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Cinnamon and Diabetes: Can It Help?

Medically reviewed by Robert Hurd, M.D.
Written by Joan Grossman
Posted on February 7, 2023

Cinnamon has attracted a great deal of interest for its potential role in lowering blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, but can it really help? DiabetesTeam members frequently discuss cinnamon, and many wonder if cinnamon is effective as a dietary supplement for those with diabetes.

“Is ground cinnamon OK for diabetes?” a member asked. “Found a few different articles and I’m not sure.”

“I’m not a big fan of cinnamon. However, I heard and read that cinnamon is good in reducing and stabilizing glucose,” said another member.

One member wrote, “I heard cinnamon was good for us diabetics. So is it OK to drink water with cinnamon sticks and apples in it?”

Diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus, is caused by insulin resistance and reduced insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes, the most common type of diabetes. Insulin is a hormone that regulates glucose (blood sugar) levels. In people with diabetes, hyperglycemia (abnormally high blood sugar levels) can cause serious complications such as damage to blood vessels, nerves, and organs. Prediabetes, which can develop into diabetes, is diagnosed when blood sugar levels are elevated above normal but aren’t high enough to be considered diabetes.

In some studies, cinnamon has shown promising results in lowering fasting blood sugar levels, which are measured in the morning before eating. However, many researchers agree that more studies are needed to better understand the impact of cinnamon on people with diabetes.

Keep in mind that cinnamon has been studied as a complementary therapy that may be helpful alongside standard diabetes management plans. Always stick to your treatment plan, and don’t make changes to your standard diabetes care or diabetes medications without medical advice.

A Background on Cinnamon

Recorded history of cinnamon goes back to ancient times. It is mentioned in Chinese writings from 2800 B.C., and it is referred to in the Old Testament of the Bible as an ingredient in holy oil used for anointings by Moses. The Romans used cinnamon as a medicinal treatment for digestive and respiratory ailments. Cinnamon was one of the highly valued spices that Christopher Columbus was seeking when he arrived in the New World.

Because of its distinctive taste and smell, cinnamon is commonly used as a spice and fragrance around the world. Cinnamon comes from tree bark, although cinnamon leaves, roots, fruits, and flowers are sometimes used to create different types of oils. There are four types of cinnamon, which are different species of the cinnamomum plant:

  • Ceylon cinnamon, also known as true cinnamon or Mexican cinnamon (originally from Sri Lanka)
  • Vietnamese cinnamon
  • Indonesian cinnamon
  • Chinese cinnamon, or cassia cinnamon

Cinnamon is available as rolled sticks of cinnamon bark, in powdered form (usually for cooking), as a dietary supplement in capsules, and as cinnamon extract in essential oil.

Health Benefits of Cinnamon

Many studies focus on the health benefits of Ceylon cinnamon because it’s very low in coumarin, a substance that can be toxic in higher amounts. Cassia cinnamon, which is high in coumarin, has been cited by the European Food Safety Authority for potential risks of liver damage, kidney damage, and cancer. However, cassia cinnamon and other types of cinnamon have also been studied for their medicinal properties.

Cinnamon has been studied for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, and antidiabetes properties, among other potential health benefits, especially for type 2 diabetes. Along with studies on diabetes and cinnamon, research has examined compounds in cinnamon that may be helpful for many health conditions, including:

  • Neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
  • Bacterial and yeast infections
  • Cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure
  • Immune system dysfunction
  • Cancer

Although cinnamon may contain chemicals that can have significant health benefits, there’s still a lack of clinical evidence (studies with human participants) that shows how these compounds can be used as effective diabetes treatments.

Cinnamon, Diabetes, and Blood Sugar

Several studies have examined the potential health benefits of cinnamon specifically for people with diabetes. As cited in the journal Nutrients, in one systematic review of 45 clinical studies on cinnamon and its effect on lowering blood sugar and blood lipid levels (such as triglyceride and cholesterol levels), results were mixed.

Eight studies showed beneficial results in lowering fasting blood glucose levels, while six studies failed to show the benefits of cinnamon. In nine clinical studies of cinnamon’s effect on lowering lipid levels, six studies with humans showed no benefits, while some animal studies lowered blood lipids considerably.

Another study showed that cinnamaldehyde, one of the compounds in cinnamon, stimulated fat cells to burn off more calories, thus leading to weight loss in both humans and mice.

Researchers have determined that there is a need for larger clinical trials to better understand the mechanisms of cinnamon, dosage, and long-term risks and benefits.

Medical Advice for Proper Dosage of Cinnamon Supplements

Cinnamon for flavoring and cinnamon supplements have been shown to be safe, particularly Ceylon cinnamon, which is low in coumarin. If you are interested in trying cinnamon for your diabetes, be sure to talk to your doctor about the appropriate dosage. Avoid taking supplements above recommended levels without medical advice.

High amounts of cinnamon may cause side effects such as allergic reactions or gastrointestinal issues. Some supplements may contain cinnamon cassia, which may be unsafe for prolonged usage because of its relatively high coumarin content. There is a lack of data on the effects of consuming cinnamon while pregnant or breastfeeding.

How DiabetesTeam Members Use Cinnamon

DiabetesTeam members have shared tips on how they use cinnamon. Many members incorporate cinnamon into their food preparation. Others take supplements. In some cases, cinnamon was recommended by a health care provider.

“My visiting nurse told me to boil water with three cinnamon sticks and drink it as tea every day. Well, I can say I have done just that. Recently, I was at 8.0 and now I’m back at 6.9,” a team member wrote.

Another member said, “I take Ceylon cinnamon capsules to lower my sugar, prescribed by my doctor.”

“I just finished a breakfast smoothie of blueberries, yogurt, spinach, cinnamon, and some flax,” one member shared. Another added, “I put apples in the microwave with stevia, water, butter, and cinnamon. I slice the apples. Cinnamon is supposed to be good to slow sugar. I am going to order some Ceylon cinnamon.”

But not everyone is convinced that cinnamon is helpful for their diabetes. One member shared their skepticism: “I tried 🙂 to see if the cinnamon tea would lower my blood sugar. Nope 🙅🏻 🙃.”

Cinnamon should not be considered as a replacement for other proven treatments for diabetes, such as medication, diet, and exercise. Although cinnamon seems safe for most people, there is not enough evidence to show that it is effective in lowering blood sugar levels. If you want to try cinnamon as part of your diabetes treatment plan, talk to your doctor to make sure it’s safe for you and won’t interact with other medications you’re taking.

Find Your Team

DiabetesTeam is the social network for people with diabetes and their loved ones. On DiabetesTeam, more than 127,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with diabetes.

Do you have questions about cinnamon? Do you use cinnamon for your diabetes? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Posted on February 7, 2023
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    Robert Hurd, M.D. is a professor of endocrinology and health care ethics at Xavier University. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
    Joan Grossman is a freelance writer, filmmaker, and consultant based in Brooklyn, NY. Learn more about her here.

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