Cinnamon: A spice for balancing blood sugar, fighting infections, and boosting energy and libido

Cinnamon has always paired well with sugar. I remember making cinnamon toast as a child. You make a piece of toast, butter it, and sprinkle a mixture of cinnamon and sugar on the top. And then there are cinnamon buns. Or how about cinnamon mixed in some warm apple cider in the fall? What tasty treats!

Cinnamon has become a very popular remedy for blood sugar problems because there’s quite a bit of research showing it can help to lower blood sugar levels in people with metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes. For example, in one randomized study, 140 people with type 2 diabetes were given 1 gram (1,000 mg) of cinnamon daily. This resulted in a reduction of body and visceral fat, fasting insulin levels, and hemoglobin A1C. Other studies have shown similar results. Studies have also been done using larger doses of three or six grams.

The Astringent Action of Cinnamon

Cinnamon Powder Bark

The scientific research on cinnamon has been great in showing that it can be used for blood sugar problems, but it doesn't give a complete picture of cinnamon as a remedy. For example, cinnamon is quite astringent, which means it contracts and tones tissues and has been used to help reduce problems like heavy menstrual bleeding and postpartum bleeding.

The astringency of cinnamon is demonstrated by an experience I had with my stepsons. I had told them that it is impossible to swallow a spoonful of cinnamon because it’s too astringent. It will dry up all of your saliva making you unable to swallow it. They didn’t believe me and one of them put a teaspoon of cinnamon in their mouth. They wound up spitting it out in the sink and rinsing their mouth out with water. A second tried it with a much smaller amount and they couldn’t swallow the powder either.

It’s important to understand that cinnamon is an astringent because you wouldn’t want to use it by itself if you have an overly dry constitution (dry mouth, dry skin, frequent thirst, and hard dry stools).

Cinnamon as a Pungent Aromatic

Cinnamon is also a pungent aromatic that acts as a circulatory, digestive, and metabolic stimulant. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) it’s used to strengthen the yang (the hot and dry, fire-like energy of the body) and dispel cold. The essential oil in cinnamon is a good antiviral and antibacterial remedy, but it needs to be highly diluted to avoid irritating mucus membranes. Because of this I prefer to use powdered herb internally rather than the essential oil.

You can take cinnamon internally as a tea or in capsules to help fight colds and flu. It will also help to relieve digestive tract infections reducing bloating and gas. It can help arrest diarrhea due to its astringent nature. It can also help ulcers to heal.

Cinnamon Essential Oil

cinnamon essential oilCinnamon is a good remedy for people who feel devitalized and weak. They may feel depressed due to extreme fatigue. Smelling or tasting cinnamon can awaken the fire (yang) energy in a person, motivating them to get up and start doing something about their life. It can also act as a sexual stimulant, arousing passion and sensuality, particularly in men.

Many years ago I watched a documentary about aromatherapy that claimed that the smell of cinnamon enhanced testosterone production in men. They claimed that diffusing cinnamon in the air of a home while it was being viewed by potential buyers would make the husband more interested in buying the home. I haven’t been able to validate that from other sources since then, but there is a tradition of cinnamon being used as a sexual stimulant for men.

Cinnamon diluted and taken internally helps to break down bacterial biofilms in the intestinal tract, particularly biofilms from P. aeruginosa and E. coli. This means it may be helpful for stubborn bacterial infections in the gut. Reducing harmful microbes in the gut may be part of the mechanism of action in controlling blood sugar, as the type of microbes you have in your intestines influences your food cravings as well as your mood.

You can also use the essential oil topically for skin infections, but again you have to dilute it to avoid irritation. Because of its irritating qualities, don’t use cinnamon oil topically on children.

Creating a Blood Sugar Formula with Cinnamon

Cinnamon SugarUnderstanding the warming, drying, and antimicrobial action of cinnamon, can help us understand how to use it more effectively as an aid for blood sugar. Cinnamon will work best for people with blood sugar problems who tend to have a cold, damp constitution, and intestinal dysbiosis.

However, the energetic nature of cinnamon can be balanced when using it in a formula. When working on a cinnamon-based formula for a major herb company I combined cinnamon with two other blood sugar-reducing herbs, nopal and fenugreek. These remedies contribute to the blood sugar reducing effect, but they counteract the warming, astringent cinnamon with their cooling and moistening effects.

The result is a balanced formula where you can put the powders from the capsule on your tongue and it won’t dry your mouth out. You can actually swallow the powder. People have given me great feedback on how well this formula works and I've taken it myself to reduce sugar cravings.

Considering how herbs interact like this is something I’ve been teaching for many years. It’s sort of like cooking. You can balance out the flavors in a dish by adding different ingredients. You can learn more about this in the book Modern Herbal Dispensatory and by watching the YouTube video Thomas Easley and I did on Understanding Herbal Formulas.

Using Cinnamon

Cinnamon Tree BarkSince you can't swallow the powder, capsules are a good way to take cinnamon. A capsule will average around 500 mg and a good starting dose is one capsule twice daily for a total of 1,000 mg. If you tolerate it, you can work up gradually to much larger doses, such as 2 or 3 capsules three times daily. You’ll probably tolerate it better if you take it with food, including food that has some fat or oil in it.

You can take cinnamon in a tincture form (1:5) 30-60 drops two or three times a day and you can also make a glycerite out of it. You can also use it to make a tea (infusion) and sweeten it with a little honey or raw sugar. That’s a good way to take it for colds and flu.

My midwife friend, Joan Patton, would put a little cinnamon into a spoonful of olive oil and warm the oil to extract the cinnamon. She would then strain it and use it as warm eardrops to relieve earaches.

If you’re going to use the essential oil internally dilute 1-2 drops of the essential oil in one Tablespoon of coconut or olive oil and take that once daily. Dilute in a similar manner for topical application.

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