Cinnamon sticks and cinnamon powder

Cinnamon: benefits, dosage & side-effects

Find out all about cinnamon, including what it does, the benefits to taking it and how much you might need

Written by Beth Gibbons on March 15, 2019 Reviewed by Angela Dowden on March 20, 2019

Overview

What is cinnamon and what does it do?

Cinnamon is a spice derived from the inside bark of the Cinnamomum tree.1 When the bark dries, it curls into ‘quills’ or cinnamon sticks.2 This spice has been a popular cooking ingredient throughout history, with its use thought to date from Ancient Egypt. Christopher Columbus was among many explorers sent to search for the spice.3

Historically, cinnamon has been revered almost as much for its health properties as for its distinctive aroma and flavour. Traditionally, it has been used as a breath-freshener because of its anti-bacterial effects.4

You are likely to see two varieties of the spice in shops:5
  • Cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) – this is the type of cinnamon you usually find in supermarkets. It’s grown mainly in Indonesia
  • Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) – grown in Sri Lanka, this variety is milder and sweeter, and thought to contain higher amounts of beneficial compounds than the Cassia. It’s known as ‘true’ cinnamon6

Cinnamon is available as capsules, tea or essential oil extracts.

Benefits of cinnamon

What does cinnamon do in the body?

The spice has been shown to support the body in a number of ways:

It may help defend cells from damaging free radicals

Cinnamon contains important plant chemicals, including cinnamaldehyde and quercetin, that act as potent antioxidants,7 which means they help protect cells from damage from free radicals, unstable molecules that, in excess, can lead to disease. In fact, in a 2004 study of seven dessert spices, cinnamon ranked number one in terms of antioxidant activity.8

It could be a natural anti-inflammatory

Cinnamaldehyde may work to block the release of inflammatory chemicals in the nervous system,9 such as cyclooxygenase-2 and nitric oxide,10 curbing chronic inflammation, which has been linked to heart disease, stroke and other diseases. In a 2015 study in Food & Function, researchers reported that Ceylon cinnamon was one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory foods of the 115 tested.11

It may have antibacterial properties

Cinnamon has been shown to inhibit the growth of potentially harmful bacteria.12 Cinnamon can also curb the growth of yeast: in a 2013 Indian study, researchers reported that cinnamon in toothpaste helped to reduce symptoms of candida, a type of yeast that causes oral thrush. Researchers think that cinnamaldehyde and other antimicrobial compounds in cinnamon rupture the membrane of bacterial and fungal cells.13

It can help heart health

A 2017 Romanian study reported cinnamon has a number of important cardiovascular benefits, including:14
  • reducing triglycerides – a type of fat found in blood that may raise your risk of developing coronary artery disease
  • lowering total cholesterol levels
An earlier 2003 study in Pakistan found that giving participants with diabetes 1g, 3g or 6g of cinnamon a day for 40 days reduced triglycerides, total cholesterol and also ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol levels.15

Dosage

How much cinnamon is safe to take?

In general, cinnamon is safe, but it’s important to know which type of cinnamon you are taking:

Cassia cinnamon – each teaspoon of this cinnamon contains 5g of coumarin, a plant compound that can damage the liver if taken in large amounts.16 For this reason, the European Food Safety Authority has set safe daily limits17 – with up to 2g (1tsp) of cinnamon cassia recommended daily.18

Ceylon cinnamon – this contains only trace amounts of coumarin, so can be consumed in larger amounts of up to 5g (2.5tsp) a day.19

Avoid taking cinnamon supplements if you are:

  • pregnant or a child – it hasn’t been proved safe20
  • taking medications that can affect the liver, such as paracetamol or statins, or other prescribed medications, such as blood-thinners or diabetes drugs

Side-effects

What are the side-effects of taking cinnamon?

Possible side-effects include:21
  • liver damage (if cassia cinnamon is consumed in excess and for long periods)
  • mouth sores
  • low blood sugar
  • irritation of the throat
Shop Supplements Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.

Sources
1. Joe Leech. Healthline. 10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Cinnamon
2. Kathryn Watson. Healthline. Ceylon Cinnamon: Health Benefits, Uses, and More

3. History Channel. Cinnamon’s Spicy History 4. Rao PV, Gan SH. Cinnamon: a multifaceted medicinal plant

5. As Source 3
6. As Source 2
7. As Source 4

8. Murcia MA, et al. Antioxidant evaluation in dessert spices compared with common food additives. Influence of irradiation procedure 9. Gunawardena D, et al. Anti-inflammatory activity of cinnamon (C. zeylanicum and C. cassia) extracts – identification of E-cinnamaldehyde and o-methoxy cinnamaldehyde as the most potent bioactive compounds

10. As Source 4
11. As Source 9

12. Prabuseenivasan S, Jayakumar M, Ignacimuthu S. In vitro antibacterial activity of some plant essential oils 13. Parthasarathy H, Thombare S. Evaluation of antimicrobial activity of Azadirachta indica, Syzygium aromaticum and Cinnamomum zeyalnicumagainst oral microflora 14. Maierean SM, et al. The effects of cinnamon supplementation on blood lipid concentrations: A systematic review and meta-analysis 15. Khan A, et al. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes

16. Ryan Raman. Healthline. 6 side effects of too much cinnamon

17. European Food Safety Authority. Opinion of the Scientific Panel on food additives, flavourings, processing aids and materials in contact with food (AFC) related to Courmarin

18. As Source 16
19. As Source 16

20. Mahak Arora. First Cry Parenting. Consuming Cinnamon in Pregnancy – Benefits and Risks 21. As Source 16
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