Cinnamon has been prized as both a spice and a medicine for thousands of years, especially in traditional Chinese medicine, where it's often used in combination with other herbs and spices. In recent years, it's become known as a healthy source of flavor in foods thanks to its antioxidant properties. It can also reduce the need for sugar, as, for example, many people enjoy a bowl of oatmeal with less sugar if they sprinkle a little cinnamon on top instead. Just don't be fooled into thinking that sugary breakfast cereals or other processed foods flavored with cinnamon are somehow good for you.
Types of Spice
There are two main species of cinnamon available today: Chinese (Cinnamomum aromaticum or Cinnamomum cassia) and Ceylon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum or Cinnamomum verum). Ceylon cinnamon is so called because it is native to Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon). It has a sweeter taste than the Chinese species, with a tan color and more layers of fine bark that is easy to break or grind.
Chinese cinnamon has a darker, reddish-brown color and the sticks are made of thicker, tougher bark with fewer layers. When you're shopping for cinnamon powder, however, there's no way to determine the species unless it's specifically listed on the label.
Sweet Relief for High Blood Sugar
While Ceylon cinnamon is considered to be superior from a culinary perspective, Chinese cinnamon makes the best medicine-research shows that it can lower blood glucose levels, helping to prevent or treat type 2 diabetes.
In a review of six clinical trials that was published in Clinical Nutrition, researchers from the University of West London found that 1-6 grams of cinnamon daily significantly reduced levels of blood sugar. The studies they reviewed followed a total of 435 people with type 2 diabetes for periods ranging between 40 days and 4 months.
Clinical trials have also tested two different proprietary Chinese cinnamon extracts-Cinnulin PF and CinSulin-that are available in many supplements. Each was found to lower blood sugar levels among people with prediabetes (blood sugar levels elevated but not high enough to be diagnosed as "true" diabetes) at doses of 500 mg per day.
The beneficial parts of the Chinese cinnamon plant are the bark and the flowers. They contain a volatile oil known as cinnamaldehyde, which is the active ingredient. This oil also has been shown to have antioxidant and anti-bacterial properties, and may prevent or help reduce tumors.
How to Use Cinnamon Supplements
For type 2 diabetes:
To lower blood sugar levels: Take 1-6 grams (1 teaspoon = 4.75 grams) of Chinese cassia cinnamon daily (on labels, also called Cinnamomum aromaticum).
To lower risk for diabetes: Take 500 mg, twice daily, of Chinese cassia cinnamon, or 500 mg daily of Cinnulin PF or CinSulin.
Formulas containing cinnamon: To lower blood sugar, effective formulas may also include synergistic herbs such as bitter melon, fenugreek, and devil's claw, as well as other nutrients such as chromium and alpha-lipoic acid.
Cautions: When taking cinnamon or other supplements for type 2 diabetes, monitor your blood glucose levels to make sure that you don't have a hypoglycemic reaction, where blood glucose drops too low.
Adverse reactions: When cinnamon is used in topical products, such as toothpaste, allergic skin reactions have occasionally occurred in very sensitive people.
Hero NutritionalsSlice of Life Diabetic Health Multi+ is a comprehensive vitamin formula with the added bonus of cinnamon extract.
New ChapterCinnamon Force is a proprietary blend of Cinnamomum aromaticum and Cinnamomum verum extracts.
SolgarCinnamon Alpha Lipoic Acid features two of the top nutrients for blood sugar support in a convenient tablet form-take 1 daily.
Steven Rosenblatt, MD, PhD, LAc, (doctorrbrand.com) is an integrative physician in private practice in Los Angeles and a leading pioneer in combining Eastern and Western Medicine.