Cinnamon: A Natural Cure for Diabetes and Blood Glucose Treatment? Facts About Cinnamon Bark, Extract, Supplements and Studies
Cinnamon is claimed to be an effective, natural diabetes treatment that lowers blood glucose levels without side-effects. Latest studies & research on cinnamon.
- Effectiveness of Cinnamon as a Treatment for Diabetes
- Is Cinnamon a Natural Cure For Diabetes?
- Side Effects of Using Cinnamon to Treat Diabetes
- Different Types of Cinnamon Supplements
- ADA Warns Against Use of Cinnamon to Treat Diabetes
- Cinnamon and Diabetes: Conclusion
Many websites and supplement manufacturers have touted the use of cinnamon as a safe and natural treatment, or even a cure, for diabetes. What do modern science and the latest medical studies tell us though? Unfortunately, not much that is conclusive. There are some important facts that you should know before you try using this as a home remedy though.
The effectiveness of cinnamon as a treatment for diabetic patients is questionable, at best, based on current research. To date, several controlled studies have been done on Type 1 and type 2 diabetics to determine how effectively (if at all) the spice can lower, or control, blood glucose levels. Only a single, human, controlled study that was conducted in 2003 seems to support the claim that cinnamon is effective at lowering blood sugar levels in diabetics. This study was performed using 60 individuals and conducted in Pakistan by Dr. Albert Kahn. The study showed that Type 2 diabetics using between 1 and 6 grams per day of cinnamon supplements lowered their blood glucose levels between 18% and 27% after 40 days. It is important to note that the patients in this study had not previously used any type of modern diabetes medication prior to testing.
Since the study in 2003, several other researchers have tried to duplicate these results on both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetic patients without success. None of the follow-up studies were able to show that any of the test subject’s A1C blood glucose levels had dropped at all as a result of taking daily supplements of cinnamon capsules. This, of course, brings the original study into question. Several theories have been given to explain why the original study’s results were not able to be duplicated. These theories tend to focus on the differences between the original and follow-up studies. Most notably, the test subjects in the original study had never been treated with any type of medication for their diabetes in the past, that they ate non-traditional diets as compared to the test subjects in the follow-up studies, which were done in Western countries and that the type of cinnamon used in the original study may have differed with what was used in the follow-up studies.
While these factors may have played some role in the vastly different findings between the studies, for the average Western diabetes sufferer who has already sought and received a more traditional treatment for the disease, it would seem that the subsequent studies have proven that cinnamon would be of little, if any, benefit. In fact, the side-effects of using cinnamon bark extract at such high doses may cause more harm than any potential benefits that are possible using this natural cure.
No. Absolutely no clinical tests done thus far suggest that cinnamon can cure diabetes. Even in the most promising study to date, blood glucose levels were not lowered anywhere near as effectively as with modern drugs and and no studies of its long-term effects has ever been performed. Any effectiveness it may have as a treatment for diabetes seems to diminish after discontinuing its use, so it could not be labeled under any circumstances as a natural “cure” for diabetes.
By far, the worst potential harm of using cinnamon bark or extract as a natural treatment for diabetes would occur if patients who were already being effectively treated with modern diabetes medications (pills or insulin injections) to lower their blood glucose levels decided to forego their treatment in favor of using cinnamon as a natural, home remedy. Suddenly stopping use of an existing medication that is already effective could lead to severe swings in blood glucose levels, and no one should consider doing this without monitoring their blood sugar levels extremely carefully, several times per day. Severe hyperglycemia can lead to coma or even death. Diabetes patients would be advised to discuss the matter with their physicians prior to making any radical changes to their existing treatment plan. The best (if not only) patients who stand to gain benefit from cinnamon supplementation are those who have high blood glucose levels, but who have not received proper medical treatment for the disease to date.
On the matter of possible side-effects for those who do use cinnamon as a natural treatment for diabetes… Yes, there are definitely side-effects that will occur if you take cinnamon supplements at high doses. The chief side-effect is thinning of the blood caused by a compound in cinnamon named coumarin. Although there are definitely benefits associated with blood thinners for cardiovascular patients, it is not advised that diabetes patients who are already using a medication or supplement that already thins the blood add cinnamon to the supplements they already take. Since cardiovascular disease is already a well-known side-effect of diabetes, many diabetics already use some type of blood thinner, such as aspirin. High doses of cinnamon added to existing blood thinners can cause blood to thin to dangerous levels. At the very least, those taking cinnamon supplements need to be monitored and tested regularly for the potential negative side-effects that can occur when using cinnamon to treat diabetes. Pregnant women suffering from Gestational diabetes should be especially careful before using any type of supplement that may thin the blood, as it can lead to excessive blood loss and other complications.
