Does Cinnamon Lower Blood Pressure?

Does cinnamon lower blood pressure

Does cinnamon lower blood pressure? We’re all for natural ways to lower blood pressure. However, if you have a very high blood pressure, your blood pressure probably won’t be reduced enough by diet and natural remedies to allow you to get off of blood pressure.

Where diet and lifestyle habits have the greatest impact is if you have have mild or borderline high blood pressure. If that’s the case, you can sometimes lower your blood pressure enough without medications to reduce your risk for health problems.

Plus, if you have a strong family history of high blood pressure, you may be able to delay the onset of hypertension through natural means.

One question we’re addressing in this article is whether cinnamon lowers blood pressure, but we’ll also briefly mention other foods that may be helpful to you if you have borderline or mild high blood pressure.

Does Cinnamon Lower Blood Pressure?

Does the smell and taste of cinnamon bring back pleasant childhood memories? I can still remember the tantalizing aroma of cinnamon buns baking in the oven. As it turns out cinnamon has some compelling health benefits, based on small studies.

Research shows this zesty spice has anti-inflammatory benefits, helps to lower blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes, and lowers the risk of abnormal blood clotting – the kind that can lead to a stroke or heart attack. 

But there’s more. According to a 2013 study, cinnamon helps lower blood pressure too. This study pooled the results of a number of studies carried out between 2000 and 2012 to see what the studies showed as a whole.

When they compiled the results, cinnamon was linked with a substantial reduction in blood pressure – a 5.4 mm. decrease in systolic blood pressure and a 2.6 mm. decrease in diastolic blood pressure.

Heck, that degree of reduction is as much as what people get when they take one blood pressure medication. That’s a pretty exciting outcome considering cinnamon is natural.

The next question you might ask is how much cinnamon do you need to get the benefits? Based on this study, only about a half teaspoon a day.

Is Cinnamon Toxic at High Doses?

As discussed in a previous article, there’s more than one type of cinnamon. The common type you find in the grocery store is called cassia cinnamon.

The problem with cassia cinnamon is it contains an ingredient called coumarin that’s toxic to the liver if you consume enough of it and the amount linked with toxicity isn’t that high. Unfortunately, most people aren’t aware of this. 

In fact, the risk is serious enough that the European Union restricts how much coumarin-containing cinnamon bakers can use in cookies and other baked goods. If you eat an occasional cinnamon bun, you won’t take in enough coumarin to cause a problem, but if you’re if you’re eating more than 2 grams a day of Cassia cinnamon, about a half-teaspoon, EVERY day you’re at risk for side effects. That’s a little less than half a teaspoon! 

Plus, it appears that some people are more susceptible to liver damage from coumarin than others. Why take chances? If you have a history of liver disease, we strongly encourage you not to consume cassia cinnamon every day. 

A quote from the Wall Street Journal on the issue:

 

“A study published earlier this year in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry tested cinnamon commercially available in the U.S. and found “substantial amounts” of coumarin, a naturally occurring organic compound that can cause liver damage if consumed in excess. “

 

Fortunately, you have an alternative – Ceylon cinnamon. Unlike cassia cinnamon that comes from the bark of the evergreen tree, Ceylon cinnamon is harvested from a small tree that grows in Sri Lanka. If you think cassia cinnamon is a bit too potent, you’ll like the milder taste of Ceylon cinnamon.

Ceylon Cinnamon versus Cassia Cinnamon

The main reason we like Ceylon Cinnamon is it has only a tiny percentage of the coumarin that Cassia cinnamon does, so you don’t have to monitor how much you eat as closely.

According to a 2010 German study, Cassia cinnamon has 63 times the coumarin in Ceylon cinnamon. Considering you’d have to eat more than 30 teaspoons of Ceylon a cinnamon a day to exceed the safe limit, chances are you won’t be able to eat enough Ceylon cinnamon to harm your liver.

So, yes, it’s safer to sprinkle Ceylon cinnamon on your oatmeal and into your coffee as opposed to Cassia cinnamon. Still,  most of the studies looking at the health benefits of cinnamon used cassia cinnamon. Can you expect the same health benefits from Ceylon cinnamon?

The good news is Ceylon cinnamon, based on recent studies, DOES appear to lower blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes like Cassia cinnamon does. So, Ceylon cinnamon preliminarily has some of the same health benefits as Cassia cinnamon without the liver-damaging component you don’t want, coumarin.

cappuccino with cinnamon

Our advice? If you’re going to try cinnamon as a way to lower your blood pressure or blood sugar, use Ceylon cinnamon. You might also want to add Ceylon cinnamon to your diet if you have an elevated cholesterol. Cinnamon also has modest cholesterol-lowering benefits for those of you who have an elevated LDL-cholesterol.

