Can Cinnamon Ease Diabetes Symptoms?

Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT on August 15, 2016Written by Erica Roth

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disorder in which your blood sugar, or glucose, is too high. If your blood sugar stays high for long periods, it could be harmful to your health. Possible complications of diabetes include an increased risk of:

  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • kidney disease
  • nerve damage

Diet, regular exercise, and medications can ease diabetes symptoms and help you control your blood sugar. Some people also add alternative treatments to their treatment plan. Cinnamon is one alternative treatment that has been explored for diabetes. Check with your doctor before you begin taking any type of dietary supplement.

Cinnamon in alternative medicine

Cinnamon is used widely in cooking, but you can also find it in some people’s medicine cabinets. The spice has been used in traditional medicine for centuries, especially in China, India, and Southeast Asia. Scientific evidence doesn’t always back up the use of cinnamon for medical conditions, but people have used it to treat bronchitis, stomach problems, and diabetes.

Using cinnamon to control diabetes symptoms has been studied in recent years. The results vary, but the possibility of using cinnamon as a natural treatment for diabetes is exciting for both researchers and people with the condition.

What the research says about cinnamon and diabetes

Researchers have studied the effect of cinnamon bark on blood sugar in animals, but they haven’t studied it widely in people.

A few studies published in the Annals of Family Medicine and Diabetes Care show that people with type 2 diabetes may benefit from cinnamon. Blood tests show that some people had better control of their sugar levels when they took cinnamon supplements along with their normal treatments. In some cases, cholesterol levels were lower, too.

Although cinnamon seems like it may help people with type 2 diabetes, it’s hard to know if the spice can work for everyone. This is because study samples were small and not always well-organized. In the existing studies, research was only collected for a few months.

How to take cinnamon for diabetes

Several types of cinnamon were studied to observe their effect on blood sugar levels. According to research published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, cassia cinnamon was shown to work the best. Cassia cinnamon is also sometimes called Chinese cinnamon.

Cassia cinnamon is available as a pill that you can buy at pharmacies and natural food stores. Your doctor can recommend how much cinnamon you should take. Dosages can vary from 1 to 2 grams per day. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports that most people can safely take up to 6 grams of cinnamon per day for up to six weeks without having major side effects.

You can also use ground cinnamon in cooking and baking. But it’s not likely that you’ll get enough of the spice to make a significant difference in your blood sugar levels. You should never ingest cinnamon powder that isn’t in a capsule or mixed into food. Even a teaspoon of cinnamon can coat the throat, causing gagging, irritation, and aspiration pneumonia. Aspiration pneumonia occurs when you inhale foreign particles into your lungs.

Side effects and risks

Most people with diabetes are able to take cinnamon supplements with no problems or side effects. But cassia cinnamon contains a compound called coumarin, which prevents your blood from clotting. If you’re taking a blood-thinning medication, taking cinnamon may not be an option for you. You may have a higher-than-normal risk of bleeding, which can be dangerous.

Let your doctor know if you show signs of an allergic reaction, including:

  • swelling of the face or lips
  • tightness in the chest
  • trouble swallowing
  • trouble breathing

Long-term diabetes management

Some of the research on cinnamon and diabetes is promising, while other studies are conflicting. Overall, however, there hasn’t been enough research on the long-term effects of the supplement. Cinnamon’s effectiveness as a treatment remains to be seen.

People typically use dietary supplements to enhance traditional treatment plans, not replace them. Cinnamon isn’t meant to be a substitute for following a healthy diet, getting enough exercise, or taking insulin to manage your diabetes.

But if the risks of using cinnamon are low and your doctor says it’s OK, taking cinnamon supplements may be worth a try.

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