In part five of this series about the immune system, we are going to discuss the spice cinnamon and the benefits it has on the immune system. In future weeks we will further explore other herbs and spices that can help with boosting the immune system.
Cinnamon is probably a spice that many people are most familiar with. Many people use it in baking and may also sprinkle it on their hot cereals. Cinnamon is native to Southeast Asia. The use of cinnamon dates back to 2000 B.C. and has been referenced in Chinese medicine text books as a naturopathic remedy (2).
Cinnamon has many medicinal uses including: appetite stimulation, treatment of arthritis, diabetes, reducing inflammation, and helping with dyspepsia. Cinnamon can be used for treating sore throats, cough, indigestion, abdominal cramps, intestinal spasms, nausea, flatulence, and diarrhea (3). Cinnamon can also slow down the spoilage of food spoilage (3). Research studies have found that cinnamon has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, antimicrobial, and antitumor properties (1).
Cinnamon contains polyphenols, which are antioxidants that have been shown to reduce oxidative stress through the inhibition of 5-lipoxygenase (3)
Cinnamon oil has bactericidal properties. One advantage is that cinnamon oil does not develop resistance unlike with antibiotics (3)
Cinnamon contains cinnamaldehyde which inhibits the growth of fungi, including yeasts, filamentous molds, and dermatophytes, and the eggs and adults of human head lice. It also contains queous and alcohol extracts and have shown to have antibacterial effects against H. pylori (3)
2′-hydroxycinnamaldehyde found in cinnamon bark can inhibit the production of nitric oxide by altering the activation of the nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells. This mechanism reflects that cinnamon can indeed be an anti-inflammatory agent (4).
Cinnamon has antimicrobial properties due to its actions against different bacterias including: (Pediococcus halophilus and Staphylococcus aureus), fungal (Aspergillus flavus, Mucor plumbeus, Penicillium roqueforti, and Eurotium sp.), and yeast species (Candida lipolytica, Pichia membranaefaciens, Debaryomyces hansenii, and Zygosaccharomyces rouxii) (4).
Cinnamon contains cinnamic aldehyde which has been found to alter the activity of necrosis factor-kappa betta and the production of tumor necrosis factor alpha induced interleukin-8 in A375 cells (4). This inhibition supports cinnamons potential anticancer properties (4).
Cinnamaldehyde (found in cinnamon) can help with reducing blood pressure and lowering lipid levels (4)
Use caution when using cinnamon and blood glucose-lowering or blood-thinning medications (1)
Use caution if you have a hormone sensitive disease. Studies have shown that cinnamon has both estrogenic and antiestrogenic properties (1)
Herb and Drug Interactions
Cytochrome P450 substrates: Cinnamon inhibits cytochrome P450 2C9 and 3A4 and may interfere with the actions of drugs that need these enzymes for metabolism (1)
Hypoglycemics: Cinnamon extract may have an additive effect when mixed with medications that lower blood glucose (1)
Anticoagulants: Cinnamon has coumarin in it which can interact with blood-thinning medications (1)
Statins: Cinnamon can cause hepatitis when combined with statins (1)
Herb and Lab Interaction
Cinnamon may lower blood glucose levels (1)
Cinnamon may lower cholesterol levels (1)
Cinnamon may increase prothrombin time (1)
If you have an acute or chronic health condition or take medications, you should consult with your health care provider before taking any new herbs.
About the Author: Leanne DiMaio earned her Master’s degree in Applied Clinical Nutrition from New York Chiropractic College in December 2017. She is currently working on her Doctorate degree in Clinical Nutrition at Maryland University of Integrative Health. Leanne is passionate about helping others achieve their optimal state of health and wellness. She is currently earning clinical hours toward the Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) credential under Kim Ross's supervision.
1. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Elderberry. Mskcc.org. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/cinnamon. Published 2016. Accessed September 2, 2018.
2. Natural Medicines. Cassia Cinnamon. https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=1002#scientificName. Published 2018. Accessed September 2, 2018.
3. Hamidpour R, Hamidpour M, Hamidpour S, Shahlari M. Cinnamon from the selection of traditional applications to its novel effects on the inhibition of angiogenesis in cancer cells and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, and a series of functions such as antioxidant, anticholesterol, antidiabetes, antibacterial, antifungal, nematicidal, acaracidal, and repellent activities. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. 2015;5(2):66-70. doi:10.1016/j.jtcme.2014.11.008.
4. Rao PV, Gan SH. Cinnamon: A Multifaceted Medicinal Plant. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM. 2014;2014:642942. doi:10.1155/2014/642942.