Ever look to your spice cabinet as your medicine cabinet? Ever have a doctor tell you to take some cinnamon and call him in the morning? I’m sure the first question got a couple of positive nods but none, nada, zip for the second question right.

Today I’d like to discuss cinnamon’s health benefits – as if the title didn’t give you a clue. If you think cinnamon is just for sprinkling over your toast, cappuccino or cinnamon rolls then think again because this popular spice, which was once considered more valuable than gold has medicinal properties that’s making big pharma take note. My area of interest is the affects of cinnamon on diabetes (I’ll do a blog post soon to let you all know about my interest in diabetes); however, cinnamon has other healing affects as well. Cinnamon has been used for thousands of years for its healing benefits. However in recent years the enhancing benefits in the treatment of diabetes has been the focus.

Cinnamon comes from a tropical evergreen that grows predominantly in the rain forests of India, Sri Lanka, and the West Indies. The medicine lies in the inner bark and young twigs, which is cut, fermented, and then dried for its many health benefits.

Traditionally, cinnamon was used as a remedy for uterine bleeding. However there is evidence that there are certain forms of cinnamon that harbor anti-clotting properties by inhibiting a substance in the blood, which causes clots. This action leads to less blood clotting which promotes a more regular blood flow and paradoxically reduces uterine bleeding by stimulating the blood flow away from the uterus.

Another benefit of cinnamon is its ability to fight E. coli bacteria, which is the bacterium that causes many urinary tract infections and the fungus responsible for vaginal yeast infections and thrush or oral yeast infection. In addition to its ability to destroy disease-causing bacteria, fungi, and viruses, you have probably found this great tasting herb in your toothpastes and dental floss because it is a powerful antiseptic.

However, one of the most interesting, exciting, and more recently publicized benefit is that of cinnamon as a diabetes treatment. Recently, researchers discovered that cinnamon contains insulin-like properties and has shown to decrease blood glucose levels as well as triglycerides and cholesterol. Indeed, all these healthful benefits are especially important to diabetes sufferers.

The USDA tested 49 different herbs, spices and medicinal plants for their effects on glucose metabolism and published the results in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. The study showed that the active ingredient in cinnamon, methylhydroxychalcone polymer (MHCP) mimics insulin function, increases cells glucose uptake and signals certain cells to turn glucose into glycogen, thereby preventing diabetes.

As usual there are conflicting studies out there but don’t be discouraged because there is ample evidence that shows cinnamon can be used effectively to reduce the glycemic index of a meal by up to 29%. It not only lowers blood glucose levels but also LDL cholesterol (that’s the bad one) and triglycerides, both of which are major concerns for those with diabetes.

Cinnamons effect on glucose levels seems partially due to the fact that it slows gastric emptying or the rate in which food leaves the stomach, thereby making you feel full faster which can also translate into weight loss.

There are different types of cinnamon out there but one that seems to offer very good results is Cassia, which is the one most commonly found in your grocer’s spice section. However, the one that seemed to be the most effective in some research results is Saigon also known as Vietnamese cinnamon.

It’s best to grind cinnamon yourself as the polyphenols and active ingredients disintegrate over time and with air exposure. Also since U.S. packagers are not required to identify the type of cinnamon, you should know that Cassia sticks roll up from both sides so don’t confuse it with Ceylon which rolls up from one side much like the way you would roll up newspaper or a magazine. Cassia is also a darker than Ceylon. Saigon cinnamon bark is flat and ragged not rolled or coiled like Cassia or Ceylon.

So spice up your life and add cinnamon to your daily food intake. It’s great in coffee and tea; sweet potatoes and winter squash dishes or try my friend’s recommendation and sprinkle some over apple slices, it will make you smile.

Author's Bio: 

Cheryl Felder-Brannon, MA, CHHC, CPC, is a Life and Holistic Nutrition Coach with a passion for helping individuals transform their lives by teaching them how to implement healthy, holistic nutrition practices. Cheryl's goal is to empower others to find holistic wellness by focusing on the whole-body paradigm or mind, body and spirit connection. She also specializes in teaching how to prevent and reverse diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.

Cheryl has been studying and researching alternative health practices for over 20 years. She has a passion for cooking, utilizing foods for their medicinal/healing properties and studying ancient healing modalities. She holds a Master's degree in Transpersonal Psychology and is currently conducting research for her Ph.D.

Cheryl maintains a private health coaching practice where she is able to combine her passions to help people find and lead healthy, happy lifestyles by emphasizing the mind, body and spirit connection. She offers individual and group counseling, workshops, corporate wellness programs and cooking classes.