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Cinnamaldehyde in Cinnamon – How It Works

Cinnamaldehyde In Cinnamon – How It Works

Herbal Nerd Society Exclusive Article

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum species) is known around the world as warming spice. It’s a favorite herb to stir into cocoa to revive numb fingers and toes after an afternoon of snowman building. That famous effect is thanks, in a large part, to the organic compound cinnamaldehyde. That little bottle of cinnamon bark essential oil that crafters sprinkle on pine cones during the holidays is comprised of approximately 50% of cinnamaldehyde. Although many parts of the cinnamon tree is used, most of the cinnamaldehyde is found in the bark (65-80%) with a trace amount found in the leaves (1-5%).

This compound is usually a trans isomer (e-cinnamaldehyde) but can appear as a cis isomer about 20-30% of the time. It activates a transient receptor potential ion channel (TRPA1) which controls our thermosensors. This is why that cup of hot chocolate with a cinnamon stick in it will warm you up faster than a cup of hot chocolate without it. It also promotes better circulation by dilating smooth muscles of the vascular system. This helps core temperatures spread to our fingers and toes. This is one of the reasons why cinnamon is recommended for people suffering from nueropathy and edema.

Cinnamaldehyde for Digestion

Cinnamon is a reliable herb for sluggish digestion. Many herbs that influence circulation also effect digestion. As cinnamaldehyde triggers peripheral vasodilation, it lowers blood pressure and reduces the influence of stress on the digestive system. The digestive system uses the circulatory system to pick up and distribute nutrients from the food that it breaks down. Cinnamon starts the improvement to digestion rapidly. The reactive volatile oil cinnamaldehyde is easily absorbed in the mouth and down throughout the digestive tract.

More research needs to be undertaken but thus far, cinnamaldehyde seems to balance blood sugar in those with type 2 diabetes by increasing glucose uptake, improving insulin sensitivity in fat and muscle tissues. It is a key factor in improving glycogen synthesis in the liver and muscle which is where carbohydrates are stored for the body’s fuel through the day. Once those storage spaces are empty, blood sugar crashes. Keeping glycogen synthesis moderated is one of the wonders that cinnamaldehyde does for diabetics.

Antimicrobial Cinnamaldehyde

As an antimicrobial compound, cinnamaldehyde has many practical applications. Agriculture has long used the cinnamaldehyde as an anti-fungal agent when growing root vegetables. It is safe for humans while reducing the fungal threat as well as the threat of bacterial infections that can be spread through soil.  This compound is used spray on stagnant water areas that are breeding grounds for mosquito. It is toxic to mosquito larva which grow to serve as vector of disease. For humans, the reactivity of this isomer is helpful for treating everything from candida to strep throat to staph infections.

Contraindications for Cinnamon

Cinnamon helps control blood sugar. Blood sugar is one of the things that is monitored during surgery. Stop using cinnamon at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery. Use with care if you are diabetic. Closely monitor blood sugar levels and chart changes that cinnamon has your BG readings in connection with your anti-diabetic medication.

Further Research

Science Direct – Cinnamaldehyde

NCBI – Cinnamon: a Multifaceted Medicinal Plant

Therapeutic Properties and Benefits of Cinnamon Essential Oil

RX List: Cinnamon

Sue Sierralupe

Sue Sierralupé is a Certified Master Herbalist, Master Gardener and Sustainable Landscape Specialist. She is the clinic manager and lead herbalist at Occupy Medical clinic. Sue is author of The Pocket Herbal: Medicinal Plants that Changed the World and co-author of The Practical Herbalist Herbal Folios series. Follow her blog at Herbalism Manifesto for commentary on herbs, parenting, nutrition and a whole lot more.


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