middle Ages in order to cover up the taste of cured meats, which began to spoil during the winter.

MEDICAL USES OF CINNAMON

Blood Pressure

A recent study has found that many agents (nutrients, nutraceuticals, and drugs) that enhance insulin sensitivity (benefit diabetics) and/or reduce circulating insulin concentrations also lower blood pressure (BP). Recently, it was reported that cinnamon has the potential to favourably reduce glucose by improving insulin functioning. As mentioned earlier, cinnamon in Western society is currently known for it’s use as a flavour enhancer in food, but more recent research has found that cinnamon may have additional roles in glucose metabolism and BP regulation. Therefore, regulating BP may not only be influenced favourably by limiting the amounts of dietary substances that have negative effects on BP and insulin function (such as reducing the intake of refined carbohydrates, excessive salt and trans fats) but also by the addition of beneficial substances, such as cinnamon.

Cinnamon Benefits Diabetics

In Asia, cinnamon has long been used as a herbal medicine whereas in Western countries, it is known mainly as a spice. Several animal studies published since 1990 have indicated that cinnamon may mimic insulin effects and thus improve glucose utilization. These results have prompted further enquiry into cinnamon being used in the glycaemic control of diabetics, and a study with diabetic patients. Further research has indicated that cinnamon may inhibit hepatic HMG-CoA reductase activity (the enzyme that makes cholesterol in our bodies) and thus lower blood cholesterol in humans. This would suggest that individuals with high cholesterol may benefit from the regular consumption of cinnamon in their diet.

Killing parasites

Worms represent varying degrees of ailments from mild irritations, to the driving force behind many childhood allergic conditions such as Asthma. The body tries to expel worms by increasing aspects of the immune system, which is associated with allergies. The eradication of these worms is associated with a reduction in allergic symptoms. One study has found that cinnamon kills worms, without the side effects of medications.

Healing Stomach Ulcers

One study has found that cinnamon is capable of inhibiting Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium associated with stomach ulcers.

DRUG INTERACTIONS WITH CINNAMON

Although cinnamon (as with any herbal medicine) can conflict with medications, no significant herb/drug interactions with cinnamon have been reported. As a precaution it is advised that before using this herb or any other herbal preparation, to consult your health care professional.

THERAPEUTIC/SAFE DOSAGE OF CINNAMON

Cinnamon can be purchased in most supermarkets around Australia and is often used in common foods as a flavour. Whilst some individuals may be sensitive to Cinnamon, it is generally a remarkably safe herb with up to 10 grams a day able to be consumed daily without adverse effects. For the specific treatment of worms or diabetes, most trials use 1-6g of the dry powdered herb a day.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS

If you bake your own bread, add 10g cinnamon into the dry ingredients to enhance the characteristic taste and aroma. Alternatively, add 5g to a blended fruit smoothie to add ‘warmth’ to this otherwise cold drink. Cinnamon can also be added to protein drinks in the same manner.

OTHER HERBS THAT CAN BE USED WITH CINNAMON

Below is a list of herbs that can be prescribed with cinnamon to boost its healing properties:

  • Gymnema. Gymnema is a great herb for diabetics. Gymnema has been found to increase insulin in the pancreas by producing a capability in diabetics to reduce blood sugar levels. Cinnamon works synergistically with Gymnema as cinnamon reduces the body’s requirement for insulin, while Gymnema increases its production.

  • Wormwood. Probably the best known anti-worming herb, wormwood has been used for centuries for the treatment of parasitic infestations of the gut. However, as this herb has a particularly unpleasant taste, combining it with cinnamon makes it more palatable.

  • Thyme. If someone is suffering from a stomach ulcer, they may also have to suffer the medication that goes along with it’s treatment (triple antibiotic therapy). As mentioned earlier, thyme and cinnamon both work to destroy the bacterium that causes stomach ulcers, without the side effects of high dose antibiotics. While the herbs may not be as strong as the antibiotics, they enjoy far fewer side effects.

  • Hawthorn. Hawthorn is one of the great herb tonics for the heart and circulation. It has been found in many studies to reduce high blood pressure. The hawthorn berries them selves are commonly used as foods and a blended smoothie with these berries and cinnamon would be a very useful tonic to reduce blood pressure.

CONCLUSION

Cinnamon is a highly-prized herb. Although traditionally traded as a herb for cooking and flavouring, current clinical trials support medicinal uses of this herb, especially for the treatment of diabetes, high blood pressure and gut infections. While Cinnamon is generally regarded as safe, interactions between this herb and medical drugs are still possible. Therefore, if you are on medication of any kind, please check with your health care professional before taking any herbs.

References

1 Charles Corn, The Scents of Eden: A Narrative of the Spice Trade (New
York: Kodansha International, 1998), p. 202.
2 Sidney W. Mintz, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History (New York: Viking, 1985), p. 81.
3 Tabak, M., et al. In vitro inhibition of Helicobacter pylori by extracts of thyme. J Appl Bacteriol. 80(6):667-672, 1996.
4 Screening of indigenous plants for anthelmintic action against human Ascaris lumbricoides: Part II. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 19:1, 1975.
5 Broadhurst CL, Polansky MM, Anderson RA. Insulin-like biological activity of culinary and medicinal plant aqueous extracts in vitro. J Agric Food Chem 2000;48:849–52.
6 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;26:3215–8.
7 Preuss, H. G., et al. Whole cinnamon and aqueous extracts ameliorate sucrose-induced blood pressure elevations in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 25(2):144-150, 2006



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