Cinnamon

Cinnamon is one of my favorite spices.  If you are like me, it probably conjures up thoughts of sweets like cinnamon rolls and pumpkin pie.  While I mostly don’t eat stuff like that anymore,  I still use a good amount of cinnamon today.  It can be used in your coffee, chocolates, and other desserts.  Sprinkle it on fruit.  It also works in many savory dishes as well. Especially Persian, Turkish and Indian dishes.  I go through the most cinnamon due to the fact that put a lot in a favorite weekend breakfast item, banana coconut pancakes. And why not? Cinnamon tastes great and is quite healthy for you. Cinnamon might even be healthier than the much vaunted turmeric and cinnamon is arguably easier to cook with.

Yes, cinnamon has a lot of amazing qualities.  Preparations containing the bark of Cinnamon have been prescribed for more than 2000 years. Cinnamon bark contains a great amount of the function-bearing essential oils and is loaded with fiber, important vitamins and minerals.

Essential cinnamon oil
Ahhh, the aroma – Essential cinnamon oil and sticks

Bark-derived cinnamon contains a number of bioactive compounds.  Around 45% ~65% of a typical preparation is cinnamaldehyde. This provides much of the characteristic smell of cinnamon. As the dominant cinnamon bark and oil constituent, cinnamaldehyde has been well investigated; and its diverse biological activities characterized. It has analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.  It’s a potential Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease protectant. It has many anti-cancer effects as well.  It induces apoptosis, or pre-programmed cell death, in cancer cells and inhibits cancer cell invasion and metastasis. Effects have been demonstrated with a variety of cancers including breast, prostate, and colon.

Cinnamon bark also has 12% ~18% eugenol which is a fat soluble antioxidant with antiseptic with anti-clotting properties.  Cinnamon also has a number of other bioactive compounds in smaller amounts including, cinnzeylanine (anti-viral), cinnzeylanol, arabinoxylan (lowers blood surgar, anti obesity), 2’-hydroxycinnamaldehyde (anti-cancer, anti-fungal including Candida) and 2’-benzoloxycinnamaldehyde (possible anti-cancer properties).

So to recap, cinnamon has a multitude of health benefits including antibacterial, anti-cancer, antihypertensive, cholesterol-lowering, anti inflammatory, neuro-protective, anti spasmodic, and oral plaque reduction qualities.  More recently, their has been great interest in cinnamon’s ability for preventing metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance.

Given these amazing abilities, one might might wonder if there is any downside to consuming cinnamon.

Like turmeric, cinnamon enhances antioxidant enzymes activities in the body, but they also contain a fair amount of oxalates.  So with extensive use, consumption can encourage kidney stones.  Passing stones can be very painful.  It should be noted however that oxalates in cinnamon are much less absorbed than those found in turmeric.  So you get similar “superfood” qualities but with cinnamon but with less risk of stone formation.


Frontier Organic Powdered Ceylon Cinnamon, 1 Pound bag

Another issue is that there are several types of cinnamon sold for consumption. Ceylon cinnamon is known as “true” cinnamon, also Cinnamomum zeylanicum, or even C Verum.  The more common preparation found on store shelves however is Cinnamomum cassia.  This is known as “Chinese” cinnamon and is not ideal as it has higher oxalate availability and more coumarin.  Coumarin is a vitamin K antagonist and is an anticoagulant just like the more widely known Coumadin.  In fact, this is the reason for the “Great Danish Debate.”

Instead  of cassia, I recommend use of Ceylon or “true” cinnamon. If the label doesn’t say what type of cinnamon the package contains, it is safe to say that it is not Ceylon.  If you don’t trust the label, you can assess the contents by dropping a tincture of iodine on the cinnamon.  If preparation turns blue, it is cassia  (Ceylon does not react).

So add a teaspoon of cinnamon powder to your coffee, or sprinkle some on your fruit platter. It’s also great with baked sweet potatoes, or even, yes, banana coconut pancakes!

Bon Appetit,

Dr Miller

 


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