Cinnamon

Cassia Cinnamon Nov 20, 2018

As per the recent food trend, cinnamon is the new super food. It is being claimed to be useful for correcting diabetes, for weight loss, skin issues, joint pains etc. Let us find out some more details about it.

It is a spice obtained from the bark of genus Cinnamomum trees. Two varieties of cinnamon are most famous and being used on a large scale:

  • Ceylon cinnamon or the Srilankan cinnamon, also called as ‘True cinnamon’
  • Cassia cinnamon or the Chinese cinnamon

How is Cinnamon obtained?

The stems of cinnamon tree are cut and then inner bark is separated from the woody part.  The bark then curls into sticks on drying.  Cinnamon powder is obtained by grinding these sticks.

Difference between Ceylon cinnamon and Cassia cinnamon

Here are a few points to help you differentiate between Ceylon and Cassia cinnamon.

  1. Taste – Ceylon has a delicate and sweet taste where as cassia is more pungent and spicier
  2. Color – Ceylon is of Tan color where as cassia has a reddish brown to dark brown color
  3. Look – Since the Cassia bark is thicker hence it curls inwards from both sides where as Ceylon is thin and rolls inward from one side just like a newspaper
  4. Feel – Cassia cinnamon has a rough and uneven surface where as Ceylon bark is smooth

Uses of Cinnamon

  • As an aromatic condiment – in curries
  • As a flavor additive – in sweet and savory dishes
  • Essential oils – used in dental and pharmaceutical products. Used to kill mosquito larvae. When used in food, inhibits bacterial growth and spoilage thus acts as natural preservative
  • In traditional medicine

Chemical constituents of Cinnamon

Cinnamon contains various resinous compounds like Cinnamaldehyde, Cinnamic acid, Cinnamate and various essential oils including Eugenol. Cinnamaldehyde absorbs oxygen and impart the spicy taste and fragrance. The color of cinnamon darkens as it ages and its resinous compounds improve.

Properties of Cinnamon

  • Anti inflammatory
  • Antimicrobial
  • Antioxidant
  • Anti tumor
  • Cholesterol Lowering
  • Immuno modulatory
  • Anti diabetic
  • Cardiovascular disease lowering

Health Benefits of Cinnamon

  • Natural Anti oxidant – Cinnamon contains polyphenols which work as antioxidants to fight off the oxidative damages caused by free radicals in the body.
  • Fights inflammation – Your body needs inflammation to fight infections and to repair damages tissues. But when inflammation is chronic and attack own tissues then it leads to diseases. Cinnamon works as an anti inflammatory agent to help fight of chronic inflammation.
  • Good for Heart Health – Cinnamon helps to reduce Triglycerides and LDL cholesterol which is the bad cholesterol. Animal studies have shown cinnamon helps to reduce blood pressure.
  • Improves Insulin Sensitivity – Insulin is one of the important hormones which regulate energy utilization and metabolism in the human body. Insulin also helps transport glucose from blood into the cells. In case of Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes, cells become insulin resistant. Cinnamon helps to reduce this resistance and makes the cells more sensitive towards insulin
  • Anti Diabetic effect – Cinnamon interferes with digestive enzymes thus slows down carbohydrate breakdown in the gut due to which the amount of glucose entering the blood stream post meal is less. Also cinnamon has certain compound which mimics insulin and acts on cell to take up glucose though at a much slower rate. By these two mechanisms, cinnamon helps lower down blood sugar and shows anti diabetic effect.
  • May be beneficial for Neuro Degenerative cases – Alzheimer’s and Prakinson’s are two of the neurodegenerative disorders. Neuro degenerative means progressive loss of either structure or function of the brain cells. In a mice study, cinnamon helped to improve motor functions, normalize the levels of neurotransmitter and protect the neuron. In case of Alzheimer’s, compounds in cinnamon inhibit the production of Tau protein in brain. Human studies are yet to be done to confirm these beneficial effects.
  • Fight against Bacterial and Fungal infections – Essential oil in cinnamon helps fight of fungal infection in respiratory tract. It can also help to inhibit growth of Listeria and The antimicrobial action is more pronounced in fighting tooth decay and bad breath.

Toxicity

Cinnamon contains a natural flavoring called Coumarin. High doses of coumarin have shown to cause liver and kidney damage. Cassia variety of cinnamon has high levels of Coumarin compared to Ceylon or True cinnamon. People planning to take Cinnamon supplements due to its various health benefits should discuss it with their doctor first.

References

  • Gruenwald, Joerg & Freder, Janine & Armbruester, Nicole. (2010). Cinnamon and Health. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition. 50. 822-34. 10.1080/10408390902773052.
  • Leech, Joe (2018). 10 Evidence Based Health Benefits of Cinnamon. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-proven-benefits-of-cinnamon
  • Maheshwari, Raaz et al. (2013) Cinnamon: An Imperative Spice for Human Comfort. International Journal of Pharmaceutical Research and Bio-Science. Volume 2(5):131-145
  • Nordqvist, Joseph (2017). What are the Health Benefits of Cinnamon? Medical NewsToday. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266069.php
  • Visweswara Rao, Pasupuleti & Gan, Siew. (2014). Cinnamon: A Multifaceted Medicinal Plant. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine: eCAM. 2014. 642942. 10.1155/2014/642942.
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinnamon#Food_uses

Neha Tanvani

Eat well to live well is my mantra for life. If your are reading this means you want to know more about me so here it is..! I am a Post Grad in Nutrition and Dietetics from LPU Punjab and have 5 yea

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