How to Get the Health Benefits of Cinnamon

Three Methods:Consuming Cinnamon for a Cold or FluConsuming Cinnamon to Help Digestive HealthUnderstanding Potential Risks

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum velum or C. cassia) has long been considered a "wonder food" in various cultures and science has shown that its active oil components such as cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, and cinnamyl alcohol do convey certain health benefits. While medical research is varied as to the extent of cinnamon's health benefits and the jury's still out as to whether cinnamon can truly combat disease, cinnamon does have a therapeutic role in certain ailments such as digestive troubles and minor bacterial infections or colds.

Method 1
Consuming Cinnamon for a Cold or Flu

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    Choose Ceylon Cinnamon. The two major types of cinnamon are Ceylon Cinnamon and Cassia Cinnamon. Ceylon Cinnamon is sometimes known as "true" or "proper" cinnamon, but is not always as easy to find in your average supermarket as Cassia Cinnamon. Ceylon Cinnamon is, however, the best choice due to its lower coumarin content.[1]
    • Regular coumarin consumption can potentially cause liver problems.[2] It can also interfere with diabetes medication, so check with your physician to ensure that it is safe for you to use cinnamon.
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    Choosing the best form of cinnamon. You can buy cinnamon in a powder, in sticks, as a supplement, and as cinnamon extract. Think about what you are using it for before deciding which form of cinnamon to buy. If you want to introduce some cinnamon into your normal diet you will have different requirements than if you wanted to try to take it more medicinally. Try to use a variety of sticks and powders in different foods and drinks to keep it interesting.[3]
    • If you are buying it to season your food, go for a powder.
    • Add a stick to the pan when you are cooking rice.
    • If your doctor has advised you to take cinnamon as part of your attempts to manage your blood sugar levels, you can buy cinnamon extract from health food stores which has had the coumarin completely removed.[4]
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    Add a teaspoon of cinnamon to warm drinks to reduce cold and flu effects. Cinnamon is considered to have good anti-microbial properties, which can help your immune system fight against a cold or flu. It can help to tackle the growth of bacteria and fungus.[5] By adding a teaspoon of cinnamon to hot water, you are making a soothing drink which will won’t cure your cold but will help you feel a bit better.
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    Try a hot cinnamon drink to dry up a runny nose. Having a hot cinnamon drink can tackle your cold and flu symptoms, and more specifically, can help to dry up an irritating runny nose.[6] You can combine it with ginger for an extra kick.[7]
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    Add a teaspoon of cinnamon to soups. A lot like a hot drink, adding cinnamon to hot soup adds some flavour while also potentially bringing some relief to those under the weather.
    • The anti-microbial properties of cinnamon are such that it has been cited as a natural food preservative.[8]

Method 2
Consuming Cinnamon to Help Digestive Health

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    Use Ceylon Cinnamon for the digestive health benefits. If you want to add some cinnamon to your diet to improve your digestive health choose Ceylon Cinnamon. The form of cinnamon you choose is not as important, but if you are using it as seasoning then it is most practical to get a powder which you can measure out by the teaspoon very easily.
    • A cinnamon stick is good for making drinks, but is harder to measure how much you are consuming.
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    Season high carb food with cinnamon. Adding a teaspoon of cinnamon to a meal that is high in carbohydrates can lessen the impact this food will have on you blood sugar levels. After eating, blood sugar rises as your stomach empties, but adding cinnamon can help to slow this process down and thus lower the rise in your blood sugar levels.[9] Scientific experiments have demonstrated the impact that adding a few grams of cinnamon to a dessert can have on the gastric emptying rate.[10]
    • There are dangers associated with taking too much cinnamon so limit yourself to a teaspoon a day, which is equivalent to 4 or 5 grams.[11]
    • If you have diabetes, consult with your physician about the impact of cinnamon on your blood sugar levels. Never substitute cinnamon for insulin.
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    Use cinnamon to aid digestion. An alternative to seasoning with cinnamon, is to have a small amount as a post-meal digestive aid. If you experience heartburn or indigestion following a meal, cinnamon might help you as it can stimulate a weak digestive system. It is the oils in cinnamon that can help break down food and thus aid digestion.[12]
    • Try a cinnamon tea (a teaspoon of cinnamon dissolved in hot water) after a meal.
    • Or add half a teaspoon to your post-meal coffee.
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    Improve colon function with cinnamon. Cinnamon is an excellent source of calcium and fibre. The combination of these two components can be beneficial for the health of your colon. High levels of some bile salts can damage your colon cells, and potentially increase the chances of you suffering from colon cancer.[13] Both calcium and fibre can bind to bile salts and contribute to their removal from your body, which in turn can help you lower your risk of colon cancer.[14].
    • Fibre also helps those with irritable bowels, and can help relieve constipation or diarrhea.[15]
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    Have cinnamon as part of a healthy diet to help to lower cholesterol. It is not proven that cinnamon has a significant impact on lowering your cholesterol. In theory, because cinnamon can affect how your body processes fats and sugars, it could help you to lower cholesterol. This remains speculative, however, and a limited cinnamon intake of not more than 2-3 grams a day should be considered as one part of a healthy diet and active lifestyle.[16]
    • Although cinnamon tastes delightful when mixed with baked goods, adding cinnamon to fatty foods will not help you lower your cholesterol.

