Cinnamon is very important for a lot of dishes. In addition to its unique taste, it may have other beneficial properties for humans. For example, studies suggest that cinnamon has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-cancer potential, and may also boost the immune system.
Cinnamon for Memory or Learning Disabilities
Cinnamon, the well-known aromatic spice that many of us use to bake cakes and cook savory dishes, is derived from the inner bark of cinnamon trees. These are evergreen trees found in the Himalayas and other mountainous areas, as well as rainforests and other forests in southern China, India, and Southeast Asia. Some work also showed that its bioactive compounds could boost brain function, specifically memory and learning. However, the validity of these results has yet to be established with certainty.
A team of researchers from Birjand University of Medical Sciences in Iran recently reviewed several previous studies examining cinnamon’s effects on cognitive function. Their analysis, published in Nutritional Neuroscience, highlights cinnamon’s potential value in preventing or reducing memory or learning disabilities. The study aimed to systematically review studies on the relationship between cinnamon and its key components in memory and learning. Forty studies met these criteria and were included in this systematic review.
Cinnamon Helps to Prevent and Reduce Cognitive Dysfunction
Researchers reviewed hundreds of studies stored in multiple online research databases, including PubMed, Scopus, Google Scholar and Web of Science. They then narrowed their analysis to 40 of those studies, those most relevant to their area of interest. Of these 40 studies, 33 were conducted in vivo (i.e. examining real living organisms such as humans, rodents or other animals). Five of these were conducted in vitro (i.e. outside of living organisms, for example by analyzing cells or post-mortem tissue) and two were clinical studies (i.e. involving medical patients).
Researchers extracted data relevant to all of these studies, including their author, year of publication, compound used or type of cinnamon used, study population and sample size, doses of cinnamon or its bioactive components used, sex and age of the subjects participants, the duration and method of consumption and the results obtained. They then assessed the quality and reliability of the studies, taking into account their design, sample size, inclusion criteria, and other methodological aspects.
Finally, they analyzed and compared the results of the 40 relevant articles they selected. Overall, most of the studies they examined suggested that cinnamon could positively affect both memory and cognitive function. Most studies reported that cinnamon could be useful to prevent and reduce cognitive dysfunction. According to the researchers, it can be used as an adjuvant in the treatment of related diseases. However, more studies need to be done.
Overall, the systematic review suggests that cinnamon and some of its active components may have beneficial effects on human brain function by promoting memory and learning. In the future, this review could inspire other research teams to further investigate cinnamon’s effects on the brain, potentially promoting its use to help preserve brain function and slow down cognitive decline.
Cinnamon and Parkinson’s
Some studies suggest that cinnamon may also help against Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is a slowly progressive disease that affects a small area of cells in the midbrain known as the substantia nigra. The gradual degeneration of these cells leads to a reduction in a vital chemical neurotransmitter, dopamine. The decrease in dopamine leads to one or more of the classic signs of Parkinson’s disease, including: resting tremor on one side of the body; general slowness of movement; stiffness of the limbs; and gait or balance disorders. The cause of the disease is unknown. Both environmental and genetic causes of the disease have been postulated. Although 15 percent of patients are diagnosed before the age of 50, it is generally considered a disease that targets older adults, affecting one in 100 people over the age of 60. This disease appears to be slightly more common in men than women.
Cinnamon is metabolized in the liver to sodium benzoate, a drug used to treat hepatic disorders associated with hyperammonemia. Due to its microbiocidal effect, it is also widely used as a food preservative. Chinese cinnamon (Cinnamonum cassia) and original Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamonum verum) are two main types of cinnamon. Although both types of cinnamon are metabolized to sodium benzoate, the researchers found through mass spectrometric analysis that Ceylon cinnamon is much purer than Chinese cinnamon because the latter contains coumarin, a hepatotoxic molecule.
Understanding how the disease works is important to design effective drugs that protect the brain and stop Parkinson’s disease from progressing. The researchers note that some important proteins, such as Parkin and DJ-1, decrease in the brains of Parkinson’s patients. The study found that after oral feeding in rodents, ground cinnamon is metabolized to sodium benzoate, which then enters the brain, halts the loss of Parkin and DJ-1, protects neurons, normalizes neurotransmitter levels, and improves motor function in mice with Parkinson’s disease. However, further research is needed to determine whether these results can be extrapolated to humans.