Know the two Types of Cinnamon and its Anti Diabetic Properties

Know how to differentiate between the two most common types of cinnamon 


 

Overview

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Cinnamon Verum

innamon (Cinnamomum verum) is wildly known as a spice, but there are several varieties available the most common are: cassia and verum. The verum genus is sometimes know as the “true cinnamon”. The cassia variety is the most commercial one.

The name cinnamon is kind of a broad term that embraces over 300 species all members of the Lauraceae family. Most beneficial properties are thought to be from the cassia genus. The properties of the verum kind still being studied. This large number of variants and sub species can be seen as a good thing but at the same it might be what makes cinnamon so difficult to use. To use cinnamon and get results requires some investigation from the user. This post covers some of that.

scrolls of cinnamon (I'm pretty sure it's actually cassia)

scrolls of cinnamon (cassia)

Cinnamon is one of the oldest herbs used by man. It has been known for thousands of years and as early as 2000 B.C. Egyptians used it as a fragrant agent for their embalming concoctions. Egyptians and Greeks used in many of their rituals. In ancient times it was also used to mask the undesirable taste of rancid preserved meats. Historical archives are filled with passages of it’s diverse uses in the ancient world from the Arab peninsula to the Roman Empire. It was first brought to Europe by Arabs in difficult and tortuous journeys making cinnamon very expensive and a symbol of status among the wealthy. In the 16th century Arabs had the monopoly on the trade and kept its precedence a well guarded secret.

Merchants would embellish their reports on how and where cinnamon was extracted with tales of fantastic and magical places; perhaps giving cinnamon it’s mystique and romance which lives to this day. Around 1518 the Portuguese traders invaded and conquered Ceylon present day Sri Lanka discovering cinnamon and gaining control over the trade. In 1638 the Dutch defeated the Portuguese gaining control of the trade for the next 150 years; which would be later overtaken by the British in 1784. Cinnamon was no longer a expensive commodity by 1800 as it begun to be cultivated in other parts of the world.

Cinnamon has several medicinal properties. Anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antitumor, cardiovascular, cholesterol-lowering. Of course the focus of this article is on its ability to lower blood glucose as well as to increase insulin sensitivity. The decrease of gastric emptying (GER) is one less known anti diabetic property.

GER reduces carbohydrate absorption by delaying stomach contents from emptying into the intestines. Other traditional spices have been known to control hyperglycemia; some are bay leaf, cloves, nutmeg, witch hazel, oregano, and black and green tea. Cinnamon has been shown to produce the best results.

How does it work

Is good to keep in mind that cinnamon can help with diabetes in a variety of ways. These combined actions over the long run produce best results. Perhaps one of the best ways to use cinnamon for diabetes is to have it with foods to prevent sugar spikes and high postprandial glucose levels. Here are some of the ways cinnamon works:

  • Improving insulin sensitivity
  • Reducing blood glucose
  • Reducing plasma insulin triglycerides
  • Reducing total Cholesterol levels
  • Delay gastric emptying (GER) lowering postprandial glucose
  • Creates potent antioxidant activity
  • Increases satiety

Primarily cinnamon has been shown to have properties that mimic insulin action. Cinnamon unique healing abilities come from three basic types of compounds found in its essential oils in the bark. These oils contain active components which are called cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, and cinnamyl alcohol, plus a wide range of other substances.

The chief anti diabetic compound found in cinnamon is called cinnamaldehyde, an organic compound that gives cinnamon its taste and odor. It’s a pale and viscous liquid occurring naturally in the bark of cinnamon tree. Cinnamaldehyde is responsible for promoting insulin release, enhancing insulin sensitivity, increasing insulin disposal and exerting activity promoting an increase in tyrosine phosphorylation activity and a decrease in phosphatase-mediated insulin receptor inactivation.

A water-soluble polyphenol type-A polymer from cinnamon has been isolated and shown in vitro to have insulin-like activity as well as antioxidant effects. This action is also responsible for reducing blood glucose. The reduction of plasma glucose could also be attributed to the slowing of GER. Cinnamon extracts have been found to increase the expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) which are factors involved in the regulation of insulin resistance and adipogens and partially responsible for lowering cholesterol and lipid levels.

