cinnamon plant
Cinnamon plant

A cinnamon monograph for the home

Cinnamon at a glance

Scientific name: Cinnamomum verum J. Presl.
Common names: cinnamon, cinnamon bark, cassia cinnamon.
Family name: Lauraceae
Part(s) of the plant used: dried inner bark
Native region and environment: the cinnamon tree is a small evergreen tree native to Sri Lanka and the Indian subcontinent. It principally lives in the tropical rain forest. The inner bark is harvested after slow-growing for at least 4 years– when the tree is typically over 18 feet.

This cinnamon monograph provides basic information about cinnamon—common names, usefulness and safety, and resources for more information. Browse more monographs.

History of cinnamon use

Cinnamon played a major role in colonial expansion. In 1536, Portugal invaded what was then Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to monopolize the cinnamon trade. By 1770, the Dutch were cultivating cinnamon and the Dutch East India company dominated the world trade in cinnamon from 1796 to 1833. Most commonly, cinnamon is a spice used to flavor food from savory to sweet. It is an ingredient in many recipes including curry, tea blends, and chewing gum! Cinnamon is popular in Spanish-speaking countries like Mexico (it’s known as canela) where it is added to chocolate and also in China where it is one of the ingredients of the 5-spice blend. “Cinnamon, along with other spices and fruit, is used in making mulled wine which is often used as an apéritif to aid digestion.”[1]

Cinnamon constituents & diabetes

Cinnamon contains many constituents including essential oils (like coumarin), diterpenes, polysaccharides, and phenolic acids. The polyphenols in cinnamon display insulin increasing and antioxidant activity. Cinnamon’s phytochemicals have also been shown to increase insulin sensitivity by improving glucose transport to cells and reducing fasting blood sugar. Cinnamon extract may offer partial protection against insulin resistance and diabetes by rapidly inducing the expression of the anti-inflammatory genes in fat cells.

The consumption of cinnamon supplements used in combination with standard hypoglycemic medications or other lifestyle therapies can improve T2DM. In clinical trials it has been shown to modestly reduce fasting blood sugar especially in patients with a BMI over 27.[2] Results on HbA1c. and other body measures have been more conflicted. In vitro (in a petri dish) and in vivo (in body) evidences indicate that cinnamon may have benefits in improving insulin sensitivity and glycemic control. It has been suggested that cinnamon’s effects on blood glucose can be attributed to one of its active constituents: cinnamaldehyde.

Safety and contraindications

With a safety rating of 2b and interaction class A, cinnamon is generally a safe herb to take, but women should avoid it in large amounts while pregnant. Cinnamon supplements appear to be safe for most people for short-term use. Some people may have allergic reactions to cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon (C. cassia) contains varying amounts of a chemical called coumarin, which might cause or worsen liver disease. In most cases, C. cassia doesn’t have enough coumarin to make you sick. However, for some people, such as those with liver disease, taking a large amount of C. cassia might worsen their condition. Grocery stores often carry C. cassia, so you may need to find a specialty retailer for the verum cinnamon (C. verum).

Potential Drug Interactions

Moreover, the long-term consumption of coumarins have been demonstrated to cause hepatoxicity in humans and the European Food Safety Authority confirmed maximum daily intake for coumarins to 0.1 mg/kg. Considering the potential toxicity of coumarins in C. cassia, it can be speculated that C. verum may be safer for clinical application in chronic diseases requiring prolonged treatments, such as T2DM.

Cinnamon preparation & dosing

Whole cinnamon bark is available at most grocery stores, however if you are interested in using it to modulate your blood sugar levels make sure you buy the C. verum. If you are interested in working with a tincture of cinnamon, I would recommend you buy this product from a trusted supplier like Mountain Rose Herbs.

Daily Dosage Table: Cinnamon[3]
Format Dosage
Preparation
Infusion 2-6g Infuse in 8oz boiling water for 10 min
Tincture 1.5-3.0 mL 1:1 liquid extract
 

References

[1] https://www.herbalgram.org/resources/herbalgram/issues/95/table-of-contents/herbalgram-95-herb-profile-cinnamon/

[2] Namazi et al 2019 Complementary Therapies in Medicine 43 (2019) 92–101

[3] Braun & Cohen (2015) Herbs & Natural Supplements Vol 2. , Elsevier, Sydney Australia