Diabetes is a chronic disease with current prevalence of 10% of the world's population. Together with high blood pressure, high "bad" cholesterol and obesity they are part of the "Metabolic Syndrome" and pose major risk factors for heart diseases and stroke.
The treatment of diabetes and cholesterol is complex and usually includes lifetime medication combined with a significant change in lifestyle including aerobic exercise, proper nutrition and drinking herbal infusions. Cinnamon for example...
A little about cinnamon and its health benefits
Cinnamon is a fragrant spice plant that comes mostly from Asia and is known to have ancient medicinal properties far beyond its use in Cappuccino and pastries. Most often, the bark is the one used dried and grated to a powder. The best known and most researched varieties are Cinnamon Cassia and Cinnamon Verum or Ceylon. More on their differences below.
Cinnamon has a hot and drying energy and a is both sweet and spicy. It is rich in active ingredients such as coumarin (natural blood thinner), potent antioxidants like catechin and epicatechin (like green tea), vitamins B6, E, K, calcium and iron.
In Chinese medicine, not only the bark (Rou Gui) but also the branch (Gui Zhi) is used. The bark, considered hot, is from the family of "internal warmers", warms the kidneys and strengthens the yang energy in the body and thus dissipates deep cold, warms the meridians, opens blockages in the meridians and blood vessels and relieves pain. On the other hand, the branch, is considered warm and is used for "releasing external wind [diseases]" such as common cold, runny nose and coughing, warms the meridians and dissipates cold (especially joints and limbs], promotes blood circulation and is used in many Chinese herbal formulas for women related to stagnation in the lower jiao. The oil produced from the cinnamon is used externally for people who suffer from a cold and may also relieve local pain.
Studies have shown that cinnamon use is beneficial in lowering inflammation and inflammatory indices such as CRP (a measure of a multi-systemic inflammatory process), reducing pain, lowering and balancing sugar levels, high "bad" cholesterol, high blood pressure, digestive problems, diarrhea, headaches, gum disease, bad mouth odor, Alzheimer's disease and even cancer.
How does cinnamon help treat diabetes and high "bad" cholesterol?
A 2013 review and meta-analysis study included 10 studies that examined the efficacy of cinnamon use in the treatment of diabetes compared to a control group. The review included 543 participants with type 2 diabetes. The results of the study showed that cinnamon consumption at a dose of 120 mg to 6 grams per day for at least 4 weeks:
Lowered significantly fasting blood sugar levels
Lowered significantly "bad" cholesterol (LDL)
Lowered significantly triglyceride levels (Blood lipids)
Raised significantly "good” cholesterol (HDL) levels.
No effect on glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) levels were observed, possibly because it takes at least 3 months to see a change in this value.
The effectiveness of cinnamon in diabetes is related to the active ingredient methyl-hydroxycyclone polymer, which is considered an insulin "double" thus causing a reduction in blood sugar levels. In addition, cinnamon acts similarly to medications and inhibits intestinal sugar absorption, increases sugar entry into cells, stimulates insulin release and increases the activity of insulin receptors in the cell.
Due to the additional activity of cinnamon in reducing inflammatory processes, warming and encouraging blood circulation it also helps in the treatment of neuropathic pain.
And what about side effects and contraindications?
Studies have shown that cinnamon use is safe with few side effects or safety issues. Due to the coumarin content of cinnamon, especially in the cassia variety, attention should be paid to the amount consumed daily by people who take blood-thinning drugs. Patients on medications for diabetes, for lowering blood pressure or pregnant women should also pay attention to the amount consumed daily.
From the point of view of Chinese medicine, due to the fact that cinnamon is a hot spice, it is not recommended for people suffering from internal heat that may be manifested in excessive sweating (including at menopause), feeling hot and thirsty constantly, increased appetite, heartburn, and irritability.
So what kind of cinnamon to buy and how to consume it?
There are several types of cinnamon available. The recommended type is Ceylon cinnamon. It is considered to be of higher quality, although most of the studies were done with the cassia variety. In addition, the Ceylon type contains less coumarin and therefore does not pose a risk for people taking blood thinners.
It is important to consume fresh cinnamon. You can buy cinnamon in most markets and grate at home as needed. Cinnamon that has been in the closet for a long time loses its properties.
Beyond consuming cinnamon as a powder, it is of course possible to make a number of cinnamon-based beverages such as:
Infusion (instead of ready-made tea bags) - place a cinnamon stick in a cup, add boiling water and wait for about 15 minutes. You can add healthy spices like ginger or cloves. No need to add sugar, as cinnamon is sweet.
Canelada - Cinnamon, clove and honey based Cretan (Greece) drink, which can be used to make a summer cold drink or a cough syrup in the winter. How to prepare? 3 cups of water, 9 cinnamon sticks, 15 cloves - boil and simmer for about 20 minutes, strain, add 2 tablespoons of honey and fridge the syrup until you use it. Use when needed for coughs or as a base for a hot cup of tea, etc.
Sujeonggwa - Cinnamon and Korean ginger drink for both summer and winter. Peel and grate 1 cm ginger, 2 cinnamon sticks, boil, then simmer for about 40 minutes, strain. Add 2 dried Persimmon slices and if you want a sweeter drink add a teaspoon of honey.
Allen RW et al. Cinnamon use in type 2 diabetes: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Fam Med (2013) 11 (5): 452-9. doi: 10.1370 / afm.1517
Rao PV, Gan SH. Cinnamon: a multifaceted medicinal plant. Evid Based Complement Alternative Med. (2014): 642942. doi: 10.1155/2014/642942
Zhu C et al. Impact of Cinnamon Supplementation on Biomarkers of Inflammation and Oxidative Stress: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials, Complementary Therapies in Medicine (2020), doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2020.102517