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chinese cinnamon bark

What Is It?
Health Benefits
Forms
Dosage Information

Guidelines for Use
General Interaction
Possible Side Effects
Cautions

References
Evidence Based Rating Scale

 

What Is It?

This ancient spice is a popular flavoring in many cuisines and is especially noted for its delectable aroma. There are numerous species of cinnamon, but most medicinal uses have  been associated with Cinnamomum aromaticum or Cinnamomum cassia (often simply referred to as cassia) an evergreen tree native to China and Vietnam and now cultivated in many parts of southeast Asia. Traditional uses have been recorded in Chinese, Greco-European, and traditional Indian Ayurvedic and Unani medicine for nearly 3000 years. In medicinal use, it is now often interchanged with Ceylon cinnamon, Cinnamomom verum.

The inner bark of the tree has been used as a healing aid for stomach upset and gas, diarrhea, rheumatism, kidney ailments, and abdominal pain. Cinnamon "drops" containing the essential oils of cinnamon are also used for many of the same purposes. Possibly because Chinese cinnamon has antiseptic properties, the bark and the essential oils it contains are also used in topical products such as liniments, soaps, and lotions, and in oral preparations such as toothpaste and mouthwash.

Health Benefits

Most therapeutic uses of Chinese cinnamon bark are rooted in its historical use as a traditional medicine and on laboratory and animal studies. Test-tube or animal research does not guarantee safety or effectiveness in humans, but German health authorities (Commission E) have approved cassia and cinnamon bark for mild gastrointestinal spasms and to stimulate appetite. (19) Cinnamon bark is often included as one of multiple ingredients in a variety of herbal preparations; although only a few studies have examined it as a single-ingredient supplement.

Specifically, Chinese cinnamon bark may help to:

Aid digestion.  Cinnamon contains compounds called catechins, which help to relieve nausea. The volatile oil in cinnamon bark may also help the body to process food by breaking down fats during digestion. The plant's essential oil has been found to stimulate movement in the gastrointestinal tract and to decrease gastric secretion, thereby preventing the formation of gastric ulcers. (1) A 2010 study showed that administering cinnamon oil to rats with gastric ulcers led to significant gastro-protective activity, possibly due to free radical scavenging activity. (2) While scientific evidence is limited, several alternative health sources cite the long history of use for cinnamon oil to treat upset stomach and ulcers. (3, 4) Many aromatherapists believe that cinnamon's pleasing scent stimulates saliva production, which also aids digestion. More research is needed.

Relieve flatulence and bloating.  Both test-tube and some animal studies have found that cinnamon functions as a carminative, or gas-reliever. (5-7) This action may help to relieve mild abdominal discomfort caused by excess gas. A pilot study of 62 patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) showed that a combination formula containing cinnamon, dried bilberry fruit, slippery elm bark, and agrimony significantly improved symptoms of IBS, including bloating and flatulence. However, while the formula did improve the abdominal symptoms of IBS, it did not improve bowel habits in patients with diarrhea-predominant or alternating bowel habit IBS. (8) More research is needed.

Treat diabetes.  Cinnamon contains compounds called polyphenolic polymers, which are believed to increase insulin sensitivity and improve blood glucose control and lipid levels in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. However, evidence is conflicting. Early clinical research showed that patients with type 2 diabetes taking one, three, or six grams of cassia cinnamon daily for 40 days lowered fasting serum glucose by 18% to 29%, triglycerides by 23% to 30%, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol by 7% to 27%, and total cholesterol by 12% to 26%. (9) Three other studies showed no significant effect on blood glucose, HbA1c, cholesterol, or triglycerides when one to three grams of cassia cinnamon was used daily for up to four months. (11-13) A 2008 meta-analysis of five prospective, randomized, controlled trials found that in these studies, cinnamon did not significantly reduce fasting blood glucose, HbA1c, or lipid levels in patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. (12) However, a subsequent randomized placebo controlled trial conducted with 89 patients at a military base, again showed that patients taking two 500 mg capsules of Cinnamomum cassia daily for 90 days significantly reduced hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) by 0.83 percentage points compared to 0.37 points in the control group. (10) Differing results may be attributable to differences in the populations studied or formulas used. More research is needed. 

Prevent cancer.  Some preliminary evidence has shown that cinnamon exhibits anti-tumor activity. A 1999 study in mice showed that two compounds found in cinnamon (2'-hydroxycinnamaldehyde [HCA] and 2'-benzoyloxycinnamaldehyde [BCA]) significantly inhibited the growth of 29 different kinds of human cancer cells in the laboratory and the growth of SW-620 human tumor grafts in mice. (14) A 1999 laboratory study showed that a cinnamon extract of Cinnamomum cassia Presl has a stimulating effect on human lymphocytes, which can lead to the regression of some tumors and may prove to be useful in anti-cancer drug treatments. (15) More research is needed.

Combat fungal infections. The anti-fungal properties of cinnamon have been shown to combat several pathogens that cause infections. Inhaling the essential oil of cinnamon, for example, has been shown to combat the fungi that cause respiratory tract infections. (16) Laboratory studies have shown that commercial cinnamon powder and the essential oil of C. zeylanicum are active against the fungi that cause some  diseases of the skin, hair and nails, including the Candida species. (17) More research is needed. 

Restore appetite. Whether it's the flavor or the delectable aroma that is responsible, cinnamon is known for boosting flagging appetites. 

Forms

  • Bark
  • Extract
  • Powder
  • Oil

Dosage Information

Special tips:

--Cinnamon bark tea is commercially available (as tea bags) at many health-food stores, where it is often sold as a digestive aid. The tea can also be made by pouring one cup of hot water over a scant one teaspoon of cinnamon bark. Let steep, covered, for ten minutes, then strain before drinking.

