Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cinnamon - Healthy can be Tasty!


You may think of cinnamon as a tasty addition to your morning oatmeal or burst of flavour in your daily coffee ...

Well in this case, healthy can be tasty, too. Cinnamon's medicinal properties are as abundant and effective as they are delicious.

Cinnamon is a cure-all for digestive complaints, such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping and diarrhea. It is also a go-to herb in terms of regulating blood sugar.

Research shows that Type II diabetics can lower their fasting serum glucose significantly using cinnamon in doses of as little as 1 g/day. Cinnamon was found to reduce serum triglycerides and both LDL and total cholesterol in this population, as well. This has particular significance to individuals with diabetes, as the combination of high triglycerides, high cholesterol and diabetes leaves them much more likely to develop Metabolic syndrome, which in turn can lead to serious conditions such as atherosclerosis and heart disease (see article on Metabolic Syndrome).

In addition to its properties as an anti-diabetic, anti-spasmodic and carminitive, Cinnamon has both anti-fungal and antibacterial properties, as well. For this reason it is used to treat colds and other respiratory infections. It is also a very warming herb. In terms of Chinese medicine, anyone suffering from cold or damp afflictions should increase their intake of herbs such as cinnamon and ginger – a great excuse to drink Chai tea!

The use of Cinnamon stems back to at least 500 BC, with Cinnamon verum coming from Sri Lanka and India, while Chinese cinnamon or cassia is cultivated in China, Indonesia and Vietnam. A cinnamon tree is a bushy evergreen that grows best in humid tropical forests. It has a reddish brown aromatic bark, which is eventually peeled off and removed of it's outer covering, leaving an aromatic inner bark that is rolled together to form sticks (quills). The quills of true cinnamon (verum) and cassia are easily distinguished, but once powdered they are very hard to tell apart. In your typical grocery store or spice rack you will most likely find the cassia form of cinnamon or commonly a mix of the two. Cassia is somewhat less expensive than the verum variety with basically identical pharmacological effects. Cassia is also safe in pregnancy, while verum is cautioned as high doses can potentially induce abortion.

A typical dose of cinnamon, depending on the concern you are looking to treat, ranges from 1 – 4 g/day. Cinnamon can also be used as an essential oil, in which case the dose ranges from .05 -.2 g/day. The essential oil is much more concentrated than the powder commonly used for baking, and should be used with more caution. It is not recommended for use in pregnancy.

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