We Know: All About Cinnamon Supplements

What Is Cinnamon?

Cinnamon is a spice derived from the bark of cinnamon trees, which are native to the southern part of India and to Sumatra. Cassia, a closely related tree, is sold in the United States as cinnamon. Both spices have distinct medicinal applications as well as somewhat different flavors in foods.

What Are Cinnamon's Health Benefits?

Cinnamon has long been known as an antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. For this reason, cinnamon has often been used in the past to preserve foods, and essential oil of cinnamon was also used frequently to help with gastrointestinal problems.

Cassia, or Indonesian cinnamon, is darker and more woody in texture than slightly-crumbly real cinnamon; this is what you almost always are buying when you purchase cinnamon in an American grocery store.

Cassia has some very interesting properties health-wise. Studies by the U.S. Department of Agriculture have found that a half-teaspoon of powdered cassia every day significantly reduces blood sugar in diabetics and particularly when it is type 2 diabetes. It also improves cholesterol and triglycerides. Though it should not be used in place of anti-diabetic drugs, you can talk to your doctor about using it to help mediate your diabetic symptoms.

Cassia cinnamon can also help with pre-diabetic symptoms, and it's shown some effectiveness in lowering blood pressure; the USDA is currently studying this effect in three separate trials.

How Can I Incorporate Cinnamon Into My Diet?

Cinnamon supplements containing cassia can be purchased at most health food stores. Because of the major confusion about what is and what is not cinnamon, your best bet is to add a half-teaspoon to a full teaspoon to your daily diet instead of using supplements. Make sure your cinnamon, just the stuff you get from the grocery, smells strong and sweet; if it has a weak or nonexistent smell, you need to get fresh cinnamon.

What Else Should I Know?

Often, health food stores don't know the difference between cinnamon and cassia either, though Martha Stewart does. If you're using supplements, make sure your cinnamon is Cinnamomum aromaticum or C. cassia; if they don't know what you're talking about, don't buy your cinnamon there! Cassia is the name of a completely different supplement too, so don't buy that; it really needs to be cinnamon.

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