Cinnamon sticks

Cinnamon

  • Food & Drink
  • Updated June 1, 2016

The spice cinnamon is extracted from the inner bark of tropical evergreen trees from the genus Cinnamomum. Cinnamon contains several potentially active compounds including cinnamaldehyde, coumarin, and tannins, some of which can enter the brain and may reduce oxidative stress or inflammation. While preclinical studies suggest that cinnamon could improve brain health and possibly prevent dementia, the evidence for its benefit has yet to be verified in humans. It is generally considered safe, though higher doses carry some risks.

Evidence

There have been several clinical trials on cinnamon, though none specifically looked at its impact on brain function. Our search identified:

• 0 meta-analyses or systematic reviews
• 0 clinical trials in humans looking at effects on cognitive function or cognitive decline
• Multiple preclinical studies

Potential Benefit

Research on the effects of cinnamon on the human brain is extremely limited. No human studies support the idea that cinnamon can delay or prevent dementia. Preclinical studies have shown that cinnamon may have the potential to protect against the plaques and tangles that are characteristic of Alzheimer's disease [2-6] as well as against a substance thought to be associated with advanced age and disease [7] but it is unknown whether cinnamon can achieve these effects in humans or even reach the brain in sufficient quantities. Small clinical trials suggest that cinnamon may improve metabolic health and patients with type II diabetes, a condition which can be associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease, [8-12]. However, the effects and the research quality are too inconsistent to achieve predictable results in patients [12].

For Dementia Patients

No human research has reported whether cinnamon or related compounds can benefit patients with dementia or mild cognitive impairment.

Safety

Cinnamon is safe for general consumption but allergic reactions are possible and consuming large amounts at once can carry serious risks, such as inflammation of the lungs [13]. Cassia cinnamon, the kind most commonly found in grocery stores and tested in clinical trials, contains coumarin, which can cause liver toxicity. Thus, some experts warn against prolonged dosages exceeding 2 grams of cassia cinnamon per day for adults weighing 130 pounds or more [14]. In short clinical trials, however, up to 6 grams per day of cassia cinnamon have not elicited significant adverse effects. Diabetics should be particularly cautious since cinnamon can lower blood sugar and thus interact with insulin and other treatments. No available evidence shows that cinnamon supplements are safe during pregnancy [15].

NOTE: This is not a comprehensive safety evaluation or complete list of potentially harmful drug interactions. It is important to discuss safety issues with your physician before taking any new supplement or medication.

How to Use

Cinnamon is widely available whole or ground for use as a spice. A daily dose of up to 6 grams of cassia cinnamon has been tested in short clinical trials with no serious adverse effects. In clinical trials for blood sugar control for diabetics, higher doses did not necessarily increase benefits. Instead, higher doses may increase the risk of side effects.

References

  1. Jain S, Sangma T, Shukla SK et al. (2015) Effect of Cinnamomum zeylanicum extract on scopolamine-induced cognitive impairment and oxidative stress in rats. Nutritional neuroscience 18, 210-216.
  2. George RC, Lew J, Graves DJ (2013) Interaction of cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin with tau: implications of beneficial effects in modulating Alzheimer's disease pathogenesis. Journal of Alzheimer's disease : JAD 36, 21-40.
  3. Peterson DW, George RC, Scaramozzino F et al. (2009) Cinnamon extract inhibits tau aggregation associated with Alzheimer's disease in vitro. Journal of Alzheimer's disease : JAD 17, 585-597.
  4. Frydman-Marom A, Levin A, Farfara D et al. (2011) Orally administrated cinnamon extract reduces beta-amyloid oligomerization and corrects cognitive impairment in Alzheimer's disease animal models. PloS one 6, e16564.
  5. Guo JP, Yu S, McGeer PL (2010) Simple in vitro assays to identify amyloid-beta aggregation blockers for Alzheimer's disease therapy. Journal of Alzheimer's disease : JAD 19, 1359-1370.
  6. Kim DS, Kim JY, Han YS (2007) Alzheimer's disease drug discovery from herbs: neuroprotectivity from beta-amyloid (1-42) insult. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine 13, 333-340.
  7. Peng X, Ma J, Chao J et al. (2010) Beneficial effects of cinnamon proanthocyanidins on the formation of specific advanced glycation endproducts and methylglyoxal-induced impairment on glucose consumption. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 58, 6692-6696.
  8. Soare A, Weiss EP, Holloszy JO et al. (2014) Multiple dietary supplements do not affect metabolic and cardio-vascular health. Aging 6, 149-157.
  9. Roussel AM, Hininger I, Benaraba R et al. (2009) Antioxidant effects of a cinnamon extract in people with impaired fasting glucose that are overweight or obese. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 28, 16-21.
  10. A; R, S.; G, H.; T et al. (2007) Anti oxidative stress potential of Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) in operating room personnel; a before/after cross sectional clinical trial. International Journal of Pharmacology 3, 482-486
  11. A; R, S.; G, H.; Z et al. (2006) Antioxidative stress potential of Cinnamomum zeylanicum in humans: A comparative cross-sectional clinical study. Therapy 3 113-117
  12. Allen RW, Schwartzman E, Baker WL et al. (2013) Cinnamon use in type 2 diabetes: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of family medicine 11, 452-459.
  13. Grant-Alfieri A, Schaechter J, Lipshultz SE (2013) Ingesting and aspirating dry cinnamon by children and adolescents: the "cinnamon challenge." Pediatrics 131, 833-835.
  14. Abraham K, Wohrlin F, Lindtner O et al. (2010) Toxicology and risk assessment of coumarin: focus on human data. Molecular nutrition & food research 54, 228-239.
  15. Dugoua JJ, Seely D, Perri D et al. (2007) From type 2 diabetes to antioxidant activity: a systematic review of the safety and efficacy of common and cassia cinnamon bark. Canadian journal of physiology and pharmacology 85, 837-847.