Cinnamon Bark: Cinnamomum Zeylanicum Uses and Benefits
Cinnamon Bark, also known as Cinnamomum Zeylanicum, is known for its numerous uses, ranging from immune support, aromatherapy, use in cleaning/disinfecting, topical health effects, to specific health and body system support such as respiratory, digestive, and more. How do we better understand these uses and how they differ from other cinnamaldehyde containing compounds? Well one of the first things we can assess is the chemical composition and how it differs from synthetics, as well as how it differs from Cassia Essential Oil. We can not only break down its components, but also take into consideration what specific studies have been published in the literature for a good foundation of things that have been proven or at least provided proof of concept. As a side note, as with any study, the design is a crucial part, so be sure to know that the quoted studies may not compare with large scale clinical trials (ie as in pharmaceutical agents), however, even if provided in testing outside the human body, or in animal modeling studies, there still is a strong basis of fact and should allow you to still speak with confidence on the listed areas of beneficial uses.
Let’s first learn about the plant and some history: Cinnamon Bark has been used as a spice and in traditional medicine for several centuries across numerous cultures. In Ayurvedic medicine it is considered a remedy for respiratory, gynecological, and digestive ailments. The oil is obtained from the inner bark of tropical evergreen trees of the genus cinnamomum, which have varieties that produce both the Zeylanicum (CZ) and Cassia (CC) cinnamon variations. If the oil is obtained from the root skin/bark, leaves, or any other part of the plant other than the inner bark, it will have a different composition of chemical compounds. Cinnamaldehyde primarily is sourced from the bark, while eugenol is primarily found in the leaves, and camphor in the roots. So where the oil is sourced from in the plant is very important.
Chemistry: How can we distinguish Cinnamon Bark, Cinnamomum zeylanicum (CZ), from Cinnamomum Aromaticum (Cassia) (CC)? First, just from the chemical composition, the Cassia form has a much higher content of coumarins, a family of compounds known to inhibit clotting, and can possibly cause (reversible) liver damage in large quantities. This is why in Germany there are limitations on how much Cassia content may be allowed in food products, the threshold is set on a level low enough that consuming foods flavored with Cassia would not pose a risk to most people consuming typical amounts/serving sizes. Second, we can see from the chemistry that a typical CZ profile has three main components, which represent over 80% of the yield/oil content. The components are Trans-cinnamaldehyde (which is the largest/most prevalent at typically 50-60% of the total), eugenol, and linalool. From here we can see the reference ‘Trans’, referring to what in chemistry we call an enantiomer. Imagine a chemical molecule as being represented by your right and left hands, in a synthetic mixture you would get an even proportion of both the ‘right hand’ and ‘left hand’ versions, and we call that a racemic mixture, or 50:50 of each enantiomer. Now in nature, organisms, such as this cinnamon plant have very specific ways of making a molecule so that they produce only one form of it, and this is one of the ways we can tell if a cinnamon bark essential oil contains synthetic cinnamaldehyde. Additionally, the presence of any adulterants, or a chemical composition that varies a great amount from the components and percentages previously stated (ie if the essential oil in question has less than approximately 50% trans-cinnamaldehyde, then it might smell like cinnamon bark, and may even have some of the beneficial effects, but it won’t be pure cinnamon bark, and at that point you have to question what synthetics or adulterants have been added as ‘fillers’ and whether that is healthy for you to inhale, ingest, or apply topically to your body. Most of the time these chemical compounds won’t be disclosed, so that is why you want to make sure you know the quality and purity of the essential oil you are using and what company you are purchasing from, as many of these ‘filler’ compounds could have adverse effects if used on/in/near the body – especially in larger quantities. However, with purely distilled essential oil, especially one that has a GCMS data sheet to provide proof of purity and content, we can be assured that we know exactly what we are using on our bodies.
Evidence: Now that we have the very basics of the chemistry out of the way, let’s look into some of the supporting literature on what CZ can be used for, see the attached article for a meta analysis of much of the available literature:
There are numerous studies pinpointing that Cinnamon Bark has at least moderate to strong inhibitory/killing effects to some of the most common bacteria and fungi. Some examples are noted here, with some of the more notable being MRSA, C. Diff, Enterobacter, Klebsiella, Salmonella, E. Coli, and various Streptococcus species. (Please see the references in the attached study/meta-analysis for further details)
Acinetobacter baumannii, Acinetobacter lwoffii, Bacillus cereus, Bacillus coaguiaris, Bacillus subtilis, Brucella melitensis, Clostridium difficile, Clostridium perfringens, Enterobacter aerogenes, Enterobacter cloacae, Enterococcus faecalis, Enterococcus faecium, Escherichia coli, Haemophilus Influenza, Helicobacter pylori, Klebsiella pneumonia, Listeria ivanovii, Listeria monocytogenes, Mycobacterium smegmatis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Proteus mirabilis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Salmonella typhi, Salmonella typhimurium, Staphylococcus albus, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus agalactiae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Streptococcus pyogenes and Yersinia enterocolitica .
