Q. My Aunt Lillian is a total health freak. The other day she said cinnamon is good for you. Come on! Cinnamon?
There is research that indicates that cinnamon may be helpful for people with Type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition that affects the way your body processes sugar. Type 2 diabetes can be life-threatening if you don't treat it.
One study found that cinnamon taken twice a day for 90 days improved the condition of people with poorly controlled Type 2 diabetes. One theory is that cinnamon may act like insulin, a hormone that controls the concentration of sugar in the blood. Insulin deficiency causes diabetes.
Researchers at the University of Maryland used a roundworm that has some genetic and biochemical similarities to humans to examine complex herbal preparations believed to combat aging. They found that cinnamon bark increased the worms' life span.
According to some studies, cinnamon may improve cholesterol levels in people with Type 2 diabetes. The results of a study from Pakistan showed lower levels of cholesterol in people consuming cinnamon after 40 days. Cholesterol continued to drop for another 20 days.
In other studies, cinnamon did not decrease blood sugar or cholesterol levels. It is important to stress that more research is needed to determine what health benefits—if any—can be attributed to consuming cinnamon.
Do not increase your consumption of cinnamon without discussing it with your physician. Seniors are at risk when making dietary changes because they usually are taking one or more medications that might react to ingesting a lot of cinnamon.
Cinnamon dates back in Chinese writings to 2800 B.C. and is still known in China as kwai. Ancient Egyptians used cinnamon for embalming. Medieval physicians included cinnamon in medicines to treat coughing, hoarseness and sore throats. The spice was also valued for its ability to preserve meat.
Cinnamon comes in two varieties—Ceylon cinnamon and cassia cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon is the kind most Americans use for baking. It's also the variety most researchers have used when they've studied cinnamon and diabetes. Cassia cinnamon is a plant. People use the bark and flower.
Cassia cinnamon has been used for gas, muscle and stomach spasms, preventing nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, infections, the common cold and loss of appetite. Some people use it for erectile dysfunction (ED), hernia, bed-wetting, joint conditions, menopausal symptoms, menstrual problems and to cause abortions. Cassia cinnamon is also used for chest pain, kidney disorders, high blood pressure, cramps and cancer. More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of cassia cinnamon for these uses.