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Cinnamon: The New Dopamine Booster

History

cinnamon-pack-350x350Cinnamon is the name given to the bark found on the cinnamon tree. People dry it and roll it into a quill, shape in which they further preserve it. It is available either in this form as cinnamon sticks or as a powder. Every type of cinnamon sold on the market comes from the same plants family, Lauraceae. This family contains around 2,000-2,500 species of cinnamon. Avocado and bay leaves are directly related to cinnamon, belonging to the same family of plants. [1]

In fact, cinnamon is one of oldest spices people know about. The Bible mentions it and there are indications that ancient Egyptians were using it often in embalming processes, medicines and flavoring their beverages. It even had a value greater than the one gold had. Chinese people also appreciated it a lot, since there is a mention of it in a medicine ancient book in the third century B.C.

Sources

The bark of the tree contains two main elements called cinnamaldehyde and proanthocyanidins. Cinnamaldehyde is a phenolic compound that has anti-inflammatory effects. Ground cinnamon is one of the substances with the most tannins in the entire world. Tannins are substances that help in strengthening tissues in the body and fighting off parasites. These two primary antioxidants contained in the powder have an indisputable effect on the overall health.

Cinnamon exists in two varieties, Ceylon and Cassia. The Ceylon variety has a lighter brown color, while Chinese cinnamon is always dark brown. Both have the same effect of turning into benzoate when reaching the liver and thus boosting BDNF. The Ceylon sort is one of the leading medicines used in Ayurveda, for instance. Meanwhile, Cinnamon Cassia is high in coumarin (a phytochemical), which means it is not recommended together with substances that make the blood thinner. As such, for higher doses Ceylon cinnamon is better. The studies that have shown these results worked with average doses of 250 mg a day.

Storage

Many people do not know how to store it properly and this might lead to losing its benefits. When ground, cinnamon can last for six months, more or less. Meanwhile, cinnamon sticks remain fresh around a year, but heir shelf life increases in the refrigerator. The best storage is a sealed container and a cool place. A good indicator of cinnamon’s freshness is the smell: if it smells sweet, it means that it is still fresh. Any other smell indicates that the cinnamon is not okay anymore and its place is in the bin. [2]

How Does it Work?

cinnamon-drink-660x381Cinnamon is transformed into a substance called benzoate inside the liver. Benzoate has a direct link to the production of BDNF (an abbreviation for brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a protein related to the neurons development), it reduces the glial cell activation and it boosts the neurotransmission brain systems. Moreover, a significant benefit is the fact that helps the dopamine receptors and it regenerates the nerves that are responsible for carrying dopamine.

Besides, whole cinnamon is not toxic and it quickly enters the chemistry working in the brain. Since this spice quickly accesses the brain and is not toxic, researchers further investigate how it supports brain functions in a healthy manner.

Due to all its beneficial features, cinnamon is in the top 3 most antioxidant substances. It follows cloves in this top, but it leads in front of turmeric, ginger, oregano, savory or thyme. All these spices are extremely beneficial and are essential for a healthy lifestyle and diet. Many people attest to their positive effects and there are lots of testimonials about the long-term benefits of including them in the daily diet, which makes it one of the most popular supplements and spices today.

Dosage

However, it is important to know how much cinnamon a person should take. Since this substance is not a treatment as such and there is no proof as to its effects, nobody can prescribe a particular dose. Some say that 2-4 grams a day is the ideal dose, which translates to half of or a full teaspoon. Other studies used somewhere between 1 and 6 grams. The dosage is imperative because a quantity too large can be toxic. [3]

Ways of Administering Cinnamon

Cinnamon can be administered in various ways. Drugstores and health food stores currently sell cinnamon capsules. They are recommended along with daily supplements, minerals and vitamins, prescribed or not. Fruits and vegetables are a great company for cinnamon so that you can sprinkle it over desserts and snacks. Another way of consuming cinnamon is to add it to a cup of coffee or tea. Half a teaspoon added to the morning beverage boosts the energy for the entire day and fights fatigue. Many stores sell soy candles with a cinnamon scent. The smell has a consistent effect on the dopamine levels and also boosts your energy and your mood. Desserts are also a good way of consuming cinnamon. Studies have shown that adding cinnamon to cookies, cakes and/or muffins might help in losing weight. Though it is not a sure recipe for losing weight, cinnamon represents a different manner of processing sugar in the body. [4]

Benefits

cinnamon-health-benefits-live-350x350Recently, cinnamon has been rediscovered as a medicine for regulating blood sugar. Through this and not only, but it also helps in boosting cognitive function and brain health. According to some studies, whole cinnamon has a beneficial effect on lipids, insulin and blood sugar. Besides, it also promotes activity in antioxidants and accelerates various processes in the brain, such as one of decomposing tau proteins, which are dangerous for the human body.

A study developed in rats has shown that this spice has positive effects on cognition and reduces the process of oxidation that takes place in the brain. As such, cognitive impairment reverses, which is beneficial for curing some diseases. Moreover, it helps Parkinson’s sufferers. Another study which was conducted on mice revealed that cinnamon offers protection for the systems in charge of producing dopamine and thus it improves functions in the motor system, which further helps the fight against Parkinson’s.

