RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—You may think you know this familiar spice, but there's more to cinnamon than its spicy flavor and comforting aroma. Cinnamon's health benefits have been touted for centuries, and modern science has researched some of the traditional therapeutic uses for the spice. Cinnamon is actually the bark of an Asian tree, and Chinese herbalists recommend it for diarrhea, fever, and menstrual problems. You may have noticed that several natural toothpastes are flavored with cinnamon; cinnamon functions as an antiseptic that helps kill the bacteria that contribute to tooth decay and gum disease. Cinnamon also kills many disease-causing fungi and viruses. A German study showed that it could suppress Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria, the cause of most urinary tract infections, and Candida albicans, the fungus responsible for vaginal yeast infections. It’s also a stomach soother; try it out by adding ½ to ¾ teaspoon of powdered cinnamon to a cup of boiling water and steep 10 to 20 minutes to make a tea. A Japanese study on animals showed that it may even help prevent ulcers.
But there are even more cinnamon health benefits. Research has linked cinnamon with reduced blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels in people with type 2 diabetes. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that adding a little more than a teaspoonful to rice pudding helped control blood sugar in people without diabetes. Cinnamon also contains polyphenols, antioxidants that aid in keeping arteries healthy and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Even its scent can be beneficial: Sniffing cinnamon has been found to help increase alertness.
It’s easy to add cinnamon to foods you’re already eating. Some ideas: Add ½ teaspoon to oatmeal, cold cereal, coffee, or yogurt, or add ½ teaspoon to pancake batter or broiled fruit. Or try this sweet, nutty treat: Coat 2 cups of raw nuts of your choosing with a mix of ¼ cup honey and ½ teaspoon cinnamon, and roast at 350°F for 15 minutes.
Read on and give these cinnamon-based recipes from the Rodale Recipe Finder a try. You’re sure to find a new favorite use for a spice you've known all your life.