All the Health Benefits of Cinnamon (and How to Eat More of It)

The warm, delicious spice contains a plethora of health benefits. Here's why you might want to add a dash to every dish.

Your first taste of cinnamon might have come from a slice of cinnamon-sugar toast or a bowl of cereal named after that very breakfast food. The nostalgia factor can be strong with this spice, but the benefits of cinnamon go way further than that. Here are all the potent health benefits of cinnamon, plus how to get them by adding cinnamon to your favorite foods and drinks.

What Is Cinnamon?

Cinnamon is a truly ancient spice, dating back to about 2800 BCE in China. It has historically been used for medicinal purposes, anointing, and even embalming (yes, really), according to a study from the journal Pharmacognosy Research. And ICYDK, cinnamon is actually the dried bark of the Cinnamomum verum plant. That's right: Cinnamon sticks are bark.

But cinnamon wasn't always a household spice as it is today — and, hate to break it to you, but the history of the spice isn't as warm and lovely as your favorite feel-good cinnamon-spiced dishes taste. Cinnamon has historically been expensive and highly sought after, and so cinnamon-fueled greed was a motivator for colonialism, as noted in the Pharmacognosy Research article. (It was actually the motivating force behind Christopher Columbus' colonialist invasion of the Americas.) In the 15th century, colonial expeditions led to the discovery of the spice's native roots in Sri Lanka, which motivated countries to exert dominance over the country, which would give them control of the world trade of cinnamon for centuries to come. So, a troubled history to say the least.

Cinnamon Nutrition Facts

A teaspoon of ground cinnamon packs a big punch of your daily recommended dose of manganese, a mineral that activates key enzymes throughout your body. As Shape previously reported, manganese helps break down the sugars and starches you eat and aids in the body's processing of cholesterol, carbohydrates, and protein, per the National Institutes of Health.

Cinnamon also contains active polyphenols (plant compounds that your gut transforms into antioxidants) similar to those found in tea, says Richard A. Anderson, Ph.D., C.N.S., M.A.C.N., a scientist who researches the spice. "Components of cinnamon function as insulin potentiating, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory agents," he says.

Here's the nutritional profile for a 1-teaspoon (2.6 grams) serving of cinnamon, per the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):

  • 6 calories
  • <1 gram protein
  • 0 grams fat
  • 2 grams carbohydrate
  • 1 gram fiber
  • 0 grams sugar

Health Benefits of Cinnamon

Now that you have the basics on cinnamon, it's time to learn about its health benefits. Here's more of what cinnamon can do for you:

Reduces Blood Sugar

This is one of cinnamon's most well-known benefits. In people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, a daily dose of cinnamon can significantly reduce fasting blood sugar and insulin resistance, according to a study review published in Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice. Healthy adults might also benefit from cinnamon's blood-sugar-regulating effects, suggests research published in the International Journal of Food Science. People who consumed about 5 teaspoons of cinnamon per day improved their pre-meal blood sugar levels, while people who ate between one and five teaspoons improved their post-meal blood sugar levels. (FYI: Keeping blood sugar under control can reduce the risk of more serious health troubles such as vision loss and kidney disease.)

Boosts Cognition

The spice might also provide cognitive improvements; research published in Nutrition Research found that people with high blood sugar who consumed cinnamon had better working memory (a measure of short-term thinking ability) than those who didn't. And who couldn't benefit from faster recall?

Protects Your Heart

Cinnamon could help you mount a defense against two things that harm your heart: high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In a study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, healthy adults who added cinnamon to their diets every day for three months experienced, on average, a 7-point drop in systolic blood pressure, a 5-point drop in diastolic blood pressure, and a 23-point drop in LDL ("bad") cholesterol, which helps to reduce your risk of heart disease.

Eases Period Cramps

If you menstruate, listen up: Cinnamon might make your period less torturous (!!!). In a study in the Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research, a small amount of cinnamon — less than a quarter teaspoon — worked better than a placebo for relieving menstrual cramps.

