What Is Cinnamon?
You may know cinnamon as the spice sprinkled on your lattes and or french toast, but in ancient times it was so expensive that it was given as a gift to kings. Cinnamon has been in use for thousands of years. Cinnamon is also mentioned in the Bible which makes it one of the oldest documented culinary spices in the world.
At one point in ancient Egyptian history, cinnamon is believed to have been more expensive than gold (pound-for-pound) just like saffron is today. The good news is its use is not limited to enhancing the flavor of food but also helping with various medical conditions.
How Is Cinnamon Used?
Cinnamon Spice is taken from the inner bark of a tree scientifically called “Cinnamomum”. The cinnamon tree is an evergreen tree of 10-15 meters (30-50 ft) in height. There are different types of cinnamon. The most common is the dark-colored version called cassia which is grown in Asia. The Ceylon cinnamon, known as true cinnamon, is more expensive.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Cinnamon?
In ancient times cinnamon was principally used for its medicinal properties and the modern science of today is confirming many of those properties. Here are some of the health benefits of cinnamon:
Rich in antioxidants:
Cinnamon is rich in antioxidants like polyphenols. Antioxidants are protective agents against oxidative stress which damages cells. In one study carried out on different spices that contain antioxidants, cinnamon emerged as the clear-cut winner outranking even Oregano and garlic. In fact, its antioxidant properties are so powerful that is used for food preservation.
Inflammation is the natural response of the body and is highly important because it helps repair damaged tissues and fight infection. However, inflammation becomes problematic if it’s chronic and widely spread throughout the body’s tissues. Cinnamon has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. So, it helps in reducing chronic inflammation
Increases insulin sensitivity:
Insulin is an important hormone that regulates metabolism and energy use. It is actually the hormone that transports excess sugar from your bloodstream to body cells. Unfortunately, due to primarily diet, many people have become resistant to the effects of insulin. This is the underlying cause of many different diseases including type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. The good news is that cinnamon increases insulin sensitivity and thus lowers blood sugar levels, helping in treating diabetes.
Prevents neurodegenerative diseases:
Neurodegenerative diseases are those diseases in which cognitive function is slowly impaired. Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s diseases are common types of neurodegenerative diseases. Compounds found in cinnamon help reduce the buildup of tau protein in brain cells. The buildup of this protein is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. In mice study of Parkinson’s disease cinnamon protected the neurons and improved motor function.
What Makes Cinnamon An Anticancer Food?
Cancer is actually the uncontrolled division of normal cells that later become cancerous cells. Scientists conducted various studies to confirm the role of cinnamon in protecting against cancer.
Although most of the studies are restricted to animal and test-tube studies, scientists found that cinnamon has anti-cancer properties. It reduces the blood vessel formation in tumors thus leading to the death of cancer cells. A mice study of colon cancer showed that cinnamon activated detoxifying enzymes that helped prevent the spread of colon cancer. Later test-tube studies of human colon cells confirmed that cinnamon actually activated various protective responses in colon cells.
Cinnamon also caused the death of cancer cells by activating various apoptosis-related pathways. A study showed its role in inhibiting the growth of cervical cancer cells. Thus, cinnamon has anti-proliferative properties against cancer cells. Mice study also showed its role in reducing the size of melanoma tumors.