But now, new studies show that cinnamon might even make you smarter or at least help you learn better. Now that is certainly something nice. Scientists have determined that eating cinnamon can improve performance in poor learners at least in mice.
The study, published in the July issue of the Journal of Neuro-immune Pharmacology, is exciting because it opens the door to new and safe alternatives for helping people who have difficulty learning. The value of cinnamon as a spice and a medicinal remedy dates back to at least Ancient Greece some 2000 years before Christ. This sweet, yet hot spice was so highly esteemed among the ancient peoples that it was thought to be fit for kings and Queens and even their gods.
One record shows that a gift of cinnamon was offered at the temple of Apollo at Miletus. While these ancient people would not have known the scientific reasons for cinnamon’s healing powers, they did understand that it was special, even more precious than gold in some cases. Cinnamon oil was used as an anointing oil, an embalming spice, an aphrodisiac, a digestive aid, a remedy for colds and flus and even as an exotic perfume.
Today, cinnamon is probably most highly valued for its ability to control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes mellitus or Type 2 diabetes. It has also been shown to have a key anti-inflammatory properties, as well as antimicrobial, anti-cancer and even an agent for preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Now, this new study reveals that cinnamon may have a more profound impact on the brain.
While researchers are not entirely sure why some people are more naturally inclined to be good learners and others find it harder to learn, even with effort, they do know that the key to gaining this understanding lies within the hippocampus, a small part in your brain that generates, organizes and stores your memories.
Studies to date show that the hippocampus of poor learners has less CREB -a protein involved in memory and learning and more alpha5, a sub unit of GABAA receptor or GABRA5 -a protein that generates tonic inhibitory conductance in the brain than good learners.
When researchers fed mice that were determined to be poor learners ground cinnamon, they were able to metabolize the spice into sodium benzoate, a chemical approved to successfully treat brain damage. The sodium benzoate was then responsible for essentially increasing CREB, decreasing GABRA5, and allowing the hippocampal neurons to become more pliable, which in turn, according to the study, led to improved memory and learning in the mice.
While this study was successful with respect to increasing the learning ability of mice, the next step is to see if it will have the same applications in humans. Individual difference in learning and educational performance is a global issue.
Other possible uses for cinnamon may be in cases of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Researchers already agree the spice has the ability to help with other brain-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Traditionally, there were four types of cinnamon:
- True cinnamon— Ceylon cinnamon, which comes from the bark of verum (also called C. zeylanicum). This type of cinnamon comes from Sri Lanka.
- Malabathrumor malobathrum (meaning “dark-tree leaves” in Sanskrit). There are several species including tamala which come from north India.
- Serichatum, cassia from China
- Cassia, which comes from the bark ofCinnamomum iners and typically originates in Arabia
Typically, today, you can find both Chinese cinnamon and true Ceylon cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon is a much purer cinnamon. While both types are metabolized into sodium benzoate in the brain, he has determined through testing that the Ceylon cinnamon is better assimilated and that the Chinese cinnamon actually contains coumarin, a chemical that can damage your liver.
So, if you are looking to use cinnamon for its healing properties, you should check where it comes from. Look for Ceylon cinnamon, which is actually slightly sweeter and more refined than its Chinese counterpart. While it is more difficult to find, your local health food store or specialty market should carry it.