5 health benefits of this sweet spice
Ah, cinnamon! Whether you mix some into your pancake batter, shake some in your coffee or hot chocolate, or sprinkle some atop your apple sauce—or all of the above—you know this spice is delicious. Now science says it just might be something more.
- It might boost memory. Though human studies don’t support this just yet, cinnamon shows promise in boosting the brain in animal research. In a 2014 study, scientists gave rodents 50 milligram, 100 milligram and 200 milligram doses of Cinnamomum zeylanicum bark (where cinnamon comes from), and then had them perform water maze and object recognition tests. The mice that took the 100 milligram and 200 milligram doses outperformed the 50 milligram group in the water maze test and recognized the difference between familiar and new objects better.
- It could help control diabetes. A 2013 research review suggested cinnamon could have serious benefits for folks suffering from type 2 diabetes. “Despite mixed results coming from studies of cinnamon in type 2 diabetic patients, there is promise in its potential effects,” scientists wrote in their conclusion. “Large, randomized, placebo-controlled studies of cinnamon need to be completed in order to fully evaluate its efficacy. However, due to the significant amount of favorable studies in patients with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes, cinnamon is a reasonable treatment option in this population. Cinnamon’s low cost, over-the-counter availability and safety profile make it a relatively low-risk alternative to traditional glucose-lowering medications.” Don’t just dump the spice on everything you eat, though. Maximum medical benefits most likely come from taking capsules of cassia cinnamon.
- It might prevent colon cancer. Cinnamaldehyde, the compound that gives cinnamon its color and scent, might stop the production of colorectal cancer—at least in mice, according to a recent study published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research. In the study, mice given cinnamaldehyde were protected from a carcinogen. The next steps, say the study’s authors, is to see if the benefits apply to cinnamon more generally—and then test if it works the same way in humans. This could be especially promising for black folks; we are much more likely to die from colon cancer than white people.
- It could ease cramps. In a recent study of almost 80 students from Ilam University of Medical Sciences in Iran, the women who took cinnamon in pill form showed significant reduction in severe menstrual cramps compared to those that took a placebo. At the start of their cycles, subjects took 420 milligrams of cinnamon or starch three times daily. From day one, the spice takers experienced less pain in 24 hours and had almost none by day three. They even had less menstrual bleeding and nausea compared to the starch group. Take that, ibuprofen!
- It may kill viruses. Forget an apple a day and try cinnamon. Recent research shows a daily dose might keep viruses at bay. In the study, scientists from Touro College in New York City compared two South Asian spice varieties to other plant extracts (onion, garlic, cloves, peppermint, cocoa and Spanish saffron), and found an extract containing 10 percent cinnamon effectively killed a virus that make people sick after just 10 minutes, with results lasting longer than a day. The other plant extracts had no effect on the virus. “The results validates our belief that a diet that includes a tablespoon of cinnamon once or twice a day can be effective in eliminating or preventing viruses from infecting humans and causing sickness, such as colds, flu and even herpes,” said lead researcher Milton Schiffenbauer, Ph.D.