The People's Perspective on Medicine

Getting Off Diabetes Pills with Cinnamon in Coffee?

Q. I want to pass along a tip that I’ve been using for 20 years. I put about 2 teaspoons of cinnamon in my coffee filter and then put coffee grounds on top. I get the benefits of the cinnamon and it cuts any bitterness from the coffee. I turned all my family and friends on to this, and my mother-in-law was able to go off the diabetes medicine that she’d been on for years!

A. We don’t advocate that anyone go off diabetes medication (or any other prescription drugs) without medical consultation. It is encouraging to learn that your mother-in-law had such good results. Many people find that careful attention to diet and exercise is also helpful in minimizing the amount of medication needed.

For years, researchers have been investigating the use of cinnamon to keep blood sugar from rising too quickly after a meal. In a three-month placebo-controlled trial, cinnamon capsules significantly reduced HbA1c in type 2 diabetics (Diabetic Medicine, Oct., 2010). This is a measure of blood sugar over several weeks, not just at one point in time.

We discuss the details of using cinnamon and other non-drug approaches to help control blood sugar, along with the pros and cons of medications, in our brand-new Guide to Managing Diabetes.

Other approaches to help control blood sugar naturally include fenugreek and turmeric (Indian spices), nopal cactus tea or extract and vinegar at the close of a meal.


A few years ago we received this message from a physician:

“I am a family practitioner and want to share an herbal remedy with you. A 60-year-old male Hispanic diabetic patient has had trouble controlling his blood sugar. Despite intensive diet changes and a prescription for Glucovance, his blood sugar still ran in the 160’s to 180’s.

One day he came in with his diary showing blood sugars of 90 to 100 consistently. I asked what he was doing differently and he said in a low voice, ‘I got me a new girlfriend. She’s from Mexico, and she makes me tea from nopalito (prickly pear) cactus. She has me drink it three times a day. Now my sugars are doing better.’

And here’s an interesting story:

When I was pregnant I had gestational diabetes and although its a little different from regular type 2 I had to be very careful about my sugar levels. I used nopal my whole pregnancy to help regulate and stabilize. I get my nopal from – its the only place I’ve found it in a reasonable price that I can use in all my meals.” – Natalie


“I was diagnosed as type 2 in March of last year. I asked my doctor about cinnamon. He has a PHD in Nutrition and practices Integrative Medicine so he knows alot about alternative medicine and uses it regularly in his practice. He told me that table cinnamon is a carcinogin so not to take it. The cinnamon from Ceylon is safer.” – LadyLiza


He’s right that just eating the powdered cinnamon you buy from the store could result in too much coumarin that could damage the liver. Instead, make yourself cinnamon tea with hot water, discarding the cinnamon sludge or cinnamon sticks. Ceylon cinnamon is fine as a spice, but it does not have the same effect on preventing blood sugar spikes after a meal.

If you would like to learn more about the ins and outs of some of these natural approaches, we suggest you download our brand new Guide to Managing Diabetes ($2). You will get the inside scoop on diabetes medications and get details about the non-drug approaches mentioned above. The great thing about monitoring blood glucose carefully is that you can tell when diet, exercise and other lifestyle factors help improve control of diabetes.

Please share your own experiences with blood sugar management below.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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Can I use nopales from the cactus in my winter backyard in AZ, for tea ? Or do they have to be processed in some way first?

are cinnamon sticks ceylon cinnamon or cassia cinnamon

Discovered that I was a diabetic after going in for a skin issue, which turned out to be basal cell cancer. I gave up sugar in my coffee about 5 years ago, so I don’t have any other data to share other than current test results. AC1 isn’t under control, but cholesterol seems to be. I’m 48, stand 6’4”, over weight and eat appallingly, but my cholesterol is at 114. The issue now is that my HDL (good) is 28 and my LDL (bad) is at 32: Good cholesterol at such a low level is actually BAD!

Using cinnamon in coffee grounds has made us have the best cholesterol numbers… better than the last 4 and 5 years respectively. We put a teaspoon of regular cinnamon over the coffee grounds on one side. We also slosh some vanilla flavoring on the cinnamon. Yumm. Yes, water has a harder time going through. You might unplug the unit for a minute to let the water drip through before more water is added.

I put a little cinnamon on top of the coffee & have not had a problem. I have even added a little natural cocoa powder.

Cinnamon in coffee! What a mess. We have a drip coffee maker and put 2 tsp. cinnamon in bottom of filter then add coffee. All three times we’ve had it overflow because the cinnamon makes a gel and keeps the water from flowing through the filter. How did the other people do this and not have a problem?

I put the cinnamon at the bottom of my coffee cup and pour coffee over it, I don’t like to put the cinnamon in the coffee maker to brew with it.

Hi, saw your comment on the People’s Pharmacy website for Nopal (cactus). I’m wondering EXACTLY what you take? Juice or the granuals, & then, how much and how often? Thanks so much!!!

Frontier, a common brand for buying spices at grocery stores (in bulk foods section), sells organic cinnamon which is cinnamomum burmanii. This is regular cassia cinnamon, not Ceylon cinnamon.

I am confused ! So it is better to make cinnamon tea from store bought powdered cinnamon rather than to add it to cereals and other foods and drinks. I add powdered cinnamon everyday to my hot cereals, smoothies and home made hot and cold drinks. Now I’m worried that I might be taking in too much cinnamon and damaging my liver.
PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: We don’t know how much of a problem the coumarin that could be in cinnamon really poses in practice. We don’t have a good way to evaluate this. We do know that Germany issued warnings about cinnamon star cookies three or four Christmases ago, and we usually like to err on the side of caution. Hence, water soluble cinnamon extract. Filter the powder you put in your hot beverages, at least.

I wish companies selling cinnamon were required to identify the source. “While the level of naturally occurring coumarins in Ceylon cinnamon appears to be very small and lower than the amount that could cause health risks, the level of naturally occurring coumarins in the cassia cinnamons appears to be higher and may pose a risk to some individuals if consumed in substantial amounts on a regular basis.”

You can find Nopal at most hispanic grocery stores or Amazon. I pay around 3.00 for a whole box. I live in southern California and Vallarta has it.

I love this article. I add cinnamon to my coffee all the time. It is a great replacement for sugar. I have a love of sugar in my cappuccinos and I’ve been trying to “kick” the sugar habit. It really helps make your taste buds forget the sugar. :)
I also like to add cinnamon to my smoothies. An apple, spinach, carrot and greek yogurt smoothie with cinnamon reminds me of an apple pie. Throw in some almonds or chia seeds to make it even healthier.

I have been using the cinnamon in a filter on top of coffee grounds in their filter for years. If I put the cinnamon right in with the grounds, it clogs the Chemex filter.

I am currently living in Mexico. Here I can find Nopal (cactus) and Sabil/Nopal (aloe vera/cactus)capsules. I vary the dosage since too much can cause loose stools.
These capsules also eliminate constipation.
My fasting blood sugar has been between 85-100 very consistently.

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