The holidays are notorious for being filled with unhealthy options from fruitcake to pecan pie, but what do a lot of these holiday treats have in common? Cinnamon! Hailing from the likes of the Caribbean, South America, and Southeast Asia, this spice, harvested from the bark of trees has long been recognized as a medicinal plant. Its use dates back to 2000BC and Ancient Egypt where it was a highly prized herb for a host of ailments. Even today, many cultures around the world consider this spice a healthy food that offers many advantages to your everyday diet. Found primarily in two forms, ceylon cinnamon and cassia cinnamon, are both superfood quality, and can be found in your local grocery store. Read below to learn how cinnamon benefits your body, not just during the holidays, but all year round.
Keeping a good supply of cinnamon on hand can come in handy when you need ease aches and pains due to swelling of joints. One of the essential components of cinnamon, cinnamyl alcohol, which contributes to the release of histamine, has been shown in several lab studies to exert an anti-inflammatory effect. According to Galina Veresciak Roofener in a recent Everyday Health article, “Cinnamon is a hot herb. It’s very useful for aches and pains, especially when they are worse with cold or cold weather.” Cinnamon stimulates circulation, which helps to relieve muscle pain and other symptoms of viral conditions, often seen in winter, as well. Other spices like ginger, turmeric, and even green tea, can help with this, too!
Known for its antimicrobial qualities, cinnamon has been studied for its ability to stop the growth of bacteria as well as fungi. The main active component, cinnamaldehyde, is thought to be the source of the infection fighting capacity. This delicious spice has been used as an alternative food preservative, and its antibacterial effects have been used to fight Listeria and Salmonella.. Other herbs that have been used for their antibacterial properties include: honey, oregano, myrrh and thyme.
The scent of cinnamon isn’t just alluring, it can help enhance cognitive processing as well. In a study led by Dr. P. Zoladz in 2004, it was reported that, cinnamon, administered retronasally (through the perception of flavor) or orthonasally (through smell), improved participants’ scores on tasks related to attentional processes, virtual recognition memory, working memory, and visual-motor response speed. Continued research is required before identifying cinnamon as a “functional food” for memory development, but chewing a stick of Big Red while studying for that big test, or attempting to understand a company case-study, seems to lend a helping hand.
Combat the spikes in blood sugar this season by spreading some cinnamon! While baked into pastries and floating on top of your eggnog aren’t the healthiest ways to get your daily dose of superfood, having a sprinkle on top of your yogurt, in your coffee, or even on your sweet potatoes can help stabilize blood-sugar levels. In a study conducted in 2012, cinnamon was shown to reduce blood glucose concentration and enhance insulin sensitivity in healthy, normal-weight adults. Another study, with type 2 diabetic patients, indicated a significant reduction in blood glucose levels after consuming 3 grams of cinnamon in pill form every day for several weeks.
These aren’t the only researched benefits of cinnamon. Other characteristics of this superfood, such as high levels of fiber, iron, and calcium, make this spice especially nice. So, this holiday season, enjoy a few moments of indulgence in your favorite treats, but don’t leave cinnamon in the dust when ringing in the new year!