Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner bark of either the Cinnamomum cassia tree, which is native to southern Asia or the Cinnamomum verum tree, native to Sri Lanka. It has been enjoyed by mankind for thousands of years, and was used by the ancient Egyptians during their ritual embalming processes.
Cinnamon contains coumarin, a blood thinning compound, which also works to suppress appetite. Since ancient times, cinnamon has been used as a herbal remedy to lower blood sugar and to treat muscle spasms and erectile dysfunction.
Most of cinnamon's healthy properties are associated with cinnamaldehyde, the compound which gives cinnamon its distinctive smell and flavour. Cinnamon is also rich in antioxidants, many of which have anti-inflammatory effects in the body.
Cinnamon is known to help lower LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, and it has also been shown to significantly reduce insulin resistance. Studies have also found that cinnamon reduces the amount of glucose entering the bloodstream following a meal, helping to even out blood sugar levels; it may therefore be a helpful supplement for diabetics.
There may be neuro-protective benefits to this spice too – studies have shown that compounds in cinnamon can inhibit the build-up of tau in the brain; tau being a protein which is linked to Alzheimer's and other degenerative brain diseases.