A Sweet Cure From the Kitchen

Throughout history, people have used herbs, spices, and other non-drug remedies to prevent and treat a variety of health concerns. Let’s take a closer look at one of my favorite “kitchen cures.”

Mentioned in Chinese texts dating back to 2700 BC, cinnamon has made appearances in the Bible, graced the tables of ancient Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians, and been deemed at one time a gift fit for a king. Today, cinnamon’s medicinal benefits, as well as its culinary uses, keep it in high esteem—and for good reason.

This spice improves insulin sensitivity and has profound effects on blood sugar. German researchers gave patients with type 2 diabetes who were on oral drugs either an aqueous extract of cinnamon (the equivalent of 3 g of cinnamon powder) or a placebo daily. After four months, the group taking cinnamon experienced a 10.3 percent reduction in blood sugar, compared to the placebo group’s drop of 3.4 percent. This effect was even more pronounced in an earlier study, in which blood sugar levels fell 18 to 29 percent with doses of 1 to 3 g of cinnamon per day.

A recent study confirms that cinnamon also lowers blood pressure, a benefit I’ve been hearing about for some time from my patients and readers. Marsha, a Health & Healing subscriber from Memphis, reported that taking a cinnamon extract and drinking cinnamon tea lowered her blood pressure from 215/110 to an average of 125–135/60–70! In addition, it has been shown to drive down triglycerides 23 to 30 percent and LDL cholesterol 7 to 27 percent over a 40-day period.

Cinnamon’s other purported benefits range from curing the common cold and relieving arthritis to improving memory and warding off insects. Although I’m not certain these claims will pan out, the wide-ranging benefits of this spice make it a worthy addition.

But don’t just add ground cinnamon to your food. Research suggests that chemicals in saliva render it ineffective. Furthermore, whole cinnamon contains some undesirable compounds that are eliminated when it is mixed in hot water. Therefore, I recommend taking a water-soluble cinnamon extract, drinking cinnamon tea, or adding cinnamon to ground coffee before brewing. The suggested dose is a quarter to a half teaspoon twice a day.

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