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Herbs & Botanicals

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Cinnamon (rou gui / gui zhi)

What is cinnamon? What is it used for?

Cinnamon is one of the world’s most popular spices. It is also one of the oldest herbal medicines: some Chinese texts have mentioned its use in herbal remedies more than 4,000 years ago.

Cinnamon comes from the cinnamon tree, which grows in tropical areas, including parties of India, China, Madagascar, Brazil and the Caribbean. The tree’s inner bark and essential oil are used to make herbal products. Pieces of the bark may be sold individually, or the bark may be crushed and sold in a powdered form.

The medicinal effects of cinnamon are attributed to terpenoids, substances found in the tree’s essential oil. Small studies conducted on AIDS patients have found that cinnamon oil as a potent anti-fungal, helping rid the body of oral candida infections. Cinnamon has also been shown to fight the bacteria that causes most ulcers. Test-tube studies have found that other substances in the essential oil, diterpenes, may help reduce allergies.

How much cinnamon should I take?

The German Commission E suggests taking 2-4 grams of cinnamon powder daily. No more than a few drops of essential cinnamon oil should be taken per day, and then only for a few days at a time. Some practitioners also recommend 2-3 ml of cinnamon tincture three times per day.

What forms of cinnamon are available?

Cinnamon powder and cinnamon sticks are widely available; they can be found at supermarkets, health food stores and specialty stores. Many stores also sell cinnamon oil and cinnamon tinctures.

What can happen if I take too much cinnamon? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Chronic use of cinnamon may cause inflammation in the mouth. Some individuals may develop allergies and skin conditions after exposure to cinnamon; therefore, it should initially be used in small amounts, and then for only a few days at a time. The German Commission E does not recommend cinnamon for use by pregnant and lactating women.

At this time, there are no well-known drug interactions with cinnamon.

References

  • Akira T, Tanaka S, Tabata M. Pharmacological studies on the antiulcerogenic activity of Chinese cinnamon. Planta Med 1986;(6):440.
  • Azumi S, Tanimura A, Tanamoto K. A novel inhibitor of bacterial endotoxin derived from cinnamon bark. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 1997;234:506—10.
  • Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds) The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, pp. 110—1.
  • Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Foods, Drugs, and Cosmetics, 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996, pp. 168—70.
  • Quale JM, Landman D, Zaman MM, et al. In vitro activity of cinnamomum zeylanicum against azole resistant and sensitive candida species and a pilot study of cinnamon for oral candidiasis. Am J Chin Med 1996;24:103—9.

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