Botanical name: Cinnamomum zeylanicum
© Steven Foster
Most people are familiar with the sweet but pungent taste of the oil, powder, or sticks of bark from the cinnamon tree. Cinnamon trees grow in a number of tropical areas, including parts of India, China, Madagascar, Brazil, and the Caribbean.
Cinnamon has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):
|Science Ratings||Health Concerns|
Menorrhagia (heavy menstruation)
Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.
Cinnamon is an ancient herbal medicine mentioned in Chinese texts as long ago as 4,000 years. It has a broad range of historical uses in different cultures, including the treatment of diarrhea, rheumatism, and certain menstrual disorders.1
Various terpenoids found in the volatile oil are believed to account for cinnamon’s medicinal effects. Important among these compounds are eugenol and cinnamaldehyde. Both cinnamaldehyde and cinnamon oil vapors are potent anti-fungal compounds.2 Preliminary human evidence confirms this effect in a clinical trial with AIDS patients suffering from oral candida (thrush) infections that improved with topical application of cinnamon oil.3 Antibacterial actions have also been demonstrated for cinnamon.4 The diterpenes in the volatile oil have shown anti-allergic activity5 as well. In addition, water extracts may help reduce ulcers.6 Test tube studies also show that cinnamon can augment the action of insulin.7 However, use of cinnamon to improve the action of insulin in people with diabetes has yet to be proven in clinical trials.
The German Commission E monograph suggests 1/2–3/4 teaspoon (2–4 grams) of the powder per day.8 A tea can be prepared from the powdered herb by boiling 1/2 teaspoon (2–3 grams) of the powder for ten to fifteen minutes, cooling, and then drinking. No more than a few drops of volatile oil should be used and only for a few days at a time. A tincture (1/2 teaspoon or 2–3 ml) may also be taken three times per day.
Some people develop bronchial constriction or skin rash after exposure to cinnamon.9 Therefore, only small amounts should be used initially in people who have not previously had contact with cinnamon, and anyone with a known allergy should avoid it. Chronic use of the concentrated oil may cause inflammation in the mouth. According to the German Commission E monograph, cinnamon is not recommended for use by pregnant women.10
At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions with cinnamon.
1. Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Foods, Drugs, and Cosmetics, 2d ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996, 168–70.
2. Singh HB, Srivastava M, Singh AB, Srivastava AK. Cinnamon bark oil, a potent fungitoxicant against fungi causing respiratory tract mycoses. Allergy 1995;50:995–9.
3. Quale JM, Landman D, Zaman MM, et al. In vitro activity of Cinnamomum zeylanicum against azole resistant and sensitive Candida species and a pilot study of cinnamon for oral candidiasis. Am J Chin Med 1996;24:103–9.
4. Azumi S, Tanimura A, Tanamoto K. A novel inhibitor of bacterial endotoxin derived from cinnamon bark. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 1997;234:506–10.
5. Nagai H, Shimazawa T, Matsuura N, Koda A. Immunopharmacological studies of the aqueous extract of Cinnamomum cassia (CCAq). I. Anti-allergic action. Jpn J Pharmacol 1982;32:813–22.
6. Akira T, Tanaka S, Tabata M. Pharmacological studies on the antiulcerogenic activity of Chinese cinnamon. Planta Med 1986;(6):440–3.
7. Berrio LF, Polansky MM, Anderson RA. Insulin activity: stimulatory effects of cinnamon and brewer’s yeast as influenced by albumin. Horm Res 1992;37:225–9.
8. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 110–1.
9. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 110–1.
10. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 110–1.
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The information presented in Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires September 2008.