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Cinnamon's Medicinal Properties
Fox News: Nature's Medicine Cabinet
with the Medicine Hunter

With obesity and diabetes now officially epidemic in the United States, people are becoming more aware of the need to maintain an even, steady blood sugar.

Blood sugar typically rises after a meal. In the case of meals loaded with fats and sugars, blood sugar can raise a lot. To protect itself, the body secretes extra insulin when blood sugar rises. But eventually, the body fails to respond properly to insulin, and that is the initiation of Type 2 diabetes. Known by doctors as “gut and butt disease,” Type 2 diabetes is caused by unhealthy eating habits, pure and simple.

Marked by high levels of sugar in the blood, Type 2 diabetes can lead to tremendous health problems, including poor circulation, increased risk of infections, insulin dependence, and problems with the eyes and other parts of the body with fine blood vessels. The spikes in blood sugar that arise due to poor eating habits and the onset of Type 2 diabetes can cause great health problems. Fatigue, reduced insulin production, weight gain, headaches, mood swings and more can accompany swings in blood sugar. Can you help to stabilize blood sugar without resorting to pharmaceutical drugs?

Enter cinnamon – yes, the exact same cinnamon you sprinkle on your oatmeal. Native to Southeast Asia, cinnamon is a spice from the inner bark of trees from the genus Cinnamomum. Highly treasured in antiquity, cinnamon is mentioned in a couple of places in the Bible, and was a highly prized object of trade in Egypt as early as 2000 BC. The sweet, penetrating fragrance of cinnamon makes it a favorite spice for flavoring chocolate, egg nog, desserts, mulled cider, meats like chicken and lamb, and in teas and liquors.

In addition to its long historic use as a sweet spice, cinnamon also enjoys a history of medicinal applications. The tea has been drunk to alleviate colds and congestion, and to treat diarrhea. Cinnamon contains a number of powerful antioxidant compounds, so it helps to prevent premature destruction of healthy cells in the body. Additionally, cinnamon possesses anti-microbial activity, so it helps to reduce the risk of food-borne diseases caused by bacteria. But the medicinal use of cinnamon gaining the most attention these days concerns blood sugar stabilization. Cinnamon contains a compound called cinnamtannin B1 that helps to combat Type 2 diabetes.

In one London study of 58 Type 2 diabetics, some patients were given regular pharmaceutical blood sugar controlling drugs, and another group was given two grams of cinnamon daily. After 12 weeks, the cinnamon group showed a significantly lower fasting glucose level than the drug group. The cinnamon group also showed reduced body fat overall compared with the drug group. The authors, who reported the study in the Journal of Diabetic Medicine, recommended cinnamon supplementation in cases of Type 2 diabetes.

Another British review of eight human studies on the use of cinnamon for Type 2 diabetes found that cinnamon supplementation reduced fasting blood glucose, and reduced blood sugar levels after eating. Cinnamon supplementation may play a role in reducing overall complications arising from Type 2 diabetes.

In a study of 22 U.S. diabetics, fasting blood sugar was reduced by cinnamon supplementation, and markers of significant antioxidant protection were also observed in the cinnamon group.

In another human study, cinnamon helped to maintain a lower fasting glucose level, and improved overall insulin response to blood glucose. These benefits were lost when cinnamon supplementation was discontinued.

In yet one more study of cinnamon and its effects on blood glucose, 22 subjects were monitored for blood sugar and body fat. Cinnamon supplementation reduced fasting blood sugar, and also reduced overall body fat percentage, while improving lean muscle mass. These results support the use of cinnamon supplementation in cases of blood sugar disorders.

It seems that every week we become aware of a traditional herb or spice that demonstrates significant medicinal properties. Cinnamon, a highly treasured spice of antiquity, is proving beneficial in the area of blood sugar control.

Cinnamon should not be considered a cure, but one of several effective controlling agents. The ideal course of action in cases of Type 2 diabetes is to shed excess pounds, eat a very healthy diet rich in natural fibers and absent of refined sugars and industrial fats, and to exercise every single day without fail. But most people will not do this. A half teaspoon of cinnamon spice twice daily in water, or cinnamon essential oil capsules, will help to stabilize blood sugar, and help to lower the risk of complications associated with Type 2 diabetes.

November 2010