Cinnamon, sounds familiar right? You probably have your supply lurking somewhere on your kitchen cupboard, waiting to be used for your next cooking, because of its nice aroma and distinct flavor. However, the same cinnamon is packed with other benefits and can be used for health purposes, as well as integrated into your regular beauty routine.
What is Cinnamon?
Cinnamon is a spice gotten from the cinnamon tree – a member of the Lauraceae family (1). This tree is characterized by thick barks, oval-shaped leaves, and berry fruit. The cinnamon spice is extracted from the inner bark of this tree and allowed to dry curling into rolls of cinnamon sticks. Cinnamon is one of the most popular spices, competing alongside black pepper. It is popular for its aroma and flavor, which is derived from its essential oil rich in the component – cinnamaldehyde (2). This component is also responsible for the spice’s powerful benefits.
Cinnamon is used as a spice or supplement in grounded powdery form or as small bark pieces.
The Different Types of Cinnamon
There are two types of cinnamon, differentiated by their origin and profiles (3).
The Ceylon cinnamon with the botanical name Cinnamomum Verum. This cinnamon type is also known as the “true cinnamon”. It is of Sri Lanka, India origin (4) and characterized by a tan brown color and crumbly texture. The Ceylon cinnamon is expensive, and not as readily available as the Cassia type. It has a subtle and mildly sweet flavor. However, much of its aromatic flavor is lost during cooking and therefore recommended suitable for dessert. It will be most likely found in health food stores.
The Cassia cinnamon with botanical name Cinnamomum Aromaticum. This cinnamon type is also known as the “regular cinnamon”, and is the most available, cheaper, and commonly used cinnamon. This is probably the one on your shelf. It is of Chinese origin and characterized by a light, reddish-brown color, and woody texture. This is the cinnamon with a strong, spicy flavor, less bitter taste, and recommended for baking. It also contains high amounts of coumarin – a toxic component. With all of its benefits, the Cassia cinnamon may be harmful if eaten in large amounts.
Uses of Cinnamon
- As Food condiment and additive. The aromatic flavor of cinnamon makes it a great addition to various savory cuisines and sweet pastries. You may add small pieces of bark in desserts, stews, and the grounded cinnamon may be added to buns, cookies, waffles, bread, or cakes.
- As a natural food preservative (5)
- For health/medicinal purposes
- For beauty and skincare purposes
Chemical Components/Nutrients in Cinnamon
Cinnamaldehyde is the primary component of cinnamon. However, there are other components including eugenol and antioxidants – choline, alpha-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, lycopene, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin.
The nutritional content of cinnamon includes (6)
- Carbohydrates – 81%, including fiber content of 53%
- Water – 11%
- Protein – 4%
- Fat – 1%
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin B
Amazing Beauty Benefits of Cinnamon
1. Treatment of Acne-Prone Skin
Cinnamon has a powerful antimicrobial property that combats the activities of acne-causing bacteria. It acts by directly attacking these acne-causing bacteria, resulting in beautiful skin and complexion. This makes it a natural remedy for acne.
How to use –
- Mix a teaspoon of cinnamon with a few tablespoons of honey into a fine batter.
- Apply the mixture directly on your face and leave on for 9 to 10 minutes
- Wash off with warm water
- The cinnamon will get rid of the bacteria, while the honey will restore skin moisture.
2. Exfoliation of the Skin
Exfoliation is the removal of dead cell layers from the skin. The activity involves rubbing your skin in gentle circular motions with a scrub, to reveal smooth and glowing skin. You can make your own homemade body scrub using cinnamon.
How to use –
- Grind some sticks of cinnamon spice into powdery form
- Mix the cinnamon with an equal quantity of sugar and honey, or olive oil to make a scrub
- Wet your skin with water
- Apply the scrub over your wet body, rubbing it in a gentle circular motion.
- Wash off with warm water to reveal a smoother, finer skin complexion.
3. Protecting Skin from Premature Aging
Cinnamon helps in maintaining radiant skin. It may clear out toxins from the body, and strengthen the overall functions of the immune system. Cinnamon may also reduce the process of glycation, and also the formation of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). This will result in limited signs of age spots, wrinkles, fine lines, and sun damages.
4. For Plump, Luscious Lips
Although a temporary effect, you may achieve immediate plump and luscious lips using cinnamon. A blend of cinnamon and Vaseline (olive oil may be used instead) can give you a reddish slightly swollen hue.
How to use –
- Apply the blended mixture to your lips and leave for a few minutes
- You will feel a slight tingling sensation
- Wipe off the mixture
- Apply a gentle moisturizer to your lips.
5. For Improved Hair Growth and Color
Cinnamon may boost your hair growth, by increasing the opening up rate of hair follicles. It may also give your grey colored hair a change of color to brown.
