Latin name: Cinnamomum verum
Pharmacopoeial name Cinnamiomi ceylanici cortex
Other names; Ceylon cinnamon, true cinnamon
About Cinnamon bark
Cinnamon is a common spice used by different cultures around the world for several centuries. It is obtained from the inner bark of trees from the genus Cinnamomum, a tropical evergreen plant. In addition to its culinary uses, in native Ayurvedic medicine Cinnamon is considered a remedy for respiratory, digestive and gynaecological ailments. Almost every part of the cinnamon tree including the bark, leaves, flowers, fruits and roots, has some medicinal or culinary use. The volatile oils obtained from the bark, leaf, and root barks vary significantly in chemical composition, which suggests varied pharmacological effects(1).
The different parts of the plant possess the same array of hydrocarbons in varying proportions, with primary constituents such as; cinnamaldehyde (bark), eugenol (leaf) and camphor (root) (2). Thus cinnamon offers an array of different oils with diverse characteristics, each of which determines its’ value to the different industries. For example the root which has camphor as the main constitute, has minimal commercial value unlike the leaf and bark (3).
Three of the main components of the essential oils obtained from the bark of cinnamon are trans-cinnamaldehyde, eugenol, and linalool, which represent 82.5% of the total composition (4). Trans-cinnamaldehyde, accounts for approximately 50-63% of the total amount of bark oil (5,6). Cinnamaldehyde and eugenol are also the major components of cinnamon extracts (7).
Over 30 different studies have evaluated the in-vitro anti-microbial properties of cinnamon. Accordingly cinnamon has shown potential anti-microbial action against a wide variety of bacteria. In addition there seems to be activity against numerous Aspergillus and candida fungi (8). Cinnamon has also demonstrated activity against the human rota-virus. Studies have evaluated in-vivo anti-microbial properties in animals (9).
Rosti, et al. reported two cases of infants who were chronic carriers of Salmonella enteritidis who received short term (10 days) administration of grounded cinnamon bark which led to consistently negative stool cultures and no clinical or microbiological relapses (10,11).
Activity of cinnamon against fluconazole resistant and susceptible candida were studied in HIV infected patients having pseudo-membranous Candida, where 3 patients out of 5 showed improvements in their oral candidiasis (12). The effects of sugared chewing gum containing cinnamic aldehyde and natural flavours from cinnamon on the short-term germ-killing effect on total and H2S-producing salivary anaerobes was investigated by Zhu, et al (13). Significant reductions in total salivary anaerobes and H2S-producing salivary anaerobes were observed 20 minutes after subjects chewed the gum.
Yang, et al. showed that cinnamon bark essential oil was slightly less effective than either d-phenothrin or pyrethrum against eggs and adult females of human head louse, Pediculus humanus capitis, using direct contact and vapour phase toxicity bioassays (14).
Blood Pressure, Glycaemic and Lipid Control
A recent meta-analysis by Ranasinghe, et al. and a systematic review by Bandara et al., on the effects of cinnamon extracts on diabetes demonstrates numerous beneficial effects both in-vitro and in-vivo (15,16). In-vitro cinnamon has demonstrated a potential for; a) reducing post-prandial intestinal glucose absorption by inhibiting the activity of enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism (pancreatic α–amylase and α–glucosidase), b) stimulating cellular glucose uptake by membrane translocation of GLUT-4, c) stimulating glucose metabolism and glycogen synthesis, d) inhibiting gluconeogenesis by effects on key regulatory enzymes and f ) stimulating insulin release and potentiating insulin receptor activity. Cinnamtannin B1 was identified as the potential active compound responsible for these effects.
The beneficial effects of cinnamon In-vivo include; a) attenuation of weight loss associated with diabetes, b) reduction of Fasting Blood Glucose, c) reducing LDL and increasing HDL cholesterol, d) reducing HbA1c and e) increasing circulating insulin levels. In addition cinnamon also showed beneficial effects against diabetic neuropathy and nephropathy (16). Hasan et al. also confirmed these effects and demonstrated that cinnamon reduced total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing HDL-cholesterol (17).
Markey, et al. tested the hypothesis that supplementing a single high fructose breakfast with 3g of cinnamon would delay gastric emptying of a high-fat solid meal utilizing the 13C octanoic acid breath test, and consequently reduce postprandial blood glucose and lipid concentrations (18). They concluded that cinnamon did not change gastric emptying parameters, postprandial triacylglycerol or glucose concentrations after a single administration.
The essential oils obtained from the bark of cinnamon have shown powerful activity (19). Cinnamon bark extracts were found to be potent in free radical scavenging activity especially against DPPH radicals and ABTS radical cations, while the hydroxyl and superoxide radicals were also scavenged by the tested compounds (20). Similar findings were noted by Prakash, et al. who showed that cinnamon has a high anti-oxidant activity and strong free radical scavenging activity (21). Ranjbar, et al. treated 18 operating room personnel with cinnamon (100 mg/300 mL tea) daily for 10 days and blood samples were analysed for biomarkers of oxidative stress-biomarkers including Lipid Peroxidation Level (LPO), Total Antioxidant Power (TAP) and Total Thiol Molecules (TTM). Treatment of subjects with cinnamon induced a significant reduction in plasma LPO, however no statistically significant alteration was found for plasma TAP and TTM after 10 days treatment with cinnamon (22).
Treatment of 54 healthy volunteers with cinnamon 100 mg/30ml of tea daily were significantly effective in the reduction of lipid peroxidation and increasing TAP and TTM in comparison with controls (23). The extent of increase in plasma TBARS and TAP for the cinnamon group was significantly higher than in those give regular tea only.
An aqueous extract of cinnamon was shown to inhibit tau aggregation and filament formation, which are hallmarks of
Alzheimer’s disease (24).
Takasao, et al. demonstrated that cinnamon extracts facilitates collagen biosynthesis in human dermal fibroblasts. Cinnamon extract up-regulated both mRNA and protein expression levels of type I collagen without cytotoxicity, cinnamaldehyde was the major active component promoting the expression of collagen by HPLC and NMR analysis. This suggests that cinnamon extracts might be useful in anti-aging treatment of skin (25).
CIinnamon is known to have anti-gastric ulcer effects as shown by a study conducted by Alqasoumi (26).
Cinnamon is also known to have wound healing properties. The cinnamon extracts served to accelerate the wound healing process and specifically increased epithelialisation (27).
Allergy to cinnamon, not recommended in pregnancy
Keywords; cinnamon; blood pressure; glycaemic control; lipids; antioxidant; alzheimer’s disease; gastric ulcer; wound healing
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