Even if you rarely cook or bake, if you have anything in your cupboard in the way of spices, cinnamon is probably one of them. The warming, fragrant powder harvested from the bark of a tropical evergreen bush not only is tasty in a plethora of dishes both sweet and savory, but has a long history of use as a medicinal. Ayurvedic medicine originated in India more than 3,000 years ago.

Maharishi Ayurveda Products International (MAPI) notes that cinnamon is often used for Ayurvedic recipes to enhance the bioavailability of other herbs while combining a delicious mixture of sweet, pungent and bitter tastes, and to spice desserts and sweet dishes in the West. In Indian cooking, however, it’s more often used to spice rich rice and vegetable dishes.1

There are around 250 different species of the plant, and they’re scattered across the entire planet. Cinnamon bark is the most often-used source, but twigs and leaves from the tree are also incorporated. Healthline2 notes there are two main types of cinnamon.

• There’s“true” cinnamon, aka Ceylon cinnamon, from the Cinnamomum verum tree, native to Sri Lanka and southern India. It’s described as tan-to-brown in color with many tight sticks, a highly desirable quality and texture, mildly sweet and good for cooking and desserts. Less common and more expensive, the oil contains 50 percent to 63 percent cinnamaldehyde.

• The more common dollar-store variety, called cassia, comes from the Cinnamomum cassia tree, or Cinnamomum aromaticum, which originated in Southern China but is now grown across Eastern and Southern Asia. It’s the variety found in most stores and is comparatively less expensive, with 95 percent of its oil being cinnamaldehyde.

Cassia cinnamon has been shown to contain high amounts of coumarin, which can cause liver damage. In fact, one study showed 63 times more coumarin in cassia cinnamon than the Ceylon variety in powder form, and 18 times more than in Ceylon sticks. That’s another reason why Ceylon is recommended above cassia, CNN noted.3

The Impressive Power of Cinnamon

Being one of the most studied herbs on the planet, cinnamon has been found to impart some seriously advantageous health benefits that resonate throughout your body. An in-depth review4 in 2014 listed several of the conditions cinnamon can help improve, also noting that it exhibits antimicrobial activity, such as against E. coli:5


Parkinson’s disease

Memory, ability to learn7

Colorectal and cervical cancers


Neurological disorders9


Cardiovascular health

Optimized cholesterol

Tooth decay and plaque10

Scientists stress that many aspects of how cinnamon is cultivated in regard to soil quality and growing conditions, stored and dried can affect its effectiveness and potency, making it somewhat of an unknown quantity, which makes it difficult to create drugs or supplements from the powder. In research, Lauri Wright, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics notes:

“The doses have varied greatly among the studies, from less than 1 gram to levels that would be toxic in humans. The duration of taking the capsules has also varied greatly. That’s the problem with translation of all of this work. Even when we find positive results, how do we come up with the correct compounding and dosage for maximum safety?”11

Active Ingredients That Give Cinnamon Its Strength

Cinnamaldehyde, cinnamic acid and cinnamate are three of the most fundamental oils in this fragrant spice, which has an impressively wide range of capabilities. Besides being an antioxidant,12 cinnamon is also useful in the fight against chronic diseases. According to one study:

“An … anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, anticancer, lipid-lowering and cardiovascular-disease-lowering compound, cinnamon has also been reported to have activities against neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.”13

The same study notes additional compounds in cinnamon that release powerful effects against disease:



Caryophyllene oxide


Bornyl acetate






As for its antioxidant properties, among 26 spices tested, cinnamon showed the greatest potential for antioxidant activity, the study noting: “Antioxidants have been considered the most important drivers in the progress and existence of humans, as they respond to free radicals and damage in metabolic diseases and age-related syndromes of humans and other animals.”14

Cinnamon also contains procyanidins and catechins, and is known to kill human parasites (nematicidal)15 as well as resist termite infestation,16 kill mosquito larvae (larvicidal) and three different mosquito species, and also protect certain woods from decay (antifungal), which is useful for any wood manufacturing industry.17

Food production finds extracts from cinnamon to be useful for diminishing the browning that occurs on mushrooms, fruit and vegetables when they’re exposed to oxygen, making cinnamon an antityrosinase agent and tyrosinase inhibitor that’s also valuable in skin health, cosmetics and agriculture.18