The History of Cinnamon
For thousands of years, numerous cultures used cinnamon as a spice and to benefit health. As a matter of fact, in the ancient world, cinnamon was the most sought-after spice. It was known as “Kwei” in China in 2700 BCE and was introduced to Egypt around 1500 BCE. At one time in history, cinnamon was so sought after that it built empires and was the center of violent trade disputes.
In addition to being a spice, ancient cultures used cinnamon for colds, flu and digestive system issues. You can see why this multi-dimensional spice was so popular. Even today, cinnamon is still considered one of the most popular spices in the world.
Why is Cinnamon So Popular?
So what makes cinnamon so popular today? Is it because it makes your $5 latte taste better, or is it because it gives your protein shake more flavor? Of course those are some of the popular uses today, but cinnamon has become more popular due to recent research indicating cinnamon has many beneficial health applications. Cinnamon is a small tree, commonly found in South Asia and the Middle East. The cinnamon that we typically purchase in our supermarkets is from the bark of the tree and is either sold as sticks, or ground into a powder. The two most popular types of cinnamon (Ceylon and Cassia) are from two different types of cinnamon trees.
Cinnamon is one of the most widely used herbal medicines and has diverse bio-active effects. For example, it has been found to have positive effects on cancerous tumors. Cinnamon has many anti-oxidant qualities, and cinnamon oil has strong anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It is also a source of fiber, manganese, iron and calcium.
Some of the Health Benefits of Cinnamon
Cinnamon has been used as an effective home remedy to do the following:
- Curb hunger
- Aid digestion
- Decrease blood glucose levels and help to treat type 2 diabetes
- Treat diarrhea
- Treat the common cold
- Reduce arthritis pain
- Reduce cholesterol
- Boost memory and cognitive function
- Treat headaches and migraine pain
- Treat toothaches
- Eliminate bad breath
An article in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition addressed the following:
The intake of 6 g cinnamon with rice pudding reduces postprandial blood glucose and delays gastric emptying (GER) without affecting satiety. Inclusion of cinnamon in the diet lowers the postprandial glucose response, a change that is at least partially explained by a delayed GER.
Another recent study in Diabetic Medicine discovered the following:
Intake of 2g of cinnamon for 12 weeks significantly reduces the HbA1c, SBP and DBP among poorly controlled type 2 diabetes patients. Cinnamon supplementation could be considered as an additional dietary supplement option to regulate blood glucose and blood pressure levels along with conventional medications to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus.
How Does Cinnamon Lower Your Blood Sugar?
Cinnamon slows the emptying of your stomach contents, thus reducing quick elevations in blood sugar following meals, which can improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin.
Those of you who have read my book know that insulin and insulin sensitivity is the key for weight loss. By assisting in the regulation of your insulin levels, cinnamon will result in you storing less body fat and make the body fat you have more available to be used as energy.
Of course cinnamon alone is not the magic formula for weight loss; you must incorporate it with a healthy diet in order to get the full benefits.
What Are the Different Types of Cinnamon, and Where Can I Purchase Them?
The everyday powder or stick form of cinnamon that is available in most grocery stores is usually Cassia cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon is typically more expensive and is, therefore, typically sold in specialty stores. It is usually only available in stick form. While both types are known for their therapeutic effects, the Ceylon cinnamon is slightly sweeter and is therefore considered to be of higher quality.
How Do I Incorporate Cinnamon into my Daily Diet?
I have used cinnamon in my foods and drinks everyday for years and truly love it for its variety of uses. For everyone who is looking to improve their health and/or lose weight, I recommend substituting cinnamon for their daily use of sugar. Obviously you can’t use cinnamon in everything that contains sugar, but this is an easy and inexpensive step toward reducing your sugar intake. Some of my favorite foods and drinks I use and recommend cinnamon as a sugar substitute are below:
- When you are making your protein shake, mix it with ¼ to ½ tsp of cinnamon, ¼ tsp nutmeg, about 4 ounces of fruit, and a scoop of almond butter. I will even put a couple of dashes of cinnamon in my chocolate protein shake, as it gives a distinctive, but very pleasing, taste.
- Instead of using sugar in your tea, try substituting cinnamon and stevia.
- For a quick healthy dessert, cut up some frozen banana slices, put in a small scoop of almond butter, and sprinkle it with cinnamon.
- In a medium bowl, whip up three egg whites until they are nice and fluffy, then add stevia and cinnamon to your preferred taste. You can also add some blue berries, and now you have great tasting, and incredibly healthy, dessert or snack.
I hope this gives you some ideas on how to incorporate cinnamon into your daily diet and reap the health benefits. The uses for cinnamon are nearly endless, and I encourage you to explore the various recipes.
Akilen, A., et al. “Glycated haemoglobin and blood pressure lowering effect cinnamon in multi-ethnic Type 2 diabetes patients in UK: a randomized, placebo controlled, double-blinded clinical trial.” Diabetic Medicine 27.10 (2010): 1159-1167.
“Cinnamon, ground.” Whfoods. Web. 7 APRIL 2012.
Czarra, Fred. Spices: A Global History (Reaktion Books, 2009).
Hlebowicz, Joanna, et al. “Effects of cinnamon on postprandial blood glucose, gastric emptying, and satiety in healthy subjects.” Journal of Clinical Nutrition 85.6 (2007): 1552-1556.
“The History of Cinnamon.” Indepthinfo. Web. 7 APRIL 2012.