While waiting in line at the pharmacy, recently, I noticed that next to the supplies for diabetics—glucose tablets, lancets, and alcohol wipes—they displayed cinnamon capsules. “Why?” I wanted to know.
A quick search in my library turned up that cinnamon (cinnamomum verum) can be used to lower blood glucose levels. According to a study discussed in Prescription for Natural Cures by James F. Balch, MD and Mark Stengler, ND, 30 men and 30 women were given a controlled amount of cinnamon each day. After 40 days of consuming cinnamon and 20 days of abstaining, researchers found that “cinnamon reduced the mean fasting serum glucose (18-29%), triglyceride (23-30%), LDL cholesterol (7-27%), and total cholesterol (12-26%) levels.” These doctors recommend that diabetics take 500 mg of cinnamon extract twice daily as it “improves insulin sensitivity and utilization.”
Retired USDA ethnobotanist James A. Duke, PhD, in his book The Green Pharmacy, says, “There are a number of spices that research shows can help the body use insulin more efficiently.” He goes on to list cinnamon as one of those spices.
Indigenous to southwestern India and Sri Lanka, this wonderfully delicious kitchen spice is now widely cultivated in many tropical regions of the world. Its medicinal properties come from the inner bark and the essential oil squeezed from the bark and leaves. But regulating insulin levels is just one of the benefits of consuming cinnamon. Its volatile oil, cinnamaldehyde, has antiviral and stimulating properties.
Other Uses of Cinnamon
- Historically, cinnamon has been used for easing the stomach, relieving gas, and aiding digestion. A preparation of cinnamon bark, cardamom seed and nutmeg is recommended for nausea. “For flatulence, take 20 drops with water up to 4 times a day.” – Andrew Chevallier, FNIMH, Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine
- Added to massage oils or lotions, cinnamon reportedly reduces pain and relaxes muscles. “Add cinnamon essential oil to salve recipes and use them topically as analgesics and as warming, stimulating balms.” – Rosemary Gladstar, Family Herbal.
- Cinnamon counteracts bacteria and fungi, including candida, and disinfects wounds.
- It is a powerful insect repellent.
- Having antiviral properties, cinnamon is a choice herb to add to anti-flu remedies. This, and its antiseptic activities, makes it valuable for fighting infections. “Add five drops of true cinnamon oil to a tablespoon of water, and use it several times a day at the very onset of a flu epidemic or immediately after you think you have been exposed to flu.” – Dian Dincin Buchman, Herbal Medicine.
Because of its wonderful flavor, cinnamon is often added to preparations to mask the unpleasant taste of stronger herbs. It is rarely taken by itself, except for the prescription for diabetics, because it combines so well with other herbs: ginger or peppermint for digestion, chamomile for insect repellent, garlic for infections, and elderberry for flu remedies.
Is there anyone who should not take freely of cinnamon? Sometimes, extremely sensitive people may develop contact dermatitis when exposed to the essential oils. Perhaps you’ve noticed a small child contract a red face after eating cinnamon-laden pastries. But this reaction soon disappears and the child is happy to have enjoyed such a delicious snack with no real harm done.
With all this in mind, have a little cinnamon on your toast or applesauce, eat liberally of apple butter, and add a little to your peppermint tea. Your health may be the better for it.