Cinnamon can spice up your diet, and your wellness routine

By Calin Van Paris
eat it up

Photo: Benjamin Madgwick

Cinnamon could have potential health benefits for both body and mind. Here's everything you need to know

Cinnamon smells inviting—and it turns out, that's because it's welcoming you to partake in some serious bodily benefits. Derived from trees belonging to the Cinnamomum genus, cinnamon bark contains potassium, manganese, and calcium, along with protective polyphenols, or plant compounds with antioxidant properties. “It has been used for centuries for its various health benefits and aromatic properties,” notes Juhi Singh, CEO and founder of The Juhi Ash Center. To wit, cinnamon features in ancient medicinal traditions like Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, and more.


There are two kinds of cinnamon you are likely to be familiar with: cassia cinnamon and ceylon cinnamon. “Cassia is the most common and generally affordable variety, and includes Chinese, Indonesian, and Saigon cinnamon,” says Rachelle Robinett, founder of Pharmakon Supernatural. “Verum or Ceylon cinnamon is processed differently, to deliver a sweeter, more nuanced flavour that’s floral, sweet, and delicately spicy.” (According to Singh, ceylon cinnamon is sometimes referred to as “true cinnamon.”)

Robinett notes that all varieties contain phytochemicals, and the tastes and benefits are either enhanced or lost entirely based on how the plants are grown, harvested, and processed. Still, there’s a reason the aromatic bark is so popular. “Cinnamon is accessible, exceedingly simple to use, and profoundly beneficial,” says Robinett.

Read on to learn about some of the health benefits of cinnamon—and how to broaden your (perhaps sweets-centric) cinnamon use.

What are some possible benefits of cinnamon?

“In recent decades, scientific research has increasingly explored the potential health benefits of cinnamon, shedding light on its bioactive compounds and their physiological effects," says Los Angeles and London–based naturopathic Dr. Nigma Talib. “Naturopathic doctors, or NDs, have continued the tradition of using cinnamon in their holistic approaches to patient care, recognizing its potential benefits for conditions such as diabetes, digestive discomfort, inflammation, and more.”

Externally, cinnamon works as an antimicrobial that can help with breakouts and other skin conditions. Internally, it acts as a digestive aid that relieves gas and bloating while regulating blood glucose. “Studies suggest that when cinnamon is ingested before or with a meal it can inhibit digestive enzymes that help digest carbohydrates, and by doing so slows the blood sugar rise after a meal,” says Los Angeles-based naturopathic Dr. Brendan Courneene. “This, along with improving insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake, has a blood sugar-lowering effect, similar to diabetic medications.”

As noted above, cinnamon contains antioxidants that can help combat oxidative stress and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. “These antioxidants may help protect the body from damage caused by free radicals, supporting overall health and vitality,” says Talib. Cinnamon is also thought increase circulation and even lower cholesterol and blood pressure, reducing hypertension and thus the risk of heart disease. Finally, the bark boasts antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. “These properties can alter the microbiome and may show some [external] anti-inflammatory benefits,” says Dr. Courneene.

Any downsides?

Cassia cinnamon contains coumarin, a phytochemical that is considered a carcinogen, and can also cause damage to the liver. “Chinese, Saigon, and Indonesian cinnamon can contain significant amounts of coumarin which is believed to have moderate hepatotoxic (liver toxicity) potential,” says Robinett. She adds, however, that a Japanese study of people who regularly took Kampo, a traditional herbal formula containing high levels of Cinnamomum cassia, “did not exhibit any signs of coumarin-induced liver damage.”

As always, chat with your health care provider when approaching a new ingredient for its medicinal properties, particularly before ingesting therapeutic or high doses (aka large amounts). And should you opt to apply cinnamon topically, do so with care. “Cinnamon can be very irritating due to the cannamalderhydres it contains,” says Dr. Courneene. “Due to its composition, it is never recommended to apply concentrated cinnamon oil directly to the skin—and it may increase photosensitivity when exposed to sunlight, creating a sunburn even with limited sun exposure.”

For the most part (and with some intentional thought) cinnamon is safe, simple, and easy to incorporate into your routine. Here’s how:

More sweet treats

If you’re anything like us, the first thing that comes to mind when the word “cinnamon” is mentioned is baked goods. And if that sort of sweet, sweet cinnamon consumption comes with some physical upsides, all the better. Stir your coffee with a cinnamon stick, sprinkle ground cinnamon over chia pudding or oatmeal, or simply bake more of your favourite cinnamon-focused desserts.

Add it into your regular diet

Should ramping up your dessert uptake sound like a no-go, there are of course other ways to eat your cinnamon. “Cinnamon is amazing in savoury dishes,” says Robinett, who suggests adding the warming seasoning to baked squash, meats, and roasted vegetables. You also have the option of sipping cinnamon tea or taking cinnamon supplements.

Spice up your wellness routine

Cinnamon can be used to clear skin and minds alike. “Cinnamon can be used as an essential oil, which when properly diluted, possesses antimicrobial properties that can help with issues like acne and fungal infections,” says Singh. As noted above, said dilution is essential, as is spot testing. When used for aromatherapy—either in incense form or a diffused essential oil—the warming, spiced scent is thought to boost mood and ease anxiety.

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