Additionally, the fungal types are noted here:
Aspergillus fiavus, Aspergillus fumigatus, Aspergillus nididans, Aspergillus niger, Aspergillus ochraceus, Aspergillus parasiticus, Aspergillus terreus, Candida albicans, Candida glabrata, Candida krusei, Candida parapsilosis, Candida tropicalis, Crytococcus neoformans, Epidermophyton floccosum, Hisioplasma capsulatum, Malassezia furfur, Microsporum audouini, Microsporum canis Microsporum gypseum, Trichophyton mentagraphytes, Trichophyton rubrum and Trichophyton tonsurans .
Several studies quoted in the provided meta-analysis show that there are likely beneficial effects on glucose metabolism. Ranasinghe, et al. and Bandara, et al., show that CZ, or cinnamon bark, can be useful for [1, 2]:
-Reducing post-prandial intestinal glucose absorption by inhibition of enzymes alpha amylase and alpha glucosidase – both are drug targets and are involved in carbohydrate metabolism
– Stimulation of cellular glucose uptake by membrane translocation of GLUT-4
-Stimulating glucose metabolism and glycogen synthesis
-Simulating insulin release and potentiation of insulin receptor activity
– In Vivo studies showed benefits such as: 1. Weight loss, 2. Reduction of Fasting Glucose, 3. Reduction in HbA1c, and 4. Increase in circulating insulin levels
(A simplified summary of all points will be included at the end of this article)
From Hasan, et al., we can see that several beneficial effects on blood lipids were seen :
-In animal studies, total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides were all reduced, while increasing HDL
– However, animals given levels of typical dietary intake in humans did not correlate to significant lipid reduction. – which may mean that supplementation with essential oils exceeding typical dietary consumption may be beneficial, though such a parameter has not been established
Hasan, et al., also noted that there were positive effects on blood pressure in animal studies :
-Hypertensive rats experienced a significant drop in blood pressure following administration of CZ
Also CZ has been noted to have positive effects in humans in several studies
There are noted antiparasitic, antioxidant, collagen formation(anti-aging of skin), and some positive neurological effects documented as well, this list is not meant to be comprehensive of every possible study or beneficial effect. This should merely provide you with a scientific reference when questioned on the basis of any benefit you may be sharing with someone.
In basic terms, what have we learned here? We know that:
- Studies have shown Cinnamon Bark is different than Cassia and synthetic cinnamon
- The chemical makeup is different (60% trans-cinnamaldehyde; ~20% eugenol/linalool)
- Studies have shown Cinnamon Bark can have antimicrobial/antibacterial/Antifungal
- CZ has proven studies showing effectiveness against common causes of bacterial and fungal infections
- Studies have shown Cinnamon Bark has shown benefit in Glucose metabolism/diabetes
- Helps increase insulin supply and response (improves blood sugar metabolism)
- Helps decrease weight gain and decrease carbohydrate intake in the intestines
- Helps improve cellular uptake of glucose
- Helps reduce the body’s release of glucose and control fasting glucose levels
- Lowers HbA1c – glycosylated hemoglobin, or red blood cells ‘marked’ with glucose molecules due to ‘prolonged exposure’ to high blood glucose levels – this is just a marker that shows that blood sugars have been uncontrolled for long periods (3+ months), lowering this marker means blood sugars are more under control/normalized
- Studies have shown Cinnamon Bark has benefits in lowering cholesterol
- Some animal studies noted a drop in Total cholesterol, LDL, triglyerides (‘bad lipids’) and increase in HDL (‘good lipids’)
- Studies have shown Cinnamon Bark has shown promise in normalizing/lowering blood pressure
- Animal studies showed a decrease in blood pressure from hypertensive to normalized
- Studies have shown Cinnamon bark has numerous other effects that have been studied on a smaller scale/show promise
- Cellular regeneration/health
- Collagen/skin health
- Neurological health
Use this list as a guide to help others be more informed, and to better relay information. As with any essential oil, please follow established usage guidelines and consult a medical professional if there are questions about possible drug interactions or dosing requirements.
- Ranasinghe P. et al. Medicinal properties of ‘true’ cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum): A systematic review. BMC Complement. Altern. Med. 13, 275 (2013).
- Bandara T, Uluwaduge I, Jansz ER. Bioactivity of cinnamon with special emphasis on diabetes mellitus: a review. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2012;63:380–386. doi: 10.3109/09637486.2011.627849.
- Hassan SA, Barthwal R, Nair MS, Haque SS. Aqueous bark extract of cinnamomum zeylanicum: a potential therapeutic agent for streptozotocin- induced type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) rats. Trop J Pharm Res. 2012;11:429–435.
This publication is intended for the explicit use of members of The Oily Doc and Dr. J Douglas Smith’s team members, no further distribution allowed without the expressed written consent of Dr. J Douglas Smith, any and all unauthorized use prohibited and will be subject to legal action by University Health Group, Inc.