7 surprising health benefits of our favorite fall spice

It’s fall, which means it is officially cinnamon season. Whether you sprinkle this delicious spice in your bowl of oatmeal, enjoy a nice hot cup of chai tea, indulge in a serving of apple-cinnamon cobbler, or graciously add it to your go-to pumpkin spice recipe, nothing complements a crisp fall day quite as well. And nothing improves your overall health quite as well either…

You may already know that cinnamon can improve your memory, balance your blood sugar and lower your cholesterol. But that’s not all this super spice has up its sleeve. Here are seven more surprising benefits of cinnamon:

  1. Pain relief. Not many people realize that cinnamon is a powerful pain reliever. That’s because it’s full of antioxidants that ease inflammation in the body. People who eat cinnamon regularly will likely see an improvement in joint pain and stiffness caused by arthritis. It can also relieve headaches and muscle pain too.
  2. Temperature regulation. If all those extra fall layers have you feeling hot (or if you’re just hot-blooded all the time), cinnamon can help. A recent study published in the journal Scientific Reports found that this fall spice cools down pigs’ stomachs during digestion, which ultimately cools their entire body down by two degrees. This is good news for pigs because they don’t tolerate heat very well. It causes them to hyperventilate. But researchers think it could have the same effect on humans too. In fact, one researcher suggested this might be why cinnamon is so prevalent in cultures with hot climates.
  3. Cancer prevention. In 2015, researchers from the University of Arizona discovered that a compound in cinnamon called cinnamaldehyde can prevent colon cancer in mice. This powerful compound gave their cells the ability to protect themselves against carcinogens by encouraging cell repair and detoxification. And this isn’t the first time it has been shown to have anti-cancer properties. A 2010 study found that cinnamon killed cancer cells and shrunk tumors in mice with melanoma.
  4. Cinnamon contains a blood-thinning compound that improves blood circulation. In fact, it’s this improved circulation that’s responsible for a lot of its other health benefits. For example, improved circulation means your cells are getting more oxygen which reduces your pain levels. Improved circulation also increases blood flow to your heart and brain and prevents you from developing major diseases in these two vital organs.
  5. Mouth health. Cinnamon has powerful antibacterial abilities that can improve the health of your teeth and gums and kill bad-breath-causing bacteria. That may be why it’s such a common chewing gum flavor (although you’ll want to avoid any artificially-flavored cinnamon chewing gums). A 2011 study published in Acta Biomedica found that cinnamon oil effectively fights plaque and tooth decay.
  6. Respiratory health. Cinnamon is helpful for respiratory problems like bronchitis, colds, coughs, sore throats and congestion. Its role as a respiratory hero comes from its ability to ease inflammation, fight bacteria and act as an expectorant. If you’re dealing with respiratory problems due to a cold or flu, your best bet is to take one tablespoon of honey mixed with ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon daily for three days. This potent combo will have you breathing easy in no time.
  7. Digestive health. Most people don’t realize that cinnamon is perfect for your digestion. It can remedy practically any stomach problem you face — indigestion, nausea, gas, vomiting and diarrhea. Its ability to improve digestion and ease stomach ailments likely comes from its ability to expel gas from the digestive tract and reduce stomach acidity.

If you want to improve your overall health or to get rid of a specific health problem, a ¼ teaspoon to one teaspoon per day should do the trick — sprinkled or prepared in food. It’s of course best not to eat a dry spoonful of cinnamon… it won’t taste good and it’s dangerous: a spoonful of dry cinnamon coats and dries the mouth and throat, resulting in coughing, gagging, vomiting and inhaling of cinnamon, leading to throat irritation and breathing difficulties.

Before you start upping your daily dose, there’s one more thing you should know…

There are two types of cinnamon: Ceylon cinnamon and cassia cinnamon (also known as Chinese cinnamon). Ceylon is what you’ll want to purchase, especially if you’re taking it daily for its health-boosting benefits. Ceylon cinnamon is purer than cassia cinnamon, which contains high doses of a toxic compound called coumarin. Couramin can take a toll on your liver and kidneys if you eat a lot of it.

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“Health Benefits of Cinnamon and Its Oil.” Organic Fact. https://www.organicfacts.net. Retrieved September 26, 2016.

Jian Zhen Ou, et al. “Potential of in vivo real-time gastric gas profiling: a pilot evaluation of heat-stress and modulating dietary cinnamon effect in an animal model.” Scientific Reports, 2016.

Long, S. Tao, M. Rojo de la Vega, T. Jiang, Q. Wen, S. L. Park, D. D. Zhang, G. T. Wondrak. “Nrf2-Dependent Suppression of Azoxymethane/Dextran Sulfate Sodium-Induced Colon Carcinogenesis by the Cinnamon-Derived Dietary Factor Cinnamaldehyde.” Cancer Prevention Research, 2015; 8 (5): 444.

Kwon, et al. “Cinnamon extract induces tumor cell death through inhibition of NFκB and AP1.” BMC Cancer, 2010; 10(392).

Gupta, et al. “Comparative study of cinnamon oil and clove oil on some oral microbiota.” Acta Biomedica. 2011 Dec;82(3):197-9.

“Is Too Much Cinnamon Bad for You?” The San Francisco Chronicle. http://healthyeating.sfgate.com. Retrieved September 29, 2016.

Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.