Did you know that cinnamon was so important that it was once traded as currency?

It's true. As valuable as metals like silver and gold, sweet smelling cinnamon was popular not only for cooking and baking, but because of its' health benefits.

Derived from the inner bark of a small evergreen tree, cinnamon is peeled wile still attached and laid in the sun to dry, where it curls into rolls that we know as cinnamon sticks. 

Here's 5 Surprising benefits:

1. Anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal

Cinnamon is thought to have many medicinal and soothing properties, and is used frequently in Chinese herbal medicine. The distinctive smell and flavour of cinnamon derives from the essential oils contained in the bark, called cinnamaldehyde. Cinnamaldehyde displays anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.

2. May support gut health

Some spices, including cinnamon, have prebiotic properties. These bacteria may help restore the balance of bacteria in your gut, support digestive health and alleviate any digestive issues.

3. May help manage blood pressure

There is some evidence to suggest that the consumption of cinnamon is associated with a short-term reduction in blood pressure. Although the evidence is hopeful, it is early days and more long-term random controlled trials are needed.

4. Lowers blood sugar and risk of type-2 diabetes

Cinnamon has a reputation for helping manage blood sugar. It appears to do this by a number of different mechanisms, including managing the amount of glucose that enters the bloodstream and mimicking the blood sugar management hormone, insulin.

Human trials are promising and suggest cinnamon may have a moderate effect on lowering fasting blood sugar levels in those with diabetes.

5. May be beneficial for the aging brain

Conditions like Alzheimer’s are more common as we age, and are characterised by a progressive deterioration of brain cells. In Alzheimer’s, accumulation of protein fragments in the brain act by slowing how a person thinks and remembers. Cinnamon contains two compounds that appear to inhibit the build-up of these proteins. Much of this evidence is derived from animal studies, so there is still more for us to learn with regards to the effects for

Is cinnamon safe for everyone?

For the majority of people, cinnamon is generally recognised as safe when consumed as a culinary spice and in small amounts – no more than 1 tsp per day is considered safe for most adults, with less for children. In rare circumstances, some people may experience allergic contact dermatitis.

It’s worth remembering that most of the cinnamon purchased from supermarkets is a variety called Cassia cinnamon – this has a stronger taste and is cheaper to buy. However, it is high in compounds called coumarins, which in large doses may cause toxicity.

Ceylon, or 'true' cinnamon, has relatively low levels of coumarins and may be better tolerated.

If consumed in large amounts, cinnamon may interact with prescribed medication, including those for diabetes, heart and liver disease.

Article derived from and originally printed in BBC Good Food

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