sticks of cinnamon

Q. I’d like some advice on blood sugar. At present I am not a diabetic. My blood glucose is 125 and my hemoglobin A1C is 5.7, which puts me in the high normal range.

I do not take any medication, but I’ve heard that cinnamon might help control blood sugar by improving insulin sensitivity. When I mentioned this to friends they were skeptical and said that only prescription drugs would help. Do you think taking cinnamon might be beneficial for me?

A. Doctors have recently become interested in helping people with “pre-diabetes” reverse their risk factors. According to most criteria, you would qualify as prediabetic. Some doctors would actually diagnose you as diabetic and prescribe medication.

A study of 60 people with type 2 diabetes found that one gram of cinnamon daily (about a quarter of teaspoon) lowered blood sugar, triglycerides and total cholesterol (Diabetes Care, Dec. 2003). Cinnamon helps insulin work more efficiently, and it has only 3 calories in a gram.

Dr. Richard Anderson of the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Maryland suggests that prediabetics may be able to delay or prevent development of the disease with regular, small doses of cinnamon. Although cinnamon might be toxic in high doses, a gram of cinnamon a day in tea, coffee or other food could be just what the doctor should order.

The use of cinnamon by people with type 2 diabetes has become controversial. Some studies have not demonstrated improvement. Others have shown “improvements in cholesterol levels, systolic blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and postprandial glucose levels with cinnamon.” (Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism, Nov. 16, 2011).

We like to put cinnamon in with our coffee grounds so that we can get a water-extracted component of cinnamon. This reduces a contaminant, coumarin, that could be toxic.

If you would like to learn more about cinnamon and other foods that are especially good for controlling blood sugar, we suggest that you look over our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies from National Geographic. You will learn about the secret properties of Nopal cactus, bitter melon, mustard, nuts, and vinegar. There are also recipes and a low-glycemic diet that can be especially helpful for those with borderline diabetes.

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  1. ladyliza

    My doctor told me not to take table cinnamon, but to buy “Cinnulin Bark PF” instead. I also am trying Jarrow Formulas Glucose Optimizer. I have been taking tumeric for high inflammation and not only did it reverse the high inflammation and arthritis pain, but it brought my 1AC test down from 6.7 to 6.1. I’m told that we should be under 5.5. So I am still working on it. Within a week, I had my fasting blood sugar down to 80 and I am trying to keep my after meal test under 120. A diabetic can go to 160 but if you want to lose weight, have to keep under 120.

  2. kathleen a

    I would like to get follow up comments as well… My blood sugar is around 128 and honestly haven’t been watching what I eat. Doc has me now on Junevia…$210.00 mth. I am going to try the cinnamon, exercise more and see if I can get off med’s!!!

  3. vrgnia

    I am requesting to receive follow-up comments. Most interesting. Thank you.

  4. BJD

    About a month ago I started taking 2 – 1,000 cinnamon tablets daily, mostly to help with my high cholesterol and also for blood sugar because of being pre-diabetic, but it has tremendously helped my arthritis and fibromyalgia. I feel 90% better than I have in the past 20 years. I now have energy, less pain and swelling and even seem to walk taller and faster and I actually feel good for a change.
    I was so tired of feeling sick and tired but what a difference since taking cinnamon tablets. I have recommended them to family and friends and even my doctors. Everyone is amazed at the difference in me, including my attitude because of having less pain. I started to notice a difference just after 2 weeks. I won’t know about the cholesterol or blood sugar until I get blood work done but at least they kicked in for my arthritis and fibromyalgia. I found out about the cinnamon from your articles in our local newspaper, THANKS SO MUCH!

  5. Chas

    “the more expensive Ceylon cinnamon is not effective for this purpose, only cassia or so-called Chinese cinnamon.”
    Did you get this backward? Cassia contains far more coumarin:
    “Ceylon cinnamon only contains low levels of coumarin which are safe from the Institute’s risk assessment perspective. By contrast, cassia cinnamon contains high levels of coumarin and large amounts of this cinnamon should not, therefore, be eaten.”
    People’s Pharmacy response: Quite true that cassia cinnamon contains more coumarin. That’s why we recommend only using water extract of cinnamon, since coumarin is not water soluble. You can do this by making cinnamon tea or by putting cinnamon in a coffee filter. We’d suggest a disposable paper filter; cinnamon powder makes a gooey messy glob when it gets wet.
    A number of studies have concluded that Ceylon cinnamon is ineffective for blood sugar control. It is frustrating, however, that too many of the abstracts do not specify which cinnamon was used in the study.
    One recent review showing that the results are quite variable, but the authors do not distinguish between cassia and Ceylon cinnamon:
    One study demonstrating that Ceylon cinnamon does not affect post-meal blood sugar:
    Another one that specified Ceylon cinnamon found no benefit:

  6. NJ

    I’m allergic to aspirin, and wondered if there’s salicylic acid in cinnamon; I do react to peaches, & several other fruits that have salicylic acid.
    People’s Pharmacy response: Cinnamon does appear to have measurable amounts of salicylate, so you probably should avoid it.

