There has been a recent trend towards taking cinnamon capsules for health benefits, but how safe is it?
Cinnamon bark has been used as a spice for centuries, usually as flavoring for sweets and puddings. It’s completely safe when used in small quantities in cooking, especially as it’s use is infrequent.
Cinnamon started to be taken as a health supplement after a 2003 medical trial was done with people suffering from Type II diabetes. They showed a drop in their triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and fasting levels of glucose after forty days of taking cinnamon. The cinnamon used was cinnamon cassia (the type mainly sold in the United States), and it was active ingredients in the water-soluble form which made the difference (cinnamon oil does not have the active ingredients required). No further studies have been done, but anecdotal evidence shows that if you suffer from diabetes, taking cinnamon capsules or increasing the amount of cinnamon in your diet, helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar.
The 2003 study showed that as little as 1 gram of cinnamon a day produced results. Most cinnamon capsules sold in health food shops contain 500 mg (half a gram), so limit your intake to two capsules a day. If you are adding cinnamon to food (say sprinkling it over cereal), one gram is about one fifth of a teaspoon. If you feel you need to take more, consult your doctor first. Avoid taking in cinnamon oil – it doesn’t have the active ingredients that lowered blood sugar, and has been known to cause inflammation of the mouth. Stick to capsules that contain cinnamon powder. Keep a journal and record the amounts you take with times and dates, and also record your blood sugar and cholesterol levels at regular intervals, so you can assess whether the cinnamon is helping.
Are There Any Risks Associated With Taking Cinnamon Capsules?
As with everything, don’t overdo it. Anything in excess can kill you, even drinking too much water. There have been no long term studies done on how a regular cinnamon intake affects the body, nor on how it interacts with other drugs you may be taking. Some studies have shown that people who already have damaged livers, find their liver condition worsens when they take cinnamon. The University of Michigan Health System observed that some patients who took cinnamon supplements suffered from breathing problems and constriction of the airways, though it was not reported how much cinnamon the patients had been consuming. Some people who had hormone imbalances found that their condition worsened too.
Please note that cinnamon capsules are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
If you are healthy anyway, you do not need to have your blood sugar lowered, so don’t go taking capsules just because you think it sounds like a good idea. They are meant for those who suffer from Type II diabetes. There have been no studies done on whether cinnamon helps Type I diabetes and if you are pregnant, it is advised you avoid cinnamon even if you are suffering from gestational diabetes. If you notice any ill effects after taking cinnamon capsules, stop at once and consult your doctor.