Cinnamon pills may help lower blood glucose levels as well as bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. The benefits aren't limited to cinnamon pills, however. Even the cinnamon in your spice rack that you save for Christmas baking may be helpful in controlling Type 2 diabetes and harmful blood cholesterol levels.
Medicinal Use of Cinnamon
The medicinal use of cinnamon dates back to ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Physicians prescribed this precious spice for everything from diabetes to tiredness. Today, researchers believe there may be scientific verification of what these ancient healers knew all along.
Cinnamon comes from the inner bark of two types of trees. Cassia cinnamon, also called Chinese cinnamon, and Ceylon cinnamon are used interchangeably and appear to have similar effects. The most common type of cinnamon sold as a spice or flavoring in the United States is Cassia cinnamon.
Cinnamon Reduces Blood Sugar
Researchers in the United States have studied the use of cinnamon pills to reduce high blood sugar (glucose) readings in people with Type 2 diabetes. In Type 2 diabetes, the body either doesn't produce enough insulin, or the cell's receptors are unresponsive to insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates the intake of blood glucose into cells. During digestion, the body breaks down food into simple sugars that circulate as blood glucose to all cells in the body.
The pancreas produces insulin to keep blood sugar at a stable level. Insulin acts like a key that unlocks the door to each cell membrane, allowing sugar to enter. In Type 2 diabetes, it's as if the cells have gone deaf to the knock of insulin on the cell membrane door, and they won't unlock the door to allow blood sugar to enter. The result is a higher than normal level of circulating blood glucose.
Doctors diagnose diabetes through a physical examination, blood and urine tests. Drugs, diet and lifestyle modification, as well as losing weight, can all help the body improve the activity of insulin and regular blood glucose levels. Researchers at the United States Department of Agriculture conducted a study using cinnamon pills on people with Type 2 diabetes. They divided the study participants into four groups.
- One group received a placebo cinnamon pill, or a pill that looked like it contained cinnamon but actually contained an inactive substance.
- The second group received pills that equaled about ¾ of a teaspoon of powdered cinnamon.
- The third group got pills that equaled about one teaspoon.
- The last group took the largest dose that equaled about 1 ¾ of a teaspoon of powdered cinnamon.
The pills were all taken after meals and at various intervals, and the study results were very promising. All of the groups taking cinnamon pills reduced their blood sugar levels up to 29 percent. It didn't seem to matter how much cinnamon they took; all groups lowered their blood sugar levels about the same, no matter how high the dose of cinnamon.
More studies and information on the use of cinnamon to treat diabetes can be found on Dr. Joseph Mercola's informative website.
Active Ingredient in Cinnamon
The active ingredients in cinnamon thought to produce this wonderful effect are called polphenolic polymers. These compounds are similar to chemicals the body uses in the insulin-cell membrane conversation to get the cells to open up and receive the blood glucose. It's thought that the chemicals mimic something the body isn't producing, or perhaps change the conversation just enough so that the cell membrane is no longer deaf to insulin's shouting outside the walls. Whatever the case, the researchers at the United States Department of Agriculture estimate that just one teaspoon of cinnamon a day could help a diabetic with a blood glucose reading of 150 get the reading down to 107. That's an amazing result for something as common as powdered cinnamon or cinnamon pills!
Cinnamon and Cholesterol
Because high blood sugar readings go hand in hand with poor LDL and high triglyceride readings, by getting blood glucose levels down, the LDL levels usually fall, as do the triglyceride levels. For those who do not have diabetes but do have bad LDL numbers and high triglycerides, increasing consumption of cinnamon is a natural, safe and tasty way to try to improve the blood readings.
Dose and Safety
Cinnamon is a relatively safe herb to try. The most common side effects are allergies, so if you know you're allergic to cinnamon, steer clear. In large doses, cinnamon can burn the mouth or cause mouth ulcers or sores. Simply reduce your dose if you find your mouth breaking out in canker sores or similar sores.
While most people think "if a little is good, a lot is better", all of the studies conducted to date on cinnamon demonstrate that a little does just as much good as a lot. According to Diabetes Self Management, start with 1/5 of a teaspoon.
Discuss Using Cinnamon Pills With Your Physician
Be sure to tell the physician monitoring your diabetes about your experiments with cinnamon, and do not stop taking diabetes medication unless your doctor gives you the okay. Diabetes is a serious disease, and you must work with your physician when trying any herbal or alternative remedy to manage your diabetes.