In traditional medicine, cinnamon has been used for digestive disorders such as indigestion, gas and bloating, stomach upset and diarrhea. However, while some initial research has indicated possible benefit, further clinical evidence supporting the use of cinnamon for any human indication is needed.
Ayurveda: In Ayurvedic medicine, cinnamon is used for the digestive, respiratory and reproductive systems for a wide range of conditions, including digestive disorders (such as indigestion and flatulence), diabetes, respiratory tract infection (such as the common cold), cough, sinusitis and gynecologic disorders. It is often recommended for people with a "kapha dosha," an Ayurvedic term used to describe a body type characterized by cold, wet, heavy and slow functioning.
Cinnamon is a common ingredient in chai, a spiced black tea beverage used throughout India that includes other herbs also believed to be "warming tonics," such as cardamom, star anise, ginger, peppercorn and cloves. Cinnamon is also included with similar herbs (cloves, peppercorn, cardamom and ginger) in Yogi Bhajan's "Yogi Tea," used as a general tonic tea for a wide range of applications including digestive disorders, blood purification, immunostimulation and as an anti-parasitic.
In Ayurveda, diabetes is believed to be a disorder of "kapha imbalance," due to "low digestive fire," and cinnamon is used as a warming herb to help stimulate digestive processes. Cinnamon is also used in Ayurveda as an antipyretic, a gargle for sore throat, and as a component of toothpastes to reduce incidence of halitosis and dental caries.
Biblical: In addition to a spice, cinnamon is mentioned as a medicine in the bible. In Proverbs 7:17-18, cinnamon is referred to as a perfume, mixed with myrrh and aloe. In Exodus 30:22-25, it is mentioned as having been used as a holy anointing oil. Cinnamon is also mentioned in Song of Solomon 4:14 and Revelation 18:13.
Chinese medicine: Cinnamon has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Cinnamon is believed in TCM to have a warming effect in the body, and it is used as a stimulant for conditions thought to be caused by coldness. According to ancient Chinese texts, cinnamon "relieves wind chill" and "disperses cold" in the body. It has been used to treat "energy disorders" of the spleen and kidney systems such as diarrhea, as an appetite stimulant, and is recommended by Chinese herbalists for asthma brought on by cold. Cinnamon is often combined with other herbs such as peony, licorice, angelica and astragalus in traditional Chinese medicine formulations such as Wei An Le, Shi Quan Da Bu Tang, and Ninjin Yoei To. Guizhi (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) decoctions have also been used in TCM, including the combination Shi-Quan-Da-Bu-Tang (Ten Significant Tonic Decoction) or SQT (Juzentaihoto, TJ-48).
Cinnamon is said to have been used for centuries by women in China to strengthen the uterus and increase fertility. Kuei Chih Fu Ling Wan (Keishi-bukuryo-gan; KBG), a traditional Chinese herbal remedy consisting of Cinnamomum cassia, Paeonia lactiflora, Prunus persica, Poria cocos and Paeonia suffruticosa, was shown to reduce the size of uterine myomas in premenopausal women.
European medicine: In Europe, cinnamon has been traditionally taken as a warming herb for "cold" conditions, often in combination with ginger (Zingiber officinale). German health authorities (Commission E) have approved use of cinnamon bark as an antispasmodic for mild gastrointestinal spasms, an appetite stimulant, and for digestive disorders such as indigestion, bloating and gas. In a survey of parents in Germany determining the use of complementary and alternative medicines in children with type 1 diabetes, 5.6 percent reported using cinnamon for this indication.
Modern (Western) herbal medicine: Cinnamon is recommended by herbalists for digestive disorders such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and indigestion. In digestive bitters combinations, it is commonly combined with other herbs such as dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), gentian (Gentiana lutea) and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare). It is also used in formulations for diabetes and weight loss and has been combined with black walnut (Juglans nigra) and wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) in anthelmintic formulas. A smooth paste preparation made from cinnamon powder, water, and honey has been applied to the gums for toothache, and cinnamon oil is added to some toothpastes as an antimicrobial and to reduce halitosis. Eugenol, a constituent of cinnamon essential oil, has been used in dentistry as a local anesthetic and antiseptic.
Veterinary medicine: In veterinary medicine, cinnamaldehyde has been suggested to improve digestive function and reduce methane production in ruminants.
For more information about cinnamon, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements database.