May 2019

Does cinnamon have a role in diabetes care?

Not in place of standard diabetes medications. This might be an important point to emphasize to patients as insulin prices continue to rise.

Cassia cinnamon, also known as Chinese cinnamon, started getting a lot of attention back in 2004 when a small study showed that taking it could lower fasting blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. Since then, many different studies have yielded mixed results. An analysis of the research overall shows that taking about 1 gram of cassia cinnamon daily for 4-18 weeks modestly lowers fasting blood sugar and reduces cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes. However, cassia cinnamon has not shown an effect on HbA1c, the gold standard long-term measure of blood glucose control. For more information on this analysis and its potential limitations, check out our monograph.

Overall, despite some evidence of benefit, it’s still too soon to recommend cassia cinnamon for patients with type 2 diabetes. However, if a patient with diabetes wants to take cinnamon, make sure they understand a few key points.

  1. There are many different types of cinnamon. In the US, Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) is another common type of cinnamon used as a spice in foods. But unlike cassia cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon does not seem to lower blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes.
  2. Taking large amounts of cassia cinnamon might not be safe for some people. It contains chemicals that have been linked to liver damage when taken in very high doses. In most cases, you would need to take well above 6 grams to cause liver damage, but people with existing liver disease or sensitivity should be cautious.
  3. Overall, most studies evaluating cassia cinnamon have been small and looked at different dosage forms, making it difficult to apply findings to a clinical setting. Until we know more, tell patients not to rely on cassia cinnamon to treat diabetes, and not to use it to replace insulin or other prescribed treatments.

For more details on counseling diabetes patients on natural medicines, check out our CE/CME course.

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2024 NatMed. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. NatMed is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.