  7. Genevieve G., Rua'h Kibriya Spa, Sidney, Montana

    Yep. Also using it in lotion and tea bath. Just make sure you calculate quantity based on the 1/4 t per day concentration. Ideally, you are drinking the 8 glasses of water daily. So just calculate 1/4 t in 64 ounces of fluid and you have got your dose for the bath, the lotion, etc. If your skin might be sensitive to cinnamon, apply a patch test first. The chances of your body’s reacting to that level of cinnamon are probably minimal but you never know.
    Note: I base my opinions on family tradition. My grandmother’s Czech and Georgian relatives taught her much about the appropriate medicinal use of herbs and Silk Road spices and she passed down that information through her children. Their use may very well have contributed to my mother’s longevity and that of her mother and my one remaining aunt: my grandmother died in 1980 at the age of 97, my mother died in 2006 at 94, and my aunt will be 93 this year. They all stuck to the family’s herbal and spice-based practices. Genetics did play a role but not entirely. Those siblings who died early lived in stressful, nicotine “enhanced” environments and allowed themselves no safe means of reducing tension, even basic “cat stretching”.

  8. Genevieve G., Rua'h Kibriya Spa, Sidney, Montana

    Hi, a suggestion: order your own tea bags and create your own mix… whether you drink it or use it in the bath. Remember that the absorption and subsequent healing properties of the skin are as effective, often more so, than internal absorption through ingestion. Bath teas, especially if home made, are an excellent way to add healing agents.
    How many you add is a function of how much water you use, so you will need to figure out how a 1/4 teaspoon dose translates to a bath full of water. The other possibility is to add cinnamon to a massage oil (not too much) and apply following a warm bath that opens the pores. It offers a fragrant alternative to ingesting cinnamon on cereal or toast. Here’s another idea: cinnamon added to a skin lotion. Again, determine the ratio of cinnamon to cream using the 1/4 teaspoon per day factor. 1/4 teaspoon is a lot when it comes to body lotion or oil…and you could always buy the gel caps of cinnamon if you can’t stand the smell or taste. Namaste!

  9. Genevieve G., Rua'h Kibriya Spa, Sidney, Montana

    Thanks for this reminder! My mother’s side of the family has included a number of Czechoslovakian and Georgian farmers and herbalists who had access to many Silk Road spices for generations. My US-born mother used to include cinnamon toast (with a small amount of table sucrose) as part of our breakfast menu. She told me that they had always had cinnamon with sugar at their house, even though the family did not have much money.
    When it came to products that were ingested orally or through the skin, costs just didn’t matter. The Evans’s (Ivanko) yard in Marion, Ohio included all sorts of vegetables and fruits and they raised their own chickens. They chose to remain as close to the land as they could. Once my mother received her nursing degree, she combined the allopathic knowledge she acquired with family traditions to make our home as healthy and ecologically balanced as was possible in the 1950s and 1960s.
    When I refer to family recipes for various poultices I am reminded that before antibiotics and pills came to be, there were herbs, minerals, and honey-based solutions to quite a few ailments. Those who lived in the country away from the urban pollution that was a natural result of close quarters were always at an advantage regardless of income level. If you could grow your own, you could grow your life. My mother lived to 94 and my grandmother to 97. My remaining aunt is almost 95 and still doing well in Ohio.

  10. pAT

    I have type 2 diabetes and I like to have a cup of hot cider, I also have cinnamon capsules which I open and put in the cider it is very tasty and the cinnamon offsets the sugar in the cider!

  11. Paul43

    I would like to hear about this subject.

  12. LJG

    I just read about the benefits of cinnamon. Wondered if drinking cinnamon tea would give the same benefit as putting powered cinnamon in coffee or tea??? ….. I am going to start this regimen of five to six cups of green tea a day and would love to get the benefit of cinnamon in a tea bag. I am going to search for green tea with cinnamon at whole foods and Earthfare.

  13. PD

    The headline suggests that cinnamon itself is sweet, but it is only sweet when mixed with sugar, which sort of defeats the purpose a bit.
    I love cinnamon in coffee, however. Do you know how much cinnamon you have to put in your coffee in a drip pot or percolator or whatever to get the equivalent of a quarter teaspoon of effective ingredients?
    People’s Pharmacy response: Readers have reported benefit at doses ranging from 2 teaspoons for a 10-cup pot of coffee to 1/2 teaspoon per cup. We don’t have an exact answer to your excellent question.
    Here’s some recent research:
    Please note that the more expensive Ceylon cinnamon is not effective for this purpose, only cassia or so-called Chinese cinnamon.

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