Method 3
Understanding Potential Risks

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    Speak to your Doctor first. There are numerous reasons why taking medical levels of cinnamon might not be good idea for you. You should always speak to your Doctor first for advice. You should also ask if there is a potential negative reaction to any other medications, both prescription and herbal, that you are taking.[17]
    • Although some evidence suggests that cinnamon can help to regulate blood sugar levels for those with type two diabetes, it should never be used as a replacement for insulin.[18]
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    Know how much and how often to take it. Cinnamon is an unproven treatment, and as such there are no cast iron rules for the amount you should take in order to experience the potential health benefits. Recommendations vary from ½ a teaspoon a day, up to six teaspoons a day.[19] If in doubt err on the side of caution and consume less. Large doses of cinnamon can be toxic, so in no instances should you go above more than one teaspoon or 6 grams a day.[20]
    • As ever, you should consult a Doctor before regularly consuming cinnamon for health benefits.
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    Know who should not take medical levels of cinnamon. Given that there is uncertainty about the regular use of cinnamon as a health supplement, there are certain instances when it is not recommended to be used in this way. It should not be taken as a supplement by children or pregnant women. Women who are breastfeeding should also avoid it.[21]
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    Avoid too much cinnamon if you take a blood thinner. You should not eat a lot of cinnamon if you take a blood thinner. Cinnamon contains small amounts of coumarin, which can cause blood-thinning in large amounts. The coumarin content is higher in Cassia Cinnamon than Ceylon Cinnamon.[22] Too much cinnamon can also cause liver problems.[23]
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    Store it well and keep it fresh. Seal cinnamon in a tightly sealed glass container and store in a cool, dark, dry place. Ground cinnamon can be kept fresh for up to six months. Cinnamon sticks may stay fresh for up to one year. You can extend cinnamon’s shelf life by storing the spice in the refrigerator in a well-sealed container.
    • Smell the cinnamon to check for freshness. Make sure it has a sweet smell — a true indicator that it is fresh.
    • Choose organically grown cinnamon to ensure that it has not been irradiated. Irradiating cinnamon may lead to a decrease in its vitamin C and carotenoid content.


  • Cinnamomum velum is also known as true cinnamon and is grown principally in Sri Lanka, the Seychelles, Madagascar and southern India. C. Cassia is also known as Cassia or Chinese cinnamon and is native to southern China and also grown in India, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. There are around 250 species of Cinnamomum currently recognized. Cinnamon available to the consumer may be a mixture of species and grades but as with most foods, if you pay more, the quality should be better.[24]


  • If having surgery, cease using cinnamon in medicinal amounts at least one week prior to any surgery, to avoid blood thinning complications. Generally small use as a spice is okay but speak to your doctor for more information.
  • Breastfeeding or pregnant mothers should not take medicinal levels of cinnamon.
  • High levels of Cassia Cinnamon intake are toxic - because of the coumarin content. This is effectively absent from the Ceylon variety.

Things You'll Need

  • Fresh, high quality cinnamon

Sources and Citations


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Article Info

Categories: Nutrition and Lifestyle Eating