One less studied effect of cinnamon is gastric emptying rate (GER). GER has been less studied but might be responsible in part for the lowering blood glucose specially postprandial glucose. Faster gastric emptying raises blood glucose and acts as a major factor in blood glucose homeostasis in normal subjects by controlling the delivery of carbohydrate to the small intestine. Slower GER also increases the satiety helping with weight loss. Cinnamon is also rich in antioxidants which has great health benefits but specially important to diabetes which produces a larger number of free radicals as a disease process. To fight diabetes it is very important to increase antioxidants and lower free radicals.

 

How to get results

One way to use cinnamon or at least put its properties to a good use is to use it as a anti sugar spike remedy. Cinnamon delays gastric emptying which can help and prevent glucose spikes after eating high glycemic index foods. If you are going to eat something you know will spike your sugars have a teaspoon of cinnamon and compare the difference. Try both kinds of cinnamon, try cinnamon liquid extract. Ceylon is supposedly a purer kind but less known for its properties. You can buy Ceylon cinnamon here



There are no quick silverling for success and the only way to positive results is trial and error. Due to the purity issues and the many variety issues with cinnamon the best is to be careful and experiment with different kinds. Even though herbs posses strong compounds its actions are usually milder than traditional medicine therefore your participation is needed. Most herbs are not regulated for purity and dosage so is difficult to know how much your should use. Start slow and with smaller doses and then progress to higher doses; see the results, compare blood sugars, keep notes, observe and see how cinnamon interact with different foods and with your blood sugar readings. Herb medicine works in a unique way. The most important is that you practice regularity.

Even though herbs may have strong compounds they usually have many others mild elements which work in together. Herbs tend to jog your metabolism and promote health by having your body do the work it supposed to do; unlike traditional medicine which are made of purified, isolated and synthesized compounds created to treat a specific symptom but usually fail to address the causes. The trade off is time. Herbs takes more time and you must use regularly for at least a few months. When people go to the doctor and a medication is prescribed they take the whole course not missing one day; but when the same people treat themselves with herbs they usually say “I took this for a few days, it didn’t work and I just stopped”. This might be one of the causes people are unsuccessful using herbs; they simply give up.

 Directions

Between 1 g and 6 g of cassia cinnamon daily for up to 4 months has been shown to produce results in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. According to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCD), 1 teaspoon of cinnamon spice is equal to 4.75 g. Only cassia cinnamon has been shown in studies to have a significant effect on glycemic control. Capsules of several strengths of cassia cinnamon are available over the counter so start with smaller doses and titrate to larger doses as needed. Liquid extract is also a great option since they usually are more potent. Watch for any adverse effects or reaction. Cinnamon is usually well tolerated by most people.

Discussion and safety

Studies on cinnamon anti diabetic effects have shown mixed results but this may be in great part due to the difficulty in obtaining pure samples. There are several types and varieties and most likely cinnamon commercialization produces mixtures of unknown origins and different levels of purity. The main kinds are cinnamon are Cassia and Ceylon. Cassia has anti diabetic properties and Ceylon is less potent but less toxic. This differences might impact treatment results since is hard to know the potency of give doses. Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of using cinnamon is to actually know what species you are using. With cassia being mildly toxic large consumption of this genus can be a problem.

The problem is that cassia contains high levels of coumarin which is moderately toxic to the kidney and liver. High doses of coumarin (50-700mg ) have known to cause reversible liver toxicity. If you are diabetic, using something toxic to your liver is the last thing you want to do. Other related problems with coumarin is that is a compound related to warfarin and has anti-coagulant properties so if you are taking coumadin or warfarin or even aspirin you should stay away from ingesting large amounts of cinnamon cassia. A researcher in the University of Mississippi’s School of pharmacy who recently studied the amount of coumarin in cinnamon flavored foods recommending that people who want to ingest large amounts of cinnamon should consult with their doctors before starting. Some experts suggest investigating the use of Ceylon cinnamon which is milder but also pricier. If you are sensitive to coumarin or have blood thinning issues the safe dose recommended is one teaspoon a day of the cassia variety.

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Compounds in Cinnamon

Cassia bark (C. cassia) contains 1–2% of volatile oil and other constituents
glycosides (cassioside, cinnamoside)
diterpenes (cinnacassiol B and D1)
2′-hydoxycinnamaldehyde
cinnamic acid
vanillic acid
syringic acid
choline
protocatechuic acid
condensed tannins (proanthocyanidins)
procyanidins
resins
sugars
calcium oxalate
coumarin
mucilage
manganese

 

 

 

References 

Image credit: flickr.com, [1], [2]

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