If something seems too good to be true it usually is. But credible scientific evidence is mounting that cinnamon and honey have remarkable healing properties.
It's easy to dismiss ads and Internet blogs touting one food or another that supposedly cure everything from toenail fungus to cardiovascular disease. These ads generally come from people who sell the products, and the evidence is often fuzzy at best. However, when it comes to honey and cinnamon, science is backing up the hype. While the culinary duo are not miracle cures, research supports claims that they do have some healing properties.
Cinnamon Health Benefits
People have used cinnamon as both a spice and a medicine for centuries. Its healthful properties come from three essential oils: cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, and cinnamyl alcohol.
Anti-Microbial and Anti-Fungal
According to the National Institutes of Health, cinnamaldehyde, the compound responsible for giving cinnamon its odor and flavor, may help fight fungal and bacteria infections.
Cinnamaldehyde has been shown to help prevent urinary tract infections caused by E. coli contamination in catheterized hospital patients. When used as a catheter surface coating, cinnamaldehyde may help prevent urinary tract infections, according to a PubMed abstract.
Cinnamon and Diabetes
According to M. Regina Castro, M.D. on the Mayo Clinic's website, a 2012 review of several studies concluded that cinnamon "had a potentially beneficial effect on glycemic control." One of those studies determined that taking a 500 mg cinnamon capsule twice a day improved average blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association cites a study on its website in which 60 people with type 2 diabetes took 1, 3 or 6 grams of cinnamon each day and reduced glucose, triglycerides, LDL and total cholesterol levels.
Although the research shows promise, other studies showed inconclusive results. As a result, more research is needed to prove the efficacy of using cinnamon for diabetes.
A study showed water soluble cinnamon extract to have anti-tumor effects on various types of tumor cell lines including lymphoma, colorectal cancer, cervical cancer and melanoma, according to a PubMed abstract. The study concluded that continued understanding of cinnamon extract's active components "could lead to development of potent anti-tumor agent or complementary and alternative medicine for the treatment of diverse cancers."
Health Benefits of Honey
The Report to the Officers and Board of Directors of the Committee for the Promotion of Honey and Health (for the purposes of this article called the Honey Health Report) written by Dr. Ronald E. Fessenden summarizes several presentations which occurred at the First International Symposium on Honey and Human Health. These presentations cite exciting research about honey's health benefits.
Honey and Insulin Resistance
Dr. David Baer from the USDA Agriculture Research Service believes that replacing other sweeteners with honey may help prevent or manage Type 2 diabetes. He also notes that diabetics who eat honey may have healthier hearts. Diabetes frequently causes oxidative damage to the patient's cellular DNA, lipids and proteins, impairing their heart health. Dr. Baer believes honey's natural antioxidants may help reduce that damage.
In addition, the article "Honey -- A Novel Antidiabetic Agent," published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences, indicates that animal and human studies support the use of honey to regulate blood sugar. The article states that in studies, "honey supplementation considerably reduced postprandial glycemic response or elicited much lower rise in plasma glucose than other sugars or sweeteners did."
The article concludes that studies support the theory that is easier tolerated than other sweeteners by both healthy people and those with diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance. However, because some studies were not randomized and controlled and most dealt with the immediate effect of honey and not the effects of taking honey over the long term, more research is needed to definitively determine honey's safety and efficacy for diabetics.
Honey Reduces Coughing in Children
Almost every parent has spent at least one sleepless night with a child suffering from a nasty cough. But over-the-counter or prescription cough remedies can have negative side effects. A study funded by the National Honey Board on kids age two and older with upper respiratory infections showed that two teaspoons of honey given at bedtime was as effective as the common cough suppressant dextromethorphan (DM). These findings were presented at the symposium by Jessica Beiler, MPH.
Honey should never be given to children under one year of age due to the risk of botulism. Some pediatricians encourage parents to avoid honey until age two to be safe, but clinical studies say age one and never on a pacifier at any age.
Weight, Anxiety and Memory
The Honey Health Report discusses results delivered by Dr. Nicola Starkey from the University of Waikato, New Zealand, of a four month study in which two groups of rats were put on diets. One group ate a sugar-free diet, and the other ate a diet where sugar was replaced with honey. The honey-fed rats showed:
- Lowered body fat
- Less anxiety
- Improved HDL cholesterol
- Better spatial recognition memory
- Lower levels of blood sugar
- Reduced oxidative damage
Honey's Healing Properties
A presentation by Dr. Shona Blair, from the University of Sydney, Australia is also discussed in the Honey Health Report. Dr. Blair discussed honey's properties, such as low water activity, low pH and a capacity to generate hydrogen peroxide, that make it an effective anti-microbial. Her studies also indicated that honey helps prevent the spread of germs and stimulates the healing of wounds. Even at low concentrations, honey is effective against:
- Medication-resistant micro-organisms
- 60 species of anaerobes
Yet another doctor cited in the Honey Health Report, Dr. Jamal Zidon, conducted studies on the effects of honey in hospitals throughout Israel. His primary findings were that honey:
- Enhances restorative sleep and off-line processing
- Boosts memory and cognitive function
- Decreases insulin resistance and increases blood sugar control
- Supports a strong immune system
- Demonstrates anti-microbial effects
Additional studies must be conducted to confirm these findings, but so far the evidence concerning honey's healing properties is extremely positive. Dr. Fessenden, also the symposium's moderator, states in the Honey Health Report that, "The potential public health benefit on metabolic diseases such as obesity, childhood obesity, insulin resistance, type to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative diseases could be enormous."
Honey and cinnamon both have significant aromatherapy benefits. Cinnamon's warm, spicy scent and honey's comforting sweet scent both promote relaxation, according to Reader's Digest Traditional Wisdom Rediscovered. The scent of cinnamon oil is also touted as an aphrodisiac and can often be found in perfumes, candles and personal care products.
Both cinnamon and honey are popular ingredients in homemade skin care products. Both have antimicrobial properties and may help treat acne. Studies show honey may also improve the healing times of some burns, according to WebMD.
Honey is a great moisturizer and can be combined with yogurt and/or pureed fruit (such as strawberries, bananas or apples) to make a nourishing face mask. Oatmeal can be added for exfoliating benefits.
Honey and cinnamon are extremely cost effective when compared to pharmaceuticals and are generally considered safe to use in amounts normally used in foods or beverages. However, there are a few things to consider.
- As mentioned earlier, never give honey to children under one year old due to the risk of botulism.
- Cinnamon taken in large amounts may cause liver damage or affect blood sugar levels.
- As with most natural ingredients, there is a risk of skin irritation or allergic reaction when applied to the skin.
Please consult your doctor before using cinnamon or honey to treat any medical condition, or if you are pregnant or breast feeding.
Natural and Tasty
Do your body a favor. Regularly add a dusting of cinnamon to your cereal or toast and a teaspoon of honey to your coffee or tea. You'll likely begin reaping the health benefits of these natural and tasty ingredients.