Abascal K, Yarnell E. The medicinal uses of cinnamon. Integrative Med. February/March 2010;9(1): 28-32.
is used to refer to several different trees and is associated with several
Latin names, say the authors, adding that what could be called "true"
cinnamon is Cinnamomum verum syn. C. zeylanicum. This article
reviews the research of the medicinal uses of cinnamon (C. zeylanicum, C.
verum, and C. cassia). N.B.
So-called ‘cassia bark’ is Cinnamomum
aromaticum syn. C. cassia (Chinese
the confusion about the identity of cinnamon, correct identification and
labeling of cinnamon should be required of any study or any commercial cinnamon
product, say the authors. This should include not only the Latin name, but, for
scientific studies, also a voucher specimen. They also opine that “very little
of what passes for cinnamon in the marketplace, traditional medicine, or in
modern studies is actually this true cinnamon”—and that cassia can be easily
distinguished by its content of "0.45% coumarin and an almost complete
absence of eugenol.”
has long been used in traditional Asian medicine and is most often combined
with other herbs. It has been used for joint pain, heart palpitations, and
dysmenorrhea. Ancient Egyptians used cinnamon as an embalming agent; it was
brought to Europe from Asia as a cooking spice and medicine.1
European herbalists prescribed it for dyspepsia, mild spasms, indigestion, loss
of appetite, diarrhea, and uterine hemorrhaging.2 American Eclectic
physicians in the 19th century used cinnamon as a stimulant, tonic, stomachic,
carminative, and astringent.3 They also used it to improve the
flavors of other medicines.
Commission E approved the internal use of both C. verum and C.
aromaticum to treat loss of appetite, dyspeptic complaints such as mild
spastic conditions of the gastrointestinal tract, bloating, and flatulence.4
barks contain 1% to 2% volatile oils, with cinnamaldehyde as the main
constituent, and also containing cinnamic acid, coumarin, tannins,
cinncassiols, and melatonin. Cinnamon has strong antioxidant properties; its
essential oil has reported antibacterial and antifungal properties in vitro. In
animal studies, it has been shown to decrease smooth muscle contractions in the
trachea and ileum, colon, and stomach. In a study of 54 human subjects,
cinnamon tea increased total serum antioxidant status and decreased lipid
peroxidation when compared with the consumption of water or regular tea.
cite a study in which cinnamon bark showed a potential hypoglycemic action.
Subsequent clinical trials have shown mixed results and are the subject of two
recent systematic reviews.
review examined three "strong" to "good" clinical diabetes
trials on cassia. The first trial reported reduced serum glucose, low-density
lipoprotein cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels in 60 people with type 2
diabetes who took cassia daily for 40 days. The second study, in type 2
diabetes patients, reported a moderate effect of cassia on fasting glucose but
no effect on hemoglobin A1c or lipid profiles. The third study reported no
change in fasting glucose, insulin hemoglobin A1c, oral glucose tolerance, or
lipid profile. The review pointed out that subjects in the first study had
elevated baseline fasting glucose values, suggesting that cinnamon might be
more effective in patients with poor glucose control. The second review
analyzed five clinical trials of cassia given to patients with type 2 diabetes.
None of the studies showed a significant change in hemoglobin A1c, fasting
blood glucose, or lipid parameters. Thus, say the authors, "the benefit of
cinnamon in diabetes remains unclear."
the antibacterial and antifungal properties of cinnamon, the authors cite a
study that concluded that cinnamon was ineffective in eradicating Helicobacter
pylori and another study in which a commercially available cinnamon product
was reported to improve candidiasis. Also cited is a systematic review of
studies investigating a combination formula that included cinnamon. The formula
produced beneficial effects on angina with negligible adverse effects. In
another recent review, cinnamon was an ingredient in many of the formulas that
showed potential benefit in the treatment of endometriosis.
safety and drug interactions, the authors note that cinnamon bark is generally
regarded as safe. Cinnamon-soaked toothpicks, cinnamon-flavored chewing gum,
and raw cinnamon have been reported to cause sores, burns, and allergic
reactions. A single case report cited by the authors linked cinnamon chewing
gum to squamous cell carcinoma.
list the average doses of the dried herb, essential oil, infusions, and
clinical research has been done on this interesting plant, and that which has
been done tends to ignore its traditional indications. As a result, much additional
research remains to be conducted on this ancient spice and medicine."
1Dugoua J, Seely D, Perri D, et al. From type 2
diabetes to antioxidant activity: a systematic review of the safety and
efficacy of common and cassia cinnamon bark. Can J Physiol Pharmacol.
2Wynn SG, Fougere B. Veterinary Herbal Medicine.
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