Most people around the world are familiar with the sweet and pungent taste of cinnamon, which comes from a small evergreen tree native to Sri Lanka, along the coastal strip near Colombo. Some of its other names are Cassia (a combination of cinnamon and cassia), Sweet Wood, and Gui Zhi. It has a pleasant smell and stimulates the senses while it calms the nerves. It is one of the oldest herbal medicines known, and one of the most important spices in the world. In ancient Egypt, it was used medicinally, as a flavoring for beverages, a preservative, and was also used for embalming, where body cavities were filled with spiced preservatives. Traditional Chinese medicine used cinnamon for relieving ailments such as diarrhea and chills, influenza, or even parasitic worms. Nero, emperor of Rome in the first century, A.D., burned a year’s supply of cinnamon on his wife’s funeral pyre – an extravagant gesture meant to signify the depth of his loss.

Researchers are now unearthing the science behind the healing powers of spices – along with some new disease-fighting benefits. Old home remedies used cinnamon in preparations to combat diarrhea and morning sickness, since it is a carminative (an agent that helps break up intestinal gas). Today, it is found that a daily supplement of cinnamon extract may boost antioxidant defenses and reduce the oxidative stress linked to the metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a condition characterized by central obesity, hypertension, and disturbed glucose and insulin metabolism. The syndrome has been linked to increased risks of type 2 diabetes. Thirty-two per cent of adults in the U.S. are estimated to be affected by MetS. People with impaired insulin function are at a higher risk of developing life-threatening chronic diseases, including diabetes and heart disease. The active compounds found in cinnamon extract may be helpful in reducing the risk of these diseases by providing cells protection from harmful oxidation. Recent studies have determined that consuming as little as one-quarter to one-half teaspoon each day of this crowd-pleasing spice may reduce glucose (blood sugar), and lower levels of triglycerides (a type of fat), LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol, and total cholesterol, by as much as 20% in type 2 diabetes patients who are not taking insulin. The active ingredient in cinnamon, MHCP, mimics insulin – a hormone that monitors the body’s production of glucose and fat – helping to reduce blood sugar and cholesterol. More than 170 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes, and for many, drugs or other forms of treatment are unavailable. It may be possible, that many of these people could benefit from readily available natural products such as cinnamon. It also has antibacterial properties, killing bacteria that can cause food poisoning and neutralizing germs that lead to bad breath and cavities.

Less traditional uses for cinnamon:

  • Replace your moth balls with some cinnamon sticks wrapped in a knee-high stocking (or any other breathable, porous material).
  • Relief from the pain of arthritis – Recent studies have suggested that cinnamon may contain anti-inflammatory compounds that can be useful in reducing the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.
  • For diarrhea, mix 1 to 3 tsp cinnamon into 1 C hot water and steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain & drink.
  • Killing harmful bacteria – cinnamon has been shown to be a powerful antimicrobial agent, one that has the ability to kill such common germs as E.coli.
  • Read Chapter 6 of the Natural Cures book – Cinnamon Cures Diabetes – stating recent studies on cinnamon suggest it can help maintain stable blood sugar levels.

So, this holiday season, have an extra slice of healthy apple, pumpkin, or cinnamon pecan pie (using as many organic products, as possible), with a swirl stick of cinnamon in a decadent cup of hot chocolate; and, if your family or your doctor ask about the extra pounds, you can say you’re working on your cholesterol!