--Because it is an essential oil, cinnamon oil is valued only for its aroma and is not recommended for any medical uses, either internal or external.

For diabetes: Taking one to six grams (1 tsp = 4.75 grams) of cassia cinnamon daily for up to four months has been used in type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

For digestive upset: Taking 15-30 drops of liquid Extract in a glass of water or drinking one cup of cinnamon bark tea three times a day, or as needed, has been used.

For flatulence and bloating: Taking 15-30 drops of liquid extract in a glass of water or drinking one cup of cinnamon bark tea three times a day, or as needed, has been used. 

For appetite loss: Taking 15-30 drops of liquid extract in a glass of water or drinking one cup of cinnamon bark tea three times a day, or as needed, has been used. 

Guidelines for Use

Chinese cinnamon bark may be helpful for a variety of digestive symptoms. Since cinnamon is readily available as a familiar spice, it is clearly a safe natural substance. Prepackaged tea bags of cinnamon bark are the most readily available (and convenient) form of cinnamon. Liquid extract is a little harder to find, but available in most well-stocked health-food stores and through the Internet.

General Interaction

Cinnamon interferes with the dissolution of tetracycline in the laboratory, which may decrease the effectiveness of this antibiotic.

Possible Side Effects

Chinese cinnamon bark is generally safe to use in medicinal amounts, but allergic skin rashes or mucous membrane reactions are possible. Spice workers have occasionally developed asthma and some people have local irritation around the mouth or allergic reactions to cinnamon chewing gum and flavored toothpaste. Very large amounts of cinnamon bark could cause dangerous nervous system reactions.

Cautions

Do not take cinnamon oil internally; it is highly concentrated and can be very toxic, causing nausea, vomiting, and even kidney damage. If applied to the skin, it sometimes causes redness and burning.

References

1. Akira T, Tanaka S, Tabata M. Pharmacological studies on the antiulcerogenic activity of chinese cinnamon. Planta Med. 1986 Dec;52(6):440-3.
2. Eswaran MB, Surendran S, Vijayakumar M, et al. Gastroprotective activity of Cinnamomum tamala leaves on experimental gastric ulcers in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Mar 24;128(2):537-40.
3. Herbs2000. Benefits of Cinnamon and Honey. http://www.herbs2000.com/articles/09-03-31_cinnamon_honey.htm. Accessed December 14, 2010
4. Herbwisdom.com. Cinnamon benefits.http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-cinnamon.html. Accessed December 14, 2010
5. Harries N, James KC, Pugh WK. Antifoaming and carminative actions of volatile oils. Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics. 19772:171-77.
6. Braun, L. Cinnamon. Journal of Complementary Medicine: CM, The.  Sept/Oct 2006: 5(5):69-70.
7. Krishnamoorthy B, Rema J. Cinnamon and Cassia: The genus Cinnamomum. Ravindran PN, Badu KN, eds. CRC Press, 2003.
8. Hawrelak JA, Myers SP. Effects of two natural medicine formulations on irritable bowel syndrome symptoms: a pilot study. J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Oct;16(10):1065-71.
9. Khan A, Safdar M, Ali Khan M, et al. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2003;26:3215-8.
10. Crawford P. Effectiveness of cinnamon for lowering hemoglobin A1C in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled trial. J Am Board Fam Med. 2009;22:507-12.
11. Vanschoonbeek K, Thomassen BJ, Senden JM, et al. Cinnamon supplementation does not improve glycemic control in postmenopausal type 2 diabetes patients. J Nutr 2006;136:977-80.
12. Baker WL, Gutierrez-Williams G, White CM, et al. Effect of cinnamon on glucose control and lipid parameters. Diabetes Care. 2008;31:41-3.
13. Crawford P. Effectiveness of cinnamon for lowering hemoglobin A1C in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled trial. J Am Board Farm Med. 2009;22:507-12.
14. Lee CW, Hong DH, Han SB, et al. Inhibition of human tumor growth by 2'-hydroxy- and 2'-benzoyloxycinnamaldehydes. Planta Med. 1999 Apr;65(3):263-6.
15. Shan BE, Yoshida Y, Sugiura T, Yamashita U. Stimulating activity of Chinese medicinal herbs on human lymphocytes in vitro. Int J Immunopharmacol. 1999 Mar;21(3):149-59.
16. Singh HB, Srivastava M, Singh AB et al. Cinnamon bark oil, a potent fungitoxicant against fungi causing respiratory tract mycoses. Allergy. 1995;50:995-999.
17. Lima EO, Gompertz OF, Giesbrecht AM, et al. In vitro anti-fungal activity of essential oils obtained from officinal plants against dermatophytes. Mycoses. 1993;36:333-6.
18. 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.
19. Blumenthal M, Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs, American Botanical Council, 2000.

Evidence Based Rating Scale

The Evidence Based Rating Scale is a tool that helps consumers translate the findings of medical research studies and what our clinical advisors have found to be efficacious in their personal practice into a visual and easy to interpret format. This tool is meant to simplify the information on supplements and therapies that demonstrate promise in the treatment of certain conditions.

 

Condition

Rating

Explanation

 

Cancer

   

Preliminary laboratory and animal studies indicate potential anti-tumor effects. More research is needed to confirm or refute these preliminary findings. (14, 15)

Diabetes  


Conflicting evidence exists. More research is needed. (9-13)

 

Digestion  
Preliminary research in animals and a long history of use in alternative medicine indicates potential efficacy. Research that is more scientific is needed. (1-4)
 

Flatulence  
Preliminary studies in animals indicate efficacy to relieve gas and bloating. (5-8)
Irritable Bowel Syndrome  


The flatulence and abdominal discomfort, but not bowel habits, were improved with cinnamon in one study. (8)

 


Date Published: 04/18/2005
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