How to use –
- Prepare a hair mask by mixing pure olive oil, honey, and a pinch of cinnamon.
- Apply directly on the hair scalp.
6. For Freshened Breath
Cinnamon can freshen your breath tremendously. You may choose to chew on the cinnamon sticks which can sweeten your breath or opt to add ground cinnamon to warm water and gargle on it.
7. To Clean Wounds
The little cut on your skin may be treated with cinnamon. Cinnamon has great antimicrobial and antiseptic properties. A little pinch of cinnamon applied directly to the cut or wound will help kill off bacteria and aid speedy healing of the wound.
8. For a Slimmer, Trimmer Figure
Including cinnamon in your diet regularly may help reduce the increasing waistline and bulging tummy. It helps in carbohydrate metabolism, lowering bad cholesterol levels, and balancing blood sugar simultaneously.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon
Cinnamon has great health benefits. Some of which include
9. Fighting against Fungal and Bacterial Infections
The main active component of cinnamon – cinnamaldehyde, has antimicrobial properties that fight infections. Its mechanism of action is inhibition. This act of inhibition is carried out by damaging cell membranes and altering their lipid profiles. This results in benefits such as prevention of tooth decay (7), reduced bad breath, inhibiting the growth of bacteria including Candida, Salmonella, Listeria (8), and treatment of a common cold.
10. Reduced Risk of Heart Diseases
Heart disease is life-threatening and a primary cause of premature death. Cinnamon reduces the level of the bad cholesterol – LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and triglycerides while maintaining the levels of good cholesterol – HDL (high-density lipoprotein). It also reduces blood pressure levels (9). These factors greatly reduce the risks of possible heart diseases.
11. Improved Sensitivity to the Insulin Hormone
The insulin hormone is involved in the transportation of blood sugar, its metabolism, and resulting energy use. However, you may be resistant to insulin, a condition known as insulin resistance – which results in health situations such as type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Cinnamon may greatly reduce this resistance and increase sensitivity (10). This improved sensitivity lowers blood sugar levels and helps the hormone to carry out its work efficiently.
12. Antioxidants Benefits
Antioxidants keep your body safe from free radicals which cause oxidative damages. Cinnamon contains antioxidants, such as polyphenols (11), which carry out very powerful activities in vitro, reducing inflammations, and risks of diseases, including cancer.
13. Reduced Blood Sugar Levels
Cinnamon may reduce blood sugar levels. This could be achieved by different mechanisms of action. One mechanism is by reducing the amount of glucose that gets in the bloodstream after a meal. This is done by interfering with numerous enzymes that slow down the carbohydrate breakdown process in the digestive tract. The result will be a reduction in LDL, triglycerides, serum glucose, and total cholesterol (12).
Another mechanism is by mimicking the insulin hormone and acting on cells (13). Cinnamon works on muscle cells triggering them to forcefully remove sugar from the bloodstream, where it is converted to energy. This action greatly improves glucose uptake by the cells and may lower the fasting blood sugar levels, resulting in an anti-diabetic effect (14).
14. For the treatment of Neurodegenerative Diseases
Neurodegenerative diseases are diseases characterized by progressive loss of structure and function of brain cells. Two such diseases are Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, and both are incurable. Therefore, only the disease symptoms may be managed.
Cinnamon acts by helping to protect neurons, improving motor function, and normalizing neurotransmitter levels. Cinnamon also contains an extract called cEppt, which inhibits the buildup of a protein called “tau” in the brain, and may prevent symptoms of these diseases from developing further (15). This results in an improved ability to think, reason, and improved living with fewer impediments.
15. Reducing HIV Activity
The Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), is a virus that slowly breaks down the immune system. Cinnamon extracts have anti-HIV activity (16), with an ability to prevent the virus from entering the cells. Also, the antimicrobial property of cinnamon may help in HIV management. This prevents further development of HIV to AIDS.
16. Managing Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis occurs when the myelin coating on nerve cells become damaged. Myelin is the protective covering of nerve fibers in the eyes, brain, and spinal cord. This damage results in lower levels of the regulatory T cells (Tregs) which regulate immune responses. Further damage results in an inflamed effect on the central nervous system, including parts of the brain.
Cinnamon treatments have been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect, preventing the loss of Tregs specific proteins and protecting them, and restoring myelin levels.
17. Lowering Effects of High-Fat Meals
Cinnamon is an antioxidant spice, and antioxidant spices have been shown to mitigate the effect of high-fat meals, reducing the body’s negative response to high-fat meals eaten. This acts by slowing the increase in blood sugar after a meal.
