In a new study, the spice shows a nice effect on RA inflammation and blood pressure.
How much cinnamon is in your daily diet? If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic inflammatory disease of the joints, sprinkling some of the spice in your morning latte might help you feel better. In a study analysis published in the September 2020 issue of Complementary Therapies in Medicine, researchers found that cinnamon supplementation reduced biomarkers for inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which occur in rheumatoid arthritis.
Another study, published May 3, 2018, in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, found that dietary cinnamon may reduce inflammation and blood pressure.
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Cinnamon: What the Data Shows
In a Chinese meta-analysis published in the September 2020 Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 12 studies looked at doses of cinnamon powder ranging from 1.5 to 4 grams (g) per day. Cinnamon supplementation resulted in:
- A significant reduction in C-reactive protein (CRP) — a blood protein that rises in the presence of inflammation — and malondialdehyde (MDA), a marker for oxidative stress
- A marginally statistically significant decrease in interleukin-6, which is produced at inflammation sites
- An increase in the total antioxidant capacity
The team’s final conclusion: “Cinnamon supplementation may be an adjuvant for reducing inflammation and oxidative stress levels in humans.”
More Evidence of Cinnamon’s Positive Effect
In the 2018 study, a randomized double-blind clinical trial, researchers at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Basic Sciences in Iran divided 36 women with RA into two groups: For eight weeks, one group received four capsules of 500 milligrams (mg) of cinnamon powder daily; the other received a placebo daily.
At the beginning, study participants were measured for:
- Fasting blood sugar
- Lipid profile
- Liver enzymes
- Serum levels of C-reactive protein (produced by your body in response to inflammation)
- Blood pressure
- Tumor necrosis factor alpha (a pro-inflammatory)
These measures were taken again at the end of the eighth week. Results: a significant decrease of serum levels of C-reactive protein, tumor necrosis factor alpha, and diastolic blood pressure in the cinnamon group compared with the placebo group. No significant changes were found for fasting blood sugar, lipid profile, or liver enzymes.
“The study group and placebo group were both very small in number, making generalizations of the outcomes less meaningful, but a trend was certainly evident,” says Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, CDCES, the author of Doctor’s Detox Diet.
Why Does Cinnamon Help Reduce RA Symptoms Such as Joint Swelling and Joint Pain?
A study published in the July 2020 issue of International Immunopharmacology discovered that cinnamaldehyde, a component of cinnamon, alleviated RA inflammation in rats by suppressing pro-inflammatory proteins.
As noted in an article published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the spice comes from the bark of various cinnamon tree species and is one of the most popular spices in the world, with a long history of use in cooking as well as medicine across many cultures.
Check With Your Physician Before Taking Cinnamon Supplements
- The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health warns about taking supplements such as cinnamon without first clearing it with your healthcare provider. Cassia cinnamon contains a chemical called coumarin, which may negatively affect your liver if taken in large doses, especially if you already have liver disease.
- Cinnamon can interfere with blood thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin).
- Cinnamon should be used as an adjunct therapy, not in place of prescribed medical care.
Which Cinnamon Supplement Brands Are Best for People With RA?
ConsumerLab.com, a company that independently tests health and nutritional products, looked at a variety of cinnamon supplement brands and reported that these two provided a clinically meaningful dose of cinnamon without risk of injury from coumarin:
Also, a study published in June 2015 in Paracognosy Research noted that, “even though very expensive, Ceylon cinnamon is preferred due to its ultra-low coumarin levels and the mild, delicate taste. According to the European Food Safety Authority, cassia cinnamon has been the cause of exposure to coumarin [that] is highly hepatotoxic and carcinogenic.”
Getting Your Cinnamon the Natural — and Tasty! — Way
“Why would anyone take cinnamon supplements and not just eat the ground bark as a spice?” asks Dr. Gerbstadt. “The two grams per day in the study group is less than I sprinkle on my toast, into my tea or yogurt, or add to sauces such as curry and others. My concern is in the quality of the supplement and also the effect of the supplement depositing a potentially concentrated supply to the intestinal lining. Eating the ground spice spreads the particles with other food items, which may be better tolerated in the GI tract.”
Just Eat It … in Small Doses
Two grams of cinnamon per day is about half a teaspoon, an easily consumable amount. (See below: Do not try to take a mouthful of dry cinnamon!) Gerbstadt continues, “I cannot think of any reason to prefer the supplements over the ground bark spice. Supplements are regulated far less stringently than medications and even food in some instances. It is easy to make your own powdered cinnamon by grinding the cinnamon bark, or just buy ground cinnamon.”
Cinnamon Sugar May Appeal to More Palates
Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, the creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It — Taking You From Label to Table, suggests that if you find the taste of cinnamon to be too bitter, then buy cinnamon sugar in a bottle. “There is hardly any sugar in that mix, and it makes the taste so much more palatable. Try cottage cheese, a sliced banana, and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar atop a toasted whole-grain waffle. It’s a great way to start the day!”
Whatever You Do, Don’t Take the ‘Cinnamon Challenge’
You may have seen videos on the internet of young people trying the “Cinnamon Challenge,” which involves eating a heaping dry spoonful of the spice. You may have also noticed that it never ends well. According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics Perspectives, chugging the spice poses real risks of aspiration, allergic reactions, pulmonary inflammation, and in severe cases, pulmonary pneumonia.
In addition, a study published January 2015 in the Journal of Injury and Violence Research, the “Challenge” led to lung injuries: The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) reported that the number of calls to poison control centers about teenagers ages 13 to 19 who partook in the challenge increased dramatically from 2011 to 2013.
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