Cinnamon supplements come in many forms. The vast majority of these are created using the bark of the cinnamon tree, which is native to Ceyelon (Sri Lanka) and areas across Africa, India and Southeast Asia. The cinnamon bark is most often dried and ground into powder form, which is what most of us are familiar with. Some supplements also come in the form of liquid extract, however, only the powdered form of cinnamon has been used in clinical testing thus far.
Though there are technically hundreds of varieties of the cinnamon tree, there are essentially only two different types of ground cinnamon bark powder that are available today. It is important to note the difference. The first type is known as “true cinnamon”, “real cinnamon”, “cinnamon zeylanicum” or “Ceyelon cinnamon” and is from a variety found in Sri Lanka. This type of cinnamon is rarely found in the Unites Sates and is the most expensive. The labeling laws in most countries do not require supplement or food manufacturers to designate between types of cinnamon. Consequently, very little of what is found in foods and supplements today is of this variety. Little is known about its affects on diabetics or blood glucose levels, as it has rarely been used in clinical testing.
The second, more common variety of cinnamon found today is grown mostly in China and Southeast Asia. It is known as Chinese cinnamon (C. cassia), Vietnamese cinnamon (C. loureirii) or Indonesian cinnamon (C. burmanii). This is the type of cinnamon that has thus far been used most in clinical testing. This type of cinnamon is far more common, cheaper and has a much more “spicy” flavor than the variety from Sri Lanka. It can be easily distinguished from “true cinnamon” by its much darker appearance and stronger taste. If you are persuaded by the results Dr. Kahn’s original study, then this is the type of cinnamon you are looking for. As in most other studies, Dr. Kahn’s study used ground cassia cinnamon powder that was provided to test subjects in capsule form.
The American Diabetes Association has issued the following statement on the use of cinnamon to treat diabetes:
Cinnamon Has No Benefit for People With Diabetes
The ADA also stated, “Cinnamon cannot replace medication, a healthy diet, and exercise for people with diabetes who are trying to prevent serious heart problems. The different results of each study also show a “publication bias”— the researchers might have been more interested in getting their articles printed than carefully checking their results.”
The American Diabetes Association seems to have based their statement on the results of a number of clinical studies and meta studies of cinnamon to treat both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. In particular, they cite a 2007 clinical study of cinnamon’s effects on type one and type two diabetics titled “Effect of Cinnamon on Glucose Control and Lipid Parameters”, which found absolutely no effect whatsoever upon blood glucose levels of diabetic patients that were treated using cinnamon supplements.
So far, the effects of cinnamon supplements on diabetics and on blood glucose levels is, at best, inconclusive. To date, no well-funded, long-term, major studies have been performed on a large number of diabetics by researchers. The smaller the number of test subjects, the less reliable the data obtained from that study tends to be. However, side-effects of large doses of cinnamon are very well-known, and should be kept in mind by those thinking of using cinnamon as a natural alternative to diabetes treatment.
Although cinnamon definitely should be further tested in order to determine if there are any possible benefits of its use, it would be ill advised for anyone to rely upon it as their primary source of diabetic treatment at this time. It is also not advisable to take in high doses or even in lower doses as a supplement by pregnant women suffering from Gestational diabetes or by those already being treated with a blood thinning agent such as aspirin or prescription medications such as coumadin. In small amounts, such as those found in foods that contain cinnamon, it seems to harmless though, and avoiding it as a food ingredient would not seem to be necessary. Enjoy it as a way to flavor your favorite, healthy foods, but don’t rely upon it as your sole means to treat a serious disease, such as diabetes.
Further Reading About Cinnamon and Diabetes
- Cinnamon – Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Sept 2009
- Effectiveness of Cinnamon for Lowering Hemoglobin A1C in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized, Controlled Trial – American Board of Family Medicine, May 2009
- Cinnamon: Should It Be Taken as a Diabetes Medication? – Diabetes Health, Dec 2008
- Effect of Cinnamon on Glucose and Lipid Levels in Non–Insulin-Dependent Type 2 Diabetes – Diabetes Care, June 2007
- Can cinnamon lower blood sugar? – Mayo Clinic, Sept 2008
- Cinnamon to control diabetes? – Consumer Reports, Aug 2008
- Determining Therapeutic Effects of Cinnamon Proves Elusive – dLife, Aug 2007
- Cinnamon, Cloves Improve Insulin Function – Experimental Biology, 2006
- Cinnamon, Glucose Tolerance and Diabetes – USDA, Aug 2005