Cinnamon tends to be a part of every kitchen cabinet, whether someone is a great chef or not! You’ll find it in foods such as pumpkin pie, honey nut granola, and apple cider.
If you’re a type 2 diabetic, you may be wondering whether or not this is something you can safely add to your diet. As it turns out, cinnamon and diabetes go hand in hand more than you think!
What is Cinnamon?
Cinnamon is an aromatic spice harvested from the inner part of the bark of several species of trees from the genus Cinnamomum. It is used both in savory and sweet recipes and is seen in cuisines around the world.
The aroma and strong essence of cinnamon are also used for various aromatherapy applications.
Cinnamon is classified into two types
- Ceylon is known as “true” cinnamon.
- Cassia cinnamon, which is the more common variety.
Cinnamon is produced by trimming the tree extracting the inner part of the bark. As it dries, it forms pieces that roll into sticks. The oily component of the bark is called cinnamaldehyde. It has a distinct smell and flavor.
History shows that cinnamon was imported to Egypt as early as 2000 BC. It was highly-priced in ancient nations and often given as gifts to monarchs.
It can also be burned and used as incense.
The spice has a history of health properties for thousands of years. Health properties supported by scientific research include anti-inflammatory effects and decreasing sugar levels in the blood. Cinnamon is rich in antibacterial and antioxidant properties.
When selecting cinnamon, notice the difference between Ceylon and Cassia. Ground Ceylon is tan in color and has a delicate and sweet flavor. Cassia is reddish-brown, is coarser in texture, and has a more pungent flavor and aroma.
There are tons of recipes ideas out there for preparing dishes, natural cosmetics, or home deodorizers.
Does Cinnamon Lower Blood Sugar?
Researchers from Pakistan reported on their study in 2016 that cinnamon does have antioxidant and anti-diabetes properties. They gave 25 type 2 diabetics 1000 mg of cinnamon a day, or two capsules for 12 weeks.
After the 12 weeks, the ones that took the cinnamon had a drop of 17.4% in their blood sugar levels.
In another study of 60 type 2 diabetics, volunteers consumed two, four or six 500 mg capsules of cinnamon a day, or a placebo. Those who consumed the lowest levels reduced their fasting glucose levels 18% and those who took higher dosages reduced them 29%.
But let’s get real here. What do these numbers really look like? Check out the chart below to find out – and better gauge your potential drop in blood sugar from cinnamon.
When an herb decreases blood sugar levels 10%, it’s not good enough for most diabetics. Their blood sugar levels still are too high and they can’t get off diabetic medications. With a 29% drop in blood sugar, levels are still high above the pre-diabetic limit of 100 mg/dl.
Any drop in blood sugar levels will slow down the damage that occurs when blood sugar is deposited in the tissues. However, the damage doesn’t stop until the blood sugar level stays in the normal range, right around 80-90 mg/dl for fasting levels.
One metastudy on cinnamon analyzed eight clinical trials in type 2 diabetics. Both whole cinnamon and cinnamon extract lowered fasting blood glucose.
Other Benefits of Taking Cinnamon
Canadian researchers found that cinnamon significantly reduced blood pressure in type 2 diabetics and prediabetics. They analyzed data from several studies to discover this. The blood pressure drop was only 5.39 mm Hg for the systolic blood pressure (top number of blood pressure), and 2.6 mm Hg drop for diastolic.
Still, they concluded that cinnamon shows hopeful effects on blood pressure lowering potential.
Another study in the October 2013 Nutrition journal proved that diabetic blood pressure levels dropped significantly when they used cinnamon.
Cinnamon For Blood Sugar Control
Here’s an interesting point about this cinnamon study – the patients were ones that had poorly controlled blood sugar levels. They had the type of diabetes that didn’t seem to respond well to drugs – but did respond well to cinnamon from the plant/herb kingdom.
Cinnamon improves insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetics. It lowers triglyceride levels 23-30%. And if your LDL-cholesterol levels need to be decreased, you can expect a drop of up to 27%, according to British researchers.