18. Management of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) has many symptoms that require management, and cinnamon’s numerous characteristics make it a great element for this management. Insulin resistance in women with PCOS contributes to weight gain, this resistance can be managed by cinnamon. It can also help mitigate heavy menstrual bleeding.
19. As a Natural Insect Repellent
Cinnamon has insect repellent properties and can be used as mosquito and bug repellents.
20. In the Treatment of Eye Disorders
Cinnamon may treat eye disorders including dry eye and conjunctivitis.
21. In the Treatment of Chronic Wounds
The antimicrobial properties of cinnamon can kill bacterial biofilms and actively promote healing.
22. Anti-inflammatory Properties
While inflammation is important and can fight infections and repair tissue damage, it may become a problem when it is directed against your body tissues and is chronic. Inflammation may be systemic or specific. Systemic inflammation results in chronic diseases, while specific inflammation results in pains and headaches. Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties (17).
23. Anti-Carcinogenic Properties
Cancer is a disease characterized by uncontrolled cell growth. The active component of cinnamon – cinnamaldehyde may have anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties. This acts by reducing the levels of oxidative stress in melanoma cells – skin cancer cells. This reduces the growth of cancer cells and the formation of blood vessels in tumors, which induces cancer cell death.
Side Effects of Cinnamon
Consuming small to moderate amounts of cinnamon within the short term may be safe for most people. However, cinnamon contains coumarin, and large consumption may have some side effects. This is because coumarin creates warfarin, a common blood-thinning drug.
Although used as a supplement, cinnamon may affect health and diseases. Supplements are not regulated, and hence gives cause for concern about their quality, strength, and purity. Possible side effects include
- Allergic reactions
- Gastrointestinal disorders (18)
- Liver and kidney damage (19)
- Affects coagulation. Persons who take anticoagulant drugs should take caution.
- Mouth sores – an allergic reaction to the compound cinnamaldehyde
- Very low blood sugar – Too much consumption of cinnamon may take the blood sugar level too low, which may result, in dizziness, tiredness, or fainting.
Cinnamon is one of the healthiest spices, with a great flavor and aroma. It is obtained from the tree bark and used for various purposes, from the kitchen to beauty care and health care. There are two types, the Ceylon “true cinnamon” and the cassia “regular cinnamon”. The cassia cinnamon is commonly found everywhere, but recommended for use in small doses, as it contains the compound coumarin, which could be toxic if consumed in large quantities. Ceylon only contains trace elements of the compound coumarin and may be found in healthy food stores. Cinnamon has numerous benefits – beauty and health likewise. However, excessive doses may also result in adverse side effects.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Which of the cinnamon types is better?
The Ceylon cinnamon is better and safer. You can take larger volumes of this cinnamon and not worry about adverse situations.
Is cinnamon good for weight gain?
No, rather cinnamon improves metabolism and has properties that make it good for weight loss.
- “1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cinnamon” – Wikipedia.org
- “Chemical composition and in vitro antioxidant and antibacterial activity of Heracleum transcaucasicum and Heracleum anisactis roots essential oil” – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Cinnamon” – healthline.com
- “A History of Food” – books.google.com
- “Antioxidant activity of cinnamon (Cinnamomum Zeylanicum, Breyne) extracts” – pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Spices, cinnamon, ground” – fdc.nal.usda.gov
- “Comparative study of cinnamon oil and clove oil on some oral microbiota” -pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Cinnamon bark oil, a potent fungitoxicant against fungi causing respiratory tract mycoses” – pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Cinnamon: A Multifaceted Medicinal Plant” – ncbi.nlm.nih.go
- “Cinnamon: Potential Role in the Prevention of Insulin Resistance, Metabolic Syndrome, and Type 2 Diabetes” -ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Cinnamon: A Multifaceted Medicinal Plant” – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Inhibitory activity of cinnamon bark species and their combination effect with acarbose against intestinal α-glucosidase and pancreatic α-amylase” – pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “A hydroxychalcone derived from cinnamon functions as a mimetic for insulin in 3T3-L1 adipocytes” – pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “The potential of cinnamon to reduce blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance” – pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Cinnamon extract inhibits tau aggregation associated with Alzheimer’s disease in vitro” – pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Effects of plant extracts on HIV-1 protease” – pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Anti-inflammatory activity of cinnamon (C. zeylanicum and C. cassia) extracts – identification of E-cinnamaldehyde and o-methoxy cinnamaldehyde as the most potent bioactive compounds” -pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Cinnamon: A systematic review of adverse events” – sciencedirect.com
- “Coumarin in flavourings and other food ingredients with flavouring properties ‐ Scientific Opinion of the Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids and Materials in Contact with Food (AFC)” -onlinelibrary.wiley.com