You’re likely familiar with cinnamon as a kitchen staple, sitting in your cupboard, ready to enhance the aroma and flavor of your cooking. However, beyond its culinary uses, cinnamon is a versatile ingredient with numerous health benefits and can be seamlessly incorporated into your beauty routine. This article delves into the myriad advantages of this sweet spice, shedding light on its health and beauty-promoting properties that extend beyond the kitchen.
What is Cinnamon?
Cinnamon is a spice derived from the cinnamon tree – a member of the Lauraceae family (1). Thick barks, oval-shaped leaves, and berry fruit characterize this tree. 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 famous for its aroma and flavor, derived from its essential oil, which is rich in 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, of Indian origin (4), characterized by a tan-brown color and crumbly texture. Ceylon cinnamon is expensive and less readily available than Cassia cinnamon. It has a subtle and mildly sweet flavor. However, much of its aromatic flavor is lost during cooking, so it is recommended as suitable for dessert. It will most likely be found in health food stores.
The type of cinnamon known as Cassia, scientifically called Cinnamomum aromaticum, is commonly recognized as “regular cinnamon.” It is widely available, cost-effective, and frequently found in households – possibly even your pantry. Originating from China, Cassia cinnamon is characterized by its light reddish-brown color and woody texture. With a robust, spicy flavor and less bitterness, it is often recommended for baking. However, it is essential to note that Cassia cinnamon contains elevated levels of coumarin, a potentially toxic component. Consequently, consuming large quantities of Cassia cinnamon may pose health risks.
Uses of Cinnamon
- As Food condiments and additives, 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 and 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, other components include 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
Excellent Beauty Benefits of Cinnamon
1. Treatment of Acne-Prone Skin
Cinnamon has a potent antimicrobial property that combats the activities of acne-causing bacteria. It directly attacks 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 delicate batter.
- Apply the mixture directly on your face and leave on for 9 to 10 minutes
- Wash off with warm water
- The cinnamon will eliminate 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 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 glycation and the formation of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). This will result in limited signs of age spots, wrinkles, fine lines, and sun damage.
4. For Plump, Luscious Lips
Although temporary, 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 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 chew on the cinnamon sticks, which can sweeten your breath, or 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 excellent antimicrobial and antiseptic properties. A pinch of cinnamon applied directly to the cut or wound will help kill off bacteria and aid in healing speed.
8. For a Slimmer, Trimmer Figure
Including cinnamon in your diet may help reduce the increasing waistline and bulging tummy. It helps carbohydrate metabolism, lowers harmful cholesterol levels, and balances blood sugar simultaneously.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon
Cinnamon has excellent health benefits. Some of these 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 inhibition act is carried out by damaging cell membranes and altering their lipid profiles. This results in benefits such as preventing tooth decay (7), reducing bad breath, inhibiting bacteria growth, including Candida, Salmonella, and Listeria (8), and treating a common cold.
10. Reduced Risk of Heart Diseases
Heart disease is life-threatening and a primary cause of premature death. Cinnamon reduces harmful cholesterol levels – LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and triglycerides while maintaining good cholesterol levels – HDL (high-density lipoprotein). It also reduces blood pressure levels (9). These factors considerably reduce the risks of possible heart diseases.
11. Improved Sensitivity to the Insulin Hormone
The insulin hormone transports blood sugar, metabolism, and energy use. However, you may be resistant to insulin, a condition known as insulin resistance, resulting in health situations such as type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Cinnamon may significantly reduce this resistance and increase sensitivity (10). This improved sensitivity lowers blood sugar levels and helps the hormone work efficiently.
12. Antioxidant Benefits
Antioxidants keep your body safe from free radicals, which cause oxidative damage. Cinnamon contains antioxidants, such as polyphenols (11), which carry out potent activities in vitro, reducing inflammation and the risk of diseases, including cancer.
13. Reduced Blood Sugar Levels
Cinnamon may reduce blood sugar levels. Different mechanisms of action could achieve this. One mechanism is reducing the amount of glucose 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 reduce LDL, triglycerides, serum glucose, and total cholesterol (12).
Another mechanism mimics the insulin hormone and acts on cells (13). For example, Cinnamon works on muscle cells, triggering them to forcefully remove sugar from the bloodstream, which is converted to energy. This action significantly 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 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 and reason and live 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), which can prevent the virus from entering the cells. Also, the antimicrobial properties of cinnamon may help in HIV management. This prevents the further development of HIV to AIDS.
16. Managing Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis occurs when the myelin coating on nerve cells becomes damaged. Myelin is the protective covering of nerve fibers in the eyes, brain, and spinal cord. This damage results in lower regulatory T cells (Tregs) levels, 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, testing 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 an excellent element for this management. Insulin resistance in women with PCOS contributes to weight gain; cinnamon can manage this resistance. It can also help mitigate heavy menstrual bleeding.
19. As a Natural Insect Repellent
Cinnamon has insect-repellent properties and can be used as a mosquito and bug repellent.
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 essential and can fight infections and repair tissue damage, it may become a problem when 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, marked by uncontrolled cell growth, may encounter potential resistance from the active component of cinnamon, cinnamaldehyde. With potential anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties, cinnamaldehyde diminishes oxidative stress levels in melanoma cells, specifically those associated with skin cancer. This reduction in oxidative stress contributes to the inhibition of cancer cell growth and the formation of blood vessels in tumors, ultimately triggering the demise of cancer cells.
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 cause 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, resulting in dizziness, tiredness, or fainting.
Cinnamon, derived from tree bark, is a versatile and aromatic spice widely utilized in both culinary and health contexts. Two main varieties, Ceylon (“true cinnamon”) and cassia (“regular cinnamon”), exist, with the latter being more prevalent but requiring cautious consumption due to its coumarin content, which can be toxic in large amounts. Ceylon cinnamon, available in health food stores, contains minimal coumarin. While cinnamon boasts various beauty and health benefits, excessive intake should be avoided to prevent potential adverse effects.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Which of the cinnamon types is better?
The Ceylon cinnamon is better and safer. Therefore, you can take more significant volumes of this cinnamon and not worry about adverse situations.
Is cinnamon good for weight gain?
No, cinnamon improves metabolism and has properties that make it suitable for weight loss.
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- “10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Cinnamon” – healthline.com
- “A History of Food” – books.google.com
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- “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 fungi toxicant 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 hydroxy chalcone 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 flavorings and other food ingredients with flavoring properties ‐ Scientific Opinion of the Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids and Materials in Contact with Food (AFC)” -onlinelibrary.wiley.com