5 Health Benefits of Cinnamon, According To Experts

Cinnamon is known as a fragrant spice that adds flavor to foods, beverages and even chewing gum. However it may also provide health benefits. Read here to learn more about what experts say about cinnamon, including what it is and how it’s used, as well as potential health benefits associated with consuming this spice.

What Is Cinnamon?

Made from the inner bark of cinnamon trees, cinnamon has been used medicinally for thousands of years to improve conditions such as fever, inflammation, common colds and diarrhea. Available in grocery and health food stores, cinnamon can be purchased in the form of cinnamon sticks, fine powder, tea, oil and supplements.

There are four common types of cinnamon, including:

  • Ceylon cinnamon. Also known as true cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon has a soft texture and savory taste. It’s native to Sri Lanka and is the most common type of cinnamon used in North America.
  • Saigon cinnamon. Often referred to as Vietnamese cinnamon, Saigon cinnamon is derived from trees that grow in Vietnam and offers a bold flavor and hint of sweetness.
  • Cassia cinnamon. Chinese cinnamon or cassia cinnamon is also widely available in groceries and has a rough texture and spicy-sweet flavor.
  • Korintje cinnamon. Grown in Indonesia, Korintje cinnamon offers a subtle sweet flavor with hints of spice.

Health Benefits of Cinnamon

Research indicates consuming cinnamon may yield health benefits. “Some of the most noteworthy benefits of cinnamon are its effects toward blood glucose and insulin regulation,” says Sarah Herrington, nutritionist at Brio-Medical, an alternative medical treatment center in Scottsdale, Arizona.

May Improve Diabetes and Metabolic Health

According to a 2022 research review, cinnamon may mimic the effects of insulin. Eight studies showed that cinnamon improved fasting blood glucose and postprandial (after eating) blood glucose levels. One review of randomized controlled trials found that consuming 120 mg per day to 6 grams per day for four to 18 weeks reduced levels of fasting plasma glucose.

“The main health benefit of cinnamon is its potential to help regulate blood sugar levels which can potentially lead to better diabetes management and metabolic health,” explains Samantha Turner, a registered dietitian and owner of Forks and Grace, a company that provides faith-related nutrition programs in Virginia.

May Protect Against Heart Disease

Research shows a correlation between cinnamon and a reduced risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the U.S. A review of 13 studies indicated that supplementing with the spice may lower triglyceride and total cholesterol levels, two risk factors for heart disease. A 2020 review of research found that consuming less than a teaspoon daily may reduce blood pressure in people who have obesity.

May Reduce Inflammation

Cinnamon can act as an anti-inflammatory, meaning it may reduce inflammation in the body. It’s packed with powerful antioxidants, including polyphenols, which are naturally occurring compounds that protect against oxidative damage caused by free radicals (unstable molecules that are produced by the body or come from external sources, such as air pollution, and can lead to aging and illness).

A 2020 meta-analysis demonstrated that a cinnamon supplement ranging from 1.5 to 4 grams per day may increase antioxidant levels in the blood and lower inflammation markers, such as C-reactive protein.

May Protect Against Cancer

In addition to being anti-inflammatory, cinnamon may also have anti-cancer properties, according to a 2019 review in the European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. The review concludes that cinnamon enhances apoptosis or programmed cell death, meaning it may interfere with cancer progression.

Potentially Improves Oral Hygiene

Cinnamon oil can help improve oral health as it may protect against certain bacteria that leads to bad breath, cavities and mouth infections. A 2011 study found that cinnamon oil presents a range of antibacterial activity by inhibiting bacteria involved in dental caries. Cinnamon oil is available online and in health food stores.

Is Cinnamon Good for You?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends consuming about half a teaspoon of cinnamon per day or less when taking it for potential health benefits. The desired benefit determines the form of cinnamon an individual consumes.

“Cinnamon capsules will offer a more potent and higher dosage than drinking cinnamon tea, so that may be a better method of application for those looking to impact their blood glucose, insulin or lipids,” explains Herrington. A 2019 study published in the International Journal of Food Science found that 41 adults who consumed between 3 and 6 grams of cinnamon per day for 40 days showed improved blood measures.

“However, for general neuroprotective benefits, antioxidative benefits or to help reduce cold symptoms, steeping cinnamon sticks or drinking cinnamon tea made from bark or leaves may be an appropriate and comforting method of delivery,” Herrington adds.

Check with a health care provider before taking any cinnamon supplements.

Potential Side Effects of Cinnamon

According to Herrington, consuming cinnamon may cause side effects like:

  • Liver damage. Coumarin, which is a compound found in cinnamon, can be potentially toxic to the liver if consumed in high doses or if a person has a previous liver injury.
  • GI issues. Gastrointestinal conditions, such as GERD, biliary obstruction and gastritis, may worsen when higher doses of cinnamon are consumed.
  • Low blood sugar. When combined with medications for diabetes or if used in high doses, cinnamon can lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
  • Skin irritation. Cinnamon oil or skincare products containing cinnamon may cause skin irritation, especially for people who have sensitive skin.

For flavor and its potential benefits to health, cinnamon is easily added to a variety of foods. “My three favorite ways to consume cinnamon are adding it to my coffee grinds in the morning, mixing it in yogurt topped with berries and adding it to roasted butternut squash,” says Turner.