We believe cinnamon is especially helpful for people who have type 2-diabetes. A pinch of Ceylon cinnamon with each meal may help you reduce the rise in blood sugar you get when you eat something. Put it to the test by tracking your blood sugars after a meal. 

What Science Shows

Cinnamon to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar? Yes, there’s science behind all of these, with the latter two having the most scientific support. 

Based on a study published in the journal Diabetes Care that looked at cinnamon’s effect on blood sugar and lipids, the results were pretty impressive, although participants in the study consumed between 1 and 6 grams of cinnamon daily, and you don’t want to consume more than 2 grams of Cassia cinnamon daily. Here were the reductions after 40 days of cinnamon:

  • Fasting blood sugar – drops of between 18 and 29%
  • LDL cholesterol – drops of between 7 and 27%
  • Triglycerides – drops of between 23 and 30%
  • Total cholesterol – drops of between 12 and 26%

In the placebo group who didn’t take cinnamon, there were no changes.

Ways to Add Ceylon Cinnamon to Your Diet

  • Stir a pinch into coffee or sprinkle it on top of a cappuccino
  • Add it to hot cereal in the morning
  • Heat up your favorite dairy milk or milk alternative and stir in Ceylon cinnamon. For a delicious bedtime drink, add a little vanilla extract and a natural sweetener like Stevia.
  • Add a pinch of Ceylon cinnamon to smoothies.
  • Sprinkle on sweet potatoes.
  • When you eat dessert, sprinkle cinnamon on top to lower your blood sugar response.

One unconventional way to eat Ceylon cinnamon that I enjoy is dipping apple slices into Ceylon cinnamon mixed with a touch of Stevia. Cinnamon and apples go together perfectly, at least in my opinion.

Other Possible Health Benefits of Cinnamon

Cinnamon appears to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and one ingredient in cinnamon called cinnamaldehyde even blocks the growth of some fungi and bacteria.

While we don’t think cinnamon will replace antibiotics anytime soon, it shows how something natural has powers we might not have expected.

In fact, scientists recently discovered a way to package cinnamon and peppermint into capsules that can be used as a topical treatment to prevent wound infections.

Some preliminary research even suggests compounds in cinnamon can slow degenerative brain changes associated with diseases like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. This is exciting but hard to place a lot of stock in at this point since studies are so limited.

It’s still fascinating to think that a spice most of us have enjoyed at some time in our lives could have unforeseen health benefits. Is that an excuse to eat another cinnamon bun? Probably better to get your cinnamon in a healthier manner.

The Bottom Line

Does cinnamon lower blood pressure? Preliminarily, it looks like it has benefits if you have borderline or mild high blood pressure. If you’re diabetic or pre-diabetic, a pinch of cinnamon with each meal may help tame the rise in blood sugar you get after a meal.

If you use cassia cinnamon, limit the amount you use to no more than a half teaspoon. For Ceylon cinnamon, you can be more liberal.

What we would discourage you from doing is taking one of the many cinnamon supplements available in capsule form. In most cases, they don’t tell you whether the product is made with cassia or Ceylon cinnamon, and most manufacturers will choose cassia cinnamon since it’s less expensive and more readily available.

In a future article, we’ll talk about other dietary approaches to lowering blood pressure. Some that hold promise, based on small studies, include dark chocolate, pomegranate juice, beetroot juice, hibiscus tea, garlic, and onion juice.

Just to let you know, if you’re taking prescription medications, particularly statins, don’t drink pomegranate juice. It can reduce your liver’s ability to break some medications down, leading to higher than normal blood levels of the drug. Grapefruit juice and do the same thing.

We’ll talk more about these other potential blood pressure-lowering foods in the future. Hope this inspires you to smarter dietary choices, and, hopefully, stay off of medications. 

References:

MedLine Plus. “Cassia Cinnamon”
Nutrition. 2013 Oct;29(10):1192-6. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2013.03.007. Epub 2013 Jul 16.
The People’s Pharmacy. “Cinnamon Offers Health Benefits but Also Carries Serious Risks”
Wall Street Journal. “Little Bit of Spice for Health, but Which One?”
Diabetes Care December 2003 vol. 26 no. 12 3215-3218.
Medical News Today. “Cinnamon: Health Benefits, Nutritional Information”
Diabetes Obes Metab. 2009 Dec;11(12):1100-13. doi: 10.1111/j.1463-1326.2009.01094.x.
Allergy. 1995 Dec;50(12):995-9.
Am J Chin Med. 2006;34(3):511-22.

 

Kristie Leong M.D.

Dr. Kristie Leong and Dr. Apollo Leong are physicians helping you to lead a healthy lifestyle by sharing nutrition and fitness tips and keeping you abreast of the latest health news.

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