Chinese researchers discovered in 2013 that the proanthocyanidins in cinnamon prevented damage to the islet cells from occurring. Islet cells have to function properly to prevent diabetes.
And a Chinese study of 66 Type 2 diabetics showed a reduction in hemoglobin A1c levels as well as fasting blood sugars. They didn’t state how much of a reduction in their abstract, but British researchers did.
British patients taking 2 grams cinnamon per day had Hemoglobin A1c levels of 8.22% starting out. After 12 weeks, their Hemoglobin A1c levels fell to 7.86%, compared to the placebo group with ending levels of 8.68%.
Side Effects of using Cinnamon
There is one precaution to take when you use cinnamon. Since one of the active ingredients in cinnamon is coumarin, you can’t really go into your kitchen cupboards and take cinnamon right out of the spice jar. Coumarin may cause liver problems.
The Germans, who are considered amongst the top geeks about technical aspects on herbs, say that cinnamon has to be limited to only 1/4 teaspoon per day. That’s less than the dose used in the clinical trials.
When the Germans evaluated 60 samples, they found that the cinnamon highest in coumarin had 1% of this toxic ingredient. The Ceylon cinnamon hardly ever contains coumarin but the Chinese/Saigon version is generally the one that has the highest level of the toxic ingredient in it.
They say you could exceed the tolerable daily intake of 0.1 mg coumarin/kg body weight for 1-2 weeks and it’s safe… but remember that if your cinnamon has the 1% level of coumarin, you can only have about 680 mg cinnamon daily if you weighed about 150 pounds. One teaspoon cinnamon is about 2,400 mg cinnamon.
The best bet is to only use Ceylon cinnamon. It might be more expensive. But it’s worth it not having to worry about any toxicity. That way you won’t have to limit your use of cinnamon to a few weeks at a time or have to use less cinnamon and combine it with other blood sugar lowering herbs.
Who Shouldn’t use Cinnamon?
There are some people who should not use cinnamon capsules at all. It’s recommended that those who are pregnant and those who have problems with low blood sugar should consider using other herbs to improve their health.
There are always many good herbs to choose from. A practicing herbalist or health practitioner versed in herbs can make this decision for you. Checking with your doctor is always in order.
If you are on blood sugar lowering drugs and your doctor has given you the go-ahead to give cinnamon a try, it’s important to monitor your blood sugar levels daily. Doing so will not only allow you to see progress, but also catch any blood sugar readings that are too low.
If this happens, your doctor will want to know this so that he/she can lower your blood sugar medications.
Another precaution is for those who may have problems with clotting. Cinnamon is a coagulant and prevents bleeding while simultaneously increasing circulation. Some doctors will say stay away if a patient is on anticoagulant therapy.
How to use Cinnamon in Your Diet
The easiest way to use cinnamon in your diet if you are a type 2 diabetic is to take capsules of Ceylon cinnamon. The capsules will give you enough of the active ingredients that work in your favor.
If the Ceylon cinnamon in the capsules is equivalent to 500 mg, taking two capsules per day will give you 1000 mg daily. This is a good starting dose and one capsule should be taken after your two big meals of the day.
However, it’s always a good idea to check with the health professionals you are working with and let them make the call. Self-medicating is not usually a good decision.
You can still eat cinnamon in your foods. However, the small amount that you consume in a serving of pumpkin pancakes or spiced apple cider might never top one-tenth of a teaspoon. Thus, it may never give you the therapeutic benefits you are looking for.
What Do You Do?
What all these studies and decades of use of this herb since the time of antiquity are really saying is that cinnamon is helpful. Yet some doctors still won’t recommend it. Go figure.
In fact, one medical report was so bold to say that the evidence simply isn’t good enough for dietitians to recommend it. Seems like hogwash and an attitude of “let’s stick with the drugs and not even have to deal with it.”
The bottom line is that it’s your choice. Find a health professional that knows how cinnamon works and how it doesn’t and go with their advice.
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