What happens in fact in the case of Parkinson’s disease is the fact that some important cells in the brain (called substantia nigra) deteriorate over time and thus they decrease the amount of dopamine transmitted to the brain. This further has effects on the motor functions, which results in tremor or stiffness of the limbs, slow movements, balance problems and other such issues. Though the exact cause of the disease is not known, both genetic and environmental factors can influence its evolution. Many studies have shown that because cinnamon boosts dopamine, it can repair the damaged connections inside the brain and alleviate the suffering of the patients. [5]

Blood sugar regulating capacities also help in treating Type 2 diabetes. Many patients consumed cinnamon to gain control over the variations that occurred in their blood sugar levels. For this purpose, Ceylon cinnamon seems to be a popular choice due to the Coumarin in low concentrations found in it. Meanwhile, Cassia Cinnamon has high levels of Coumarin, and this might be potentially dangerous, especially for suffering patients, since it can damage the liver in high doses.

cinnamon-blueberries-heallthy-meal-350x438Many people also claim that cinnamon helped them in losing weight. Cinnamon focuses on a chemical in the brain that has an active role in producing cholesterol and glucose, consequently decreasing the necessary food intake and causing the person who takes it to lose weight.  The scent of cinnamon boosts memory when it comes to tasks. Smelling cinnamon will activate the part of the brain that uses memory when carrying tasks and thus improves the brain functioning. Last but not least, this wonder spice produces manganese, which is an important antioxidant for body health and brain functioning. Just two teaspoons offer half of the necessary daily dose.

Cinnamon does not benefit people only in boosting dopamine. It has lots of other advantages too. It is also a warming agent, so it is of great use in oils. Massages using a cinnamon oil have substantial benefits for health and relaxation. Such a massage helps in soothing muscles in conditions of tiredness and ache. Many people also add essential oil combined with cinnamon to their bath, also enjoying the smell, which, as mentioned above, improves memory and attention.

Cinnamon also has an antibacterial effect. This can be used either internally or externally. Ingesting cinnamon in one way or another can help the stomach by killing any damaging bacteria living there. Externally, soaking the feet in cinnamon oil can treat toenail fungus, for instance, with extremely fast results. Moreover, it is effective in repelling insects and bugs around the house. The oil is useful also in keeping mosquitoes at bay. An unexpected advantage of this characteristic of cinnamon is the fact that it is useful as an odor neutralizer. Bark oil and cinnamon leaf oil kill bacteria living in the air (and not only) that causes unpleasant smells in the house. Only by filling a diffuser with cinnamon bark oil and water will prove to be effective in changing the smell around the house and inside the car. In fact, oil sprays are better than any chemical ones sold on the market, plus they are healthier.

However, it is important to know that essential Ceylon cinnamon oil in its pure state is dangerous. It is dermo caustic, which means it cannot come in direct contact with mucous membranes or the skin since it will cause severe burns. Ideally, it is mixed with water or even other weaker essential oils before applied on the body.

Because of its dopamine boosting effects, cinnamon is an excellent weapon against depression. Besides the mood above boosting qualities, this substance’s smell helps reducing irritability and to calm down. Reducing irritability is another advantage of consuming cinnamon, but there might be two reasons for this: either the increased dopamine levels in the brain, which offer an excellent overall state or removing bacteria found in the stomach and gut, which often cause irritability and bad moods.

Cinnamon is also famous for being an aphrodisiac. By boosting energy and moods, it offers energy and vitality, which further translates into its aphrodisiac capacities. Some people even use it as a medicine for treating impotence or sexual fatigue in men. Combined with a boost in vitality, it contributes to a better sexual life.

Side Effects

cinnamon-350x350Even with all the benefits and advantages cinnamon has, there still are some side effects and contraindications. Though cinnamon is not dangerous within the recommended limits, essential oil becomes toxic in high doses or upon continuous use for an extended period. As mentioned before, it is dermo caustic, which means that it burns any mucous tissue and skin it comes in direct contact with. Consequently, specialists recommend using it sparingly and mixing it with weaker essential oils and/or water. If a person takes too much essential oil, they might feel nauseous or experience a headache. In extremely high doses, it causes palpitations, especially in combination with coffee or black tea. Young children and pregnant or breastfeeding women should not consume cinnamon, mainly because there is no evidence regarding its safety.

In rare cases of heavy use, cinnamon can cause sores on the mouth and lips and even trigger an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive. Cassia cinnamon may cause liver issues and can be toxic if ingested in large quantities. Any diabetes treatment requires adjusting when administered along with cinnamon supplements due to its effect on lowering blood sugar. [6]

Some people believe this spice interacts with heart medication, blood thinners, and even antibiotics. For this reason, it is a good idea to consult a doctor before taking cinnamon supplements or using essential oil.

Combining Cinnamon and Other Plants

Cinnamon can be combined with other beneficial plants and spices too. For instance, consumption together with turmeric and ginger is advised, since it helps in fighting cancer, vomiting, nausea and in improving digestion. In combination with other tonic plans, such as Tribulus and Maca, it works as an aphrodisiac and it boosts endurance, energy, and vitality. Other plants that work better together with cinnamon are:

  • Ginseng
  • Royal Jelly
  • Rhodiola
  • Propolis
  • Cloves
  • Echinacea
  • Thyme or garlic

All these plants help cinnamon and strengthen the positive effects it has on people’s health.

Sources   [ + ]

1, 2. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?dbid=68&tname=foodspice
3, 6. http://www.webmd.com/diet/supplement-guide-cinnamon
4. http://www.discoveryhealthjournal.com/2011/08/use-cinnamon-to-fight-fatigue.html
5. https://www.rush.edu/news/press-releases/cinnamon-may-help-halt-parkinsons-disease-progression

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