Dear Pharmacist,

I heard that cinnamon might lower blood sugar, is this true? Can I use cinnamon spice to lower my blood sugar if I'm taking metformin? Does cinnamon have other health benefits?

--E.G., Decatur, Illinois

Answer: There are different kinds of cinnamon, and the spice that you sprinkle on your oatmeal is not the best one in terms of health benefits. Yeah for real, didn't you know there were varieties of cinnamon? Hang on.

I think it's alright to combine cinnamon spice with metformin, but if you consume commercial supplements along with your medications, I suggest you track your blood sugar routinely and gain your physician's blessings. Remember, taking two anti-diabetic agents will enhance the blood sugar-lowering effect, and if it plunges too low, you get hypoglycemia. If you consume authentic, high-quality brands of cinnamon, this could actually happen to you. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include nausea, sweating, palpitations, weakness, fainting and anxiety.

Does cinnamon work? Several studies that have established health benefits for the warming, aromatic spice of autumn. Researchers who conducted a meta-analysis concluded that cinnamon extract could reduce fasting blood sugar. That's great because it's well established that elevated fasting blood sugars are a risk factor for diabetes and heart disease. The glycemic action of cinnamon is almost comparable to your medication but don't take that as an invitation to stop your metformin! My point is that cinnamon has some merit s that needs to be further elucidated. Here's one reference: Davis PA, Yokoyama W. Cinnamon intake lowers fasting blood glucose. J Med Food. April 2011.

Another study found that daily intake of cinnamon (for about 2 months) could significantly lower the fasting blood glucose, weight, and body fat mass in a patients with Type 2 diabetes, as compared to a control group. Scientists are trying to tease out whether cinnamon helps with colorectal cancer now. Just outstanding, but wait!

As I mentioned earlier, there are different varieties of cinnamon. The most popular kind is called Cassia and it's found in grocery stores, and served at coffee shops and restaurants. It's everywhere. Genuine cinnamon, the kind I strongly recommend is called Ceylon, and you must buy it from nice spice shops, some herbal apothecaries or online. Cassia and Ceylon cinnamon come from two different species. Cassia, while tasty and used by millions of us, has a stronger, harsher tasted compared to Ceylon. Cassia is actually known to contain a small amount of a moderately toxic component called coumarin. You don't have to worry about this, but hypothetically, if you took a ginormous dose, it could cause liver and kidney damage; it's also known to thin blood, considered a good thing but those of you on anti-coagulant drugs need to know. Ceylon has a fine texture, tastes lovely, and contains a lot of health-promoting compounds. As we head into fall, sprinkle it on everything because Ceylon cinnamon contains eugenol and terpinoids which are strong antiviral agents.

Suzy Cohen

Suzy Cohen, is known as America’s Pharmacist. She has been a licensed pharmacist for 24 years and is a Functional Medicine practitioner. She’s the author of 6 books, including her most recent Amazon #1 best-seller, “Thyroid Healthy: Lose Weight, Look Beautiful and Live the Life You Imagine.”

She was the host of The Thyroid Summit which broadcast worldwide in June 2014. Suzy has been a syndicated columnist for 19 years reaching 20 million in circulation each week. She is a Huffington Post writer, and also hosts her own syndicated medical minute on TV. Suzy has been featured on The Dr OZ Show 6 times, and has appeared on The View, Good Morning America Health, The Doctors and hundreds of other networks. She is a member of The Institute of Functional Medicine, also the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, The American Pharmacists Association and ILADS, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society. You can read free articles and receive your free newsletter by visiting her website, SuzyCohen.com

Books authored by Suzy Cohen include:

  • Thyroid Healthy
  • Headache Free
  • Drug Muggers
  • Diabetes Without Drugs
  • The 24-Hour Pharmacist
  • Eczema: Itchin’ for a Cure (kindle only)
  • Understanding Pancreatitis & Pancreatic Cancer (kindle only)
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