Improves Metabolism In Those with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Insulin resistance (an inability to respond to the blood sugar–regulating hormone insulin) is a problem for many folks with PCOS and can exacerbate symptoms such as unwanted hair growth and weight gain. Fortunately, cinnamon might help, according to a study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research. People with PCOS who consumed about 1.5 teaspoons of cinnamon per day for 12 weeks reduced their fasting insulin and other markers of insulin resistance. A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology also suggests that cinnamon could help people with PCOS regulate their periods.

Soothes Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Cinnamon can mitigate joint inflammation, swelling, and pain in women with rheumatoid arthritis, according to a study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Those who consumed four capsules of 500 milligrams of cinnamon powder — which comes out to just under 2 teaspoons — daily for eight weeks had decreased levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker, compared to those who popped placebos. They also had decreased symptoms, swelling, and fewer swollen and tender joints.

Potential Risks of Cinnamon

In adequate levels, dashing cinnamon into your food and drink shouldn't be the source of any health concerns. However, don't try to eat it by the spoonful — looking at you, cinnamon challenges of yore — as this can be dangerous. An article from the journal Pediatrics notes that ingesting a large amount of dry cinnamon (a serving, for example) can cause lung inflammation, which could lead to an increased risk of scarring the airways. You could also experience an allergic reaction or asthma attack as a result of spooning cinnamon by itself.

Too much cinnamon can also be damaging to the liver, especially if you already have liver disease. This is because cinnamon contains a chemical compound called coumarin, which can cause liver toxicity in large amounts.

Also, be cautious with your portions if you're taking medications for blood sugar such as diabetes medicine, as the spice can increase their efficacy — which, in addition to the blood sugar–reducing effect of cinnamon, can cause your levels to drop too low. You may exhibit symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, anxiety, or shakiness if this is the case.

Cinnamon can cause a slight allergic reaction in some individuals as well, with symptoms presenting as allergic contact dermatitis (aka a rash on the skin that touched the cinnamon). The spice is also high in histamines and salicylates, so limit your intake if you have an intolerance to either.

How to Buy and Eat Cinnamon

You can find cinnamon in the spice aisle of your go-to grocery store, where you'll find both ground cinnamon and cinnamon sticks. You can also easily find products throughout basically every aisle that uses cinnamon as a flavorful addition (think: apple cinnamon oatmeal, cinnamony French toast sticks).

As with its numerous nutrition benefits, cinnamon is a multitasker when it comes to flavor too. "Cinnamon's versatility in both sweet and savory dishes makes it one of the most well-loved and commonly used spices," says Holley Grainger, M.S., R.D., a dietitian based in Alabama.

Need ideas? Try using cinnamon to enhance the following dishes:

In your morning beverage. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon to your morning lemon water or tea, suggests Grainger. For more cinnamon flavor, try cinnamon coffee or a yummy banana smoothie with an added dash.

To enhance the flavor of your favorite snacks. Bored by your current snack rotation? Add a sprinkle of cinnamon to some plain popped popcorn or spoon it over cereal or cottage cheese to boost flavor without added sugar, suggests Grainger.

With apples. If you love a good apple pie, you know that cinnamon and apples are a mouthwatering pairing. Try making your own maple cinnamon yogurt and topping with apple slices, or just sprinkle the spice on apples (or pears!) by themselves.

As an unexpected dinner ingredient. Yes, you can even incorporate cinnamon into your dinner. "For savory cooking, simmer a whole cinnamon stick in a braised meat dish or beef bolognaise to intensify the flavor," recommends Grainger. "Add depth to a curry or marinade with fragrant ground cinnamon," she continues. Yum, yum, and yum!

To season nuts. You can also add cinnamon to roasted nuts — try the almond recipe below.

Cinnamon-Roasted Nuts


  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups raw almonds


  1. Combine cinnamon, chili powder, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Stir in honey and oil, then add nuts and toss to coat.
  3. Bake on parchment paper or foil-lined cookie sheet at 350°F for 15–20 minutes, stirring once.
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