Cinnamon intake will reduce insulin resistance, lower tryglycerides, lower LDL cholesterol and lower blood pressure. Uses of cinnamon in Chinese medicine are discussed and ways to incorporate it into diet based upon recent research.
Cinnamon helps Insulin Resistance and Cardiovascular Disease
by Karen S. Vaughan, L.Ac.,MSTOM
Cinnamon is among the four common spices known to have insulin-enhancing activity. (The others are turmeric (from curry), bay leaves and cloves, but none is as potent as cinnamon. Foods like bitter melon, panax ginseng, fenugreek, onion and garlic also have hypoglycemic effects as do less common herbs such as Gymnema (which lowers blood sugar but hastens pancreatic beta cell depletion), Pata de Vaca (Bauhinia forficata) and Pedra hume caa (Myrica salicifolia.) Cinnamon reduces insulin resistance, increases glucose uptake and increases glycogen synthesis. It does this by phosphorylation of the insulin receptor. It also appears to help trigger the insulin cascade system. Since insulin plays an important role in lipid metabolism, it can also improve triglycerides and cholesterol.
In Chinese medicine high quality cinnamon bark is believed to bring the fire back to the gates of vitality (mingmen), to tonify. Kidney yang which diminishes as we age and plays a part in edema, impotence, low sex drive, and some kinds of asthma. It is also used to dispel cold, warm the Spleen and relieve pain, useful for chronic diarrhea, dysentery or hernial pain. It dispels cold, relieves pain and opens the meridian channels and blood circulation, useful for arthritis that is worse with cold and dampness, traumatic inuries of the abdomen, menstrual difficulties and pain under the ribs from the liver area. It is also useful for deep-rooted sores and flat or spreading skin lesions. In small amounts it is added to formulas to encourage the production of qi and blood. Chinese medicine almost always uses it in formula with other herbs. .
Recently Richard Anderson, lead scientist at the Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, Md assigned 60 patients under 40 with type 2 diabetes to take the equivalent of 1/2 tsp to 1 Tbsp (3-6 grams) encapsulated cinnamon or a placebo for 40 days. The encapsulated cinnamon retains its volatile oils better and is usually of a higher grade than common culinary cinnamon. (In Chinese medicine different medicinal effects are recognized with different grades of cinnamon.) After 40 days they were measured for the effects on serum glucose, tryglyceride, total cholesterol, LDL and HDL cholesterol.
Those on the highest doses had the fastest and highested reductions in glucose and triglycerides. After 40 days, all three groups had lower total cholesterol, with most occurring in the LDL (bad) cholesterol group. Mean fasting glucose went down from 18-29%, total cholesterol by 12-26%, LDL was down only in the 3 and 6 gram groups1(0 and 24%). Improved blood sugar and lipids were retained during a 20 day cinnamon-free washout period.
As little as half a teaspoon of cinnamon a day can produce effects that in some cases are nearly as dramatic as those produced by the drugs known as statins, which millions of Americans take to lower their cholesterol levels, Anderson said Anderson said the extract was shown to reduce blood pressure in hypertensive rats because it functions as an antioxidant, which is important in reducing cardiovascular disease..
This indicates that a wide range of intakes of cinnamon is useful for reducing cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk factors in type two diabetics and that it need not be taken daily. Other studies indicate that regular cinnamon consumption may help prevent diabetes.
I would advise taking encapsulated cinnamon at 6 grams a day for a couple of months to reduce blood sugar, triglycerides and bad cholesterol. Then make sure that cinnamon is regularly incorporated into your diet. If you don’t particularly like it or don’t eat at least a teaspoon a day, capsules may be useful. Higher quality cinnamon (say 5% oil) can be found in Chinese grocery stores or from mail order houses like the Frontier Natural Products Coop, (www.frontiercoop.com) and it has a noticeably stronger taste. The Chinese name is Rou gui (pronounced “row gway”).
Cinnamon is good in tea (Chai contains both cinnamon and cloves, so, unsweetened, it is great for you), in coffee (but scrape it off the sides of the cup), over chicken or meat,, in soup stock, in rice, or incorporated in sauces. It tends to form a gel if it sits in a liquid for a while, which may reduce the insulin spike. But look at the amount you use- you will probably need to increase amounts.
I recently surveyed the price of cinnamon bark capsules online and found that prices varried significantly. Wonder Laboratories (www.wonderlabs.com) had the best price- 350 1210 mg capsules was $24.95 which was almost half of the closest competitor. When I opened a capsule and tasted it it had a good strong flavor equivalent to the medicinal grade that I use.
January 29th 2005 – Cinnamon helps Insulin Resitance and Cardiovascular Disease
copyright by Karen S. Vaughan, L.Ac.,MSTOM
Acupuncture and Herbs by Karen Vaughan, L.Ac.
253 Garfield Place 1R
Brooklyn, NY 11215 US
Richard Anderson and the Human Nutrition Research Center American Botanical Council