"And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so."
- Genesis 1:29-30 KJV
There is growing interest recently in the potential benefits of using cinnamon for treating diabetes.
Although cinnamon bark and cinnamon flowers are used medicinally, Chinese cinnamon, or Cinnamomum aromaticum, is the form used for diabetes.
The active ingredient in cinnamon includes the chemical hydroxychalcone, which might enhance the effect of insulin.
Specifically, hydroxychalcone may work on insulin receptors to increase insulin sensitivity and help promote glucose uptake into cells and tissues and promote glycogen (the storage form of glucose) synthesis.
Cinnamon has been used for type 2 diabetes and for gastrointestinal (GI) complaints, including flatulence, GI spasms, nausea and vomiting, and diarrhea.
Other common uses include treatment for common infections, the common cold, menopausal symtoms, rheumatic conditions, hypertension, angina and kidney disorders.
Cinnamon, of course, is a popular flavoring agent for foods and beverages and is a common ingredient in chewing gums, toothpastes, mouthwash, liniments, nasal sprays and suntan lotions.
Cinnamon may cause blood glucose to be excessively lowered when combined with agents that can cause hypoglycemia, such as sulfonylureas (Amaryl, glyburide or glipizide) or insulin. If you take any of these medications, your dose may have to be adjusted to prevent excessive lowering of blood glucose from reacting with cinnamon.
Note: There is a lot of exciting research underway evaluating the effects of cinnamon in type 2. When using cinnamon, it is important to check blood glucose frequently to make sure that it is not lowered excessively. If it is lowered too much, causing hypoglycemia (low blood glucose), contact your healthcare provider to discuss changing the dose of diabetes medications. Longer term effects on blood glucose control can be assessed by checking A1C levels.
Cinnamon Therapy for Type 2? Eating Cinnamon Buns Isn’t the Answer!
In a December 2003 Diabetes Care study, cinnamon was found to improve glucose and lipids in people with diabetes. Sixty patients with type 2 who were taking a sulfonylurea (glyburide) were given one of three doses of cinnamon (1, 3 or 6 grams per day) or a placebo for 40 days.
Fasting blood glucose declined by 18 to 29 percent after 40 days in all three cinnamon treated groups. Specifically, 1 gram per day decreased glucose from 209 to 157 mg/dl, 3 grams per day decreased glucose from 205 to 169 mg/dl and 6 grams per day decreased glucose from 234 to 166 mg/dl.
Patients then went without any cinnamon for 20 additional days, but their fasting glucose was still lower than at baseline for the previously cinnamon-treated groups, indicating that cinnamon had a sustained benefit. Furthermore, total cholesterol decreased by 12 to 26 percent, triglycerides decreased by 23 to 30 percent, and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol also declined from 7 to 27 percent.
Taking cinnamon did not improve HDL, the “good” cholesterol.
Barking up the Right Tree
Cinnamon comes from the bark of an evergreen tree that grows to more than 20 feet. The tree has white aromatic bark and angular branches. Its leaves are about 7 inches long, and it has small yellow flowers that bloom in early summer. The tree grows in tropical climates. The bark is removed in short lengths and dried.
There are no serious side effects associated with the use of cinnamon.
Hypoglycemia may occur; as a preventive measure, the dose of diabetes medications may have to be lowered by the healthcare provider.
Adverse effects include skin irritation or contact dermatitis, if used topically.