Well-known for its use in the kitchen as a flavor enhancer, cinnamon is a spice derived from from inner bark of the Cinnamomum tree. The bark is harvested and dried, which causes the notorious curl we witness from a cinnamon stick.
Interestingly, people do not realize there are two main types of cinnamon, Cassia and Ceylon. Cassia, also known as Chinese cinnamon, is considered to be lower quality, though is the most commercially available and used form of cinnamon. It bares a dark brown-red color and thicker texture compared to Ceylon.
Ceylon, or "true cinnamon," is native to Sri Lanka and southern parts of India, less common on store shelves, and comes with a much higher price tag compared to Cassia.
Nonetheless, cinnamon is regularly used in the kitchen and in alternative medicine.
Does Cinnamon Help You Lose Weight?
Though copious intakes of cinnamon rolls and streusels may not be the ticket to weight loss, careful consumption and consideration of the spice might be.
Up until this point, research was primarily inclusive to animal studies and lacking from sound human evidence. But new research published in Metabolism - Clinical and Experimental shines light on a fat-burning chemical found in cinnamon called cinnamaldehyde (CA), a food compound previously observed to be protect against obesity.
Researchers found CA to induce a thermogenic response, or the metabolic process in which the body burns calories to produce heat, showing to facilitate weight loss by increasing calorie burn. Both acute and chronic effects of CA were observed, demonstrating to influence thermogenesis from multiple donors with varying ages, ethnicities, and body mass indexes (BMIs).
Authors imply, "Given the wide usage of cinnamon in the food industry, the notion that this popular food additive, instead of a drug, may activate thermogenesis, could ultimately lead to therapeutic strategies against obesity that are much better adhered to by participants."
Beyond weight loss, the benefits of cinnamon are vastly explored in diabetes management. According to WebMD, Cassia cinnamon contains certain chemicals that seem to improve insulin sensitivity and increase blood sugar intake.
Cinnamon has also been touted to lower cholesterol, muscle spasms, and gas and treat yeast infections and erectile dysfunction.
How to Use It
Because cinnamon is an unproven treatment for medicinal use, there is no established dosage recommendations.
However, some evidence supports up to six grams of cinnamon per day is considered to be safe, with other recommendations supporting two to four grams (or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon) per day.
Though toxicity is rare, heavy use of cinnamon can have adverse side effects, including irritation to the mouth. Compared to Ceylon, Cassia contains higher levels of coumarin, a harmful compound that can be toxic in large quantities, making Ceylon a safer supplement option.
People who manage diabetes should also tread cautiously with heavy cinnamon use, as too much may interact with antihyperglycemics and cause hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.
Ultimately, before using cinnamon for medicinal purposes, consult with your primary care provider for careful guidance and dosage recommendations. However, most of the risks come with supplemental use, not the portion often used in casual cooking and baking.