Like some of the other traditional holiday spices I’ve talked about this week, cinnamon is yet another “gift from the East.” It comes from the Spice Islands of Southeast Asia. It anchored the Spice Trade, an important economic development for early American ports such as Boston and Baltimore. In fact, Baltimore is still the home of McCormick Spices (see Daily Dispatch “The Spice of Life”).
To make powdered cinnamon, you must first harvest the bark of the tree Cinnamomi cassia. Then, you dry the bark. It curls up into the characteristic curlicue of a cinnamon “stick.” Or, you can grind it into the dry powder found in just about every kitchen in America. But cinnamon has potential far beyond spicing up various recipes.
Of course, using cinnamon to help control your blood sugar is nothing new. But a cascade of new research shows this popular spice may even outperform the most well-established of diabetes drugs.
Research shows that medicinal preparations of cinnamon improve insulin sensitivity. But you don’t need medical-grade cinnamon. Studies show that even the simple variety used in everyday cooking is effective.
In both laboratory and clinical studies, cinnamon appears to encourage normal insulin activity. It also prevents short-term high blood sugar. Even better, it seems to prevent long-term, high-sugar damage to tissues. It lowers cholesterol and even prevents insulin-resistance brought on by a high sugar diet.
Basically, we now can say with confidence that cinnamon can prevent Type II diabetes, which has become an epidemic.
Aside from blood sugar and diabetes, cinnamon also seems to improve digestion and helps you feel fuller after a meal.
And it doesn’t take much—roughly 1 gram (or about 1/4 teaspoon) has been shown to confer benefits. (Though nobody has developed a controlled clinical protocol whereby blood sugar is monitored to remain low at given daily doses—the way a doctor would monitor blood sugar using a drug. That would be a true example of “integrative medicine.”)