Various forms of cinnamon or cinnamon bark, along with ginger and ginger root extracts are quite popular choices these days for people who take supplements or just keep a close eye on their daily food intake. Both of these common herbs have been used as flavor additives and medicinal foods for hundreds of years; only today is science beginning to focus on the ways in which these and other herbs affect human health and wellness.
Any professional or amateur cook does not consider a spice collection up to snuff unless it features both cinnamon and ginger. Cinnamon most often is sold as raw sticks or ground powder. Alone or combined with sugar in infinite ways, it appears in hundreds of restaurant and home-cooked foods as a flavor enhancer.
Ginger is another of the most common spice-rack regulars, though is less often used and not as well known to the average consumer outside of Asia. In India, China and the Mideast, however, ginger has achieved a status as both a food and a medicine, and populates kitchen shelves all over the world.
Browse any health food store and examine the ingredient labels of supplements. There, you’ll see many that contain cinnamon and ginger in varying amounts and from different sources. For those who are only familiar with these two herbs in their guise as spices, here is a brief list of their other uses, primarily as medicinal additives to supplements or as herbal tablets all by themselves.
Cinnamon has been used as a spice for perhaps 2,000 years or more, and is even mentioned in the Old Testament and several other ancient texts as both a food flavoring and an aromatic scent.
Most of today’s cinnamon comes from Sri Lanka, India and Burma, with Mexico being the world’s largest importer of the herb.
Only about 1 percent of the cinnamon tree consists of the liquid called cinnamaldehyde. It is this liquid that is extracted and used as a common medicinal, and which contains all the natural chemicals that end up in supplements and tablets that appear in health food stores.
Scientific studies have proven cinnamon to be one of the most concentrated forms of natural antioxidants. It has so many of them in its cinnamaldehyde that the natural oil of the tree can be used as a long-term food preservative.
Cinnamon has been shown to offer anti-inflammatory properties in the human body and may be a natural way to reduce blood pressure, control cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease symptoms.
In some cases, cinnamon can help bring about lower blood-sugar levels in people who are insulin-resistant.
Some studies have shown that daily doses of cinnamon, in the range of 2 to 5 grams, can help adjust blood-sugar levels for those who suffer from Type 2 diabetes.
Though there is no definitive proof yet, some researchers are encouraged by preliminary trials and animal studies. In that research, cinnamon has demonstrated an ability to improve brain chemistry in a way that helps fight against both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Other animal studies have demonstrated cinnamon’s beneficial effect on immune response. In mice, the herb can activate a physiological process that helps prevent the spread of colon cancer. While no human studies have been done in this area, scientists are encouraged by the powerful effect that cinnamaldehyde has on a host of diseases and conditions.
Cinnamon is a key ingredient in many types of chocolate and specialty liquors.
Like cinnamon, ginger has been used for centuries as both a food and a medicine. Since the underground part of the plant is the part used by humans, some refer to it as “ginger root.” Originating in China from earliest antiquity, the plant is currently used in hundreds of recipes the world over. The chemical substance that does all the hard work in ginger is called gingerol. It is this liquid that offers all the health benefits and flavors that the plant is known for.
The natural oil in ginger has been used for hundreds of years as a folk remedy for many forms of upset stomach, including seasickness, general nausea, and more recently as a way to control post-surgical vomiting.
Recent scientific studies have shown ginger to be an effective combatant against morning sickness (nausea) in pregnant women. Most people who take ginger for these reasons use about 1 gram, or slightly more, per day, though it is always a good idea to speak with a health care professional before taking any supplement, medicine or herbal extract.
Studies have also shown ginger to be a possible antidote for muscle soreness, especially when brought on by exercise. Instead of acting immediately, ginger appears to build up slowly in the body until it reaches a therapeutic level.
One study on human subjects who suffered from osteoarthritis clearly demonstrated the pain-reducing effect of ginger. Study participants who consumed ginger reported less pain and didn’t need to take as much medication as they did before using ginger.
Ginger, like cinnamon, has also been shown to offer several anti-diabetic advantages in human studies. Both blood sugar maintenance and heart disease prevention are areas where many scientific studies are being done to see just how ginger can work to remedy a range of ailments related to the heart and blood.
Other studies have demonstrated that ginger can markedly speed up the emptying of the stomach, which can be a remedy for chronic indigestion. When the stomach holds food for too long, the result is usually a severe bout of indigestion. Ginger’s ability to speed up the emptying process is likely the key to its beneficial effect related to indigestion.
The next time you consider purchasing any type of health supplement or superfood, check to see whether these two beneficial herbs are among the ingredients. Cinnamon and ginger are true workhorses of the health food genre, providing many medical benefits to those who choose to take them as stand-alone herbal tablets or as ingredients in multi-nutrient powders and drinks.