Cinnamon the spice of life

When you threw Cinnamon into the delicious home-made buns or into that far-too-easy to drink Christmas punch, did you know that the very same spice could in fact help to stave off the ills of raised cholesterol or imbalanced blood sugar levels? I know what you might be thinking, “is this the green light to eat homemade Cinnamon buns and drink Christmas punch until the cows come home?’ Sadly this is not so. The active parts of Cinnamon are not always strong enough in culinary preparations, which means to get the levels of Cinnamon you need for therapeutic effects, you would have to eat vast amounts of Cinnamon buns washed down with even more Christmas punch! cinnamon supplements has been one of the world’s most important spices for many years. Although a culinary spice principally employed as a condiment and flavouring, Cinnamon has also been used favourably as an ancient herbal medicine as far back as 500BC.

From ancient times to the modern day Originating in Sri Lanka, Cinnamon is also grown in India, South America, Indonesia, Middle East and the West Indies. Harvested by growing the tree for two years it is then coppiced (cut right down and encouraged to grow again from the stump). A year later, a dozen or so shoots will form from the roots, which are then stripped of their bark and left to dry. It is this inner bark that is used for Cinnamons medicinal qualities.
Cinnamon’s beneficial impact on cholesterol levels and blood sugar balance have in the past been overlooked until recently. Published studies have sung the praises of this wonderful spice, with particular reference to an increasing modern phenomenon known as Syndrome X.

What is Syndrome X?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) were the first to publish an internationally accepted definition for Syndrome X in 1998:

• Central/abdominal obesity as measured by waist circumference (men greater than 40 inches (102cm) and women greater than 35 inches (88cm).
• Fasting triglycerides greater than or equal to 150mg/dL (1.69mmol/L)
• HDL cholesterol (men less than 40mg/ dL (1.04mmol/L) and women less than 50mg/dL (1.29mmol/L)
• Blood pressure greater than or equal to 130/85 mm Hg
• Fasting glucose greater than or equal to 110 mg/dL (6.1 mmol/L)

The factors associated with Syndrome X may seem varied but all are inextricably linked. Obesity and lack of exercise tend to lead to insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance can lead to increased triglycerides and bad cholesterols, LDL and VLDL and decreased good cholesterol ‘HDL’. This can lead to fatty deposits in the arteries which, over time, can lead to cardiovascular disease, blood clots, and strokes. Insulin resistance may also lead to increased insulin and glucose levels in the blood. This excess insulin can increase sodium retention by the kidneys, which can in turn increase blood pressure and lead to hypertension. Chronic and long term exposure to this ‘state’ may in turn damage blood vessels and organs, such as the kidneys, and could ultimately lead to Diabetes. If you are unsure if you have any of these get them checked by your GP. How can Cinnamon help with this? The active ingredient in Cinnamon known as MHCP (methylhydroxychalcone polymer) has been shown to mimic the activity of insulin. A recent study conducted in America by the Department of Agriculture tested 60 patients with Type 2 Diabetes using 1g of Cinnamon (the equivalent of taking two 500mg tablets). All responded within weeks, with blood sugar levels that were on average 20% lower than the control group. Some even achieved normal blood sugar levels. As well as this remarkable improvement in blood sugar control, triglyceride levels had lowered by 18-29% and total cholesterol levels were reduced by 12-26%.

Who is at Risk?
In America, it is estimated that 20% of adults suffer from Syndrome X, with the prevalence approaching 50% in the elderly. However it can affect anyone at any age and is mostly seen in those who are inactive and significantly overweight, with most of their excess fat in the abdominal area. The root cause of most cases of Syndrome X can be traced back to poor eating habits, this includes bad habits you may have had in the past, and a sedentary lifestyle.

Is there no end to its talents?
Cinnamon’s therapeutic actions do not end at cholesterol and blood sugar balance, it has also been used traditionally as a medicinal spice to fight off infection and ease digestive discomfort. Cinnamon’s warming and cooling combination is especially effective for the treatment of diarrhoea and its antimicrobial and antifungal action have been shown to work well against infections of H Pylori and Candida Albicans, both of which can be common problems in our modern lifestyle. So, if you have raised cholesterol, hypoglycaemia, are overweight, suffer from candida, H Pylori or diarrhoea then this wonder spice could be for you!

Cinnamon can also provide a wonderful aroma to freshen the house. Just boil 5 cups of water with a teaspoon of added cinnamon, then let it simmer on the stove to enjoy the warming scent around your home.