It has been a quite few years since cinnamon became a been highly sought after commodity. This is a spice obtained from the inner bark of certain trees particularly trees growing in Ceylon or present day Sri Lanka. Cinnamon was imported to Egypt as early as 2000 BC. At one time cinnamon was thought to be “more precious than gold,” and a war was fought between Dutch and Portuguese armies over control of cinnamon from Ceylon.

There are generally two kinds of cinnamon, although both are similar. Cinnamon from Ceylon which is also grown in India, Brazil, Madagascar and the Caribbean and is known as “real cinnamon.” Cassia cinnamon is largely grown in China and Vietnam.

This common spice has been found to lower blood sugar in non insulin dependent type 2 diabetics. A 2009 Scandinavian study found that as little as 3 grams per day helped to lower blood sugar in the studied patients. Also, in one study it seemed to lower cholesterol by 18 percent. One gram of ground cinnamon is equal to about one half of a teaspoon and 2 to 6 grams daily may help to lower blood sugar. How this works is not really known, but cinnamon seems to help lower insulin resistance and may need to be taken daily for about 40 days before these positive effects are noted.

Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices is mentioned in the Bible and also in a poem by the Greek poet Sappo in the 7th century BC. The global annual production of cinnamon is about 27,000 to 35,00 tons a year. Ceylon cinnamon or cinnamon verum totals only about 7,500m to 10,000 tons annually. Because cinnamon is classified as a food supplement and not a drug, its safety does not have to be proven. Cassia cinnamon has been found to contain certain amounts of coumarin or naturally occurring anticoagulants; therefore, it would probably be safer to use Ceylon cinnamon or “real cinnamon” if you are likely to use large amounts. However, with ordinary seasoning it is most unlikely to see “added health risks.”

Cinnamon is sold in pill form in our local pharmacies in 1- to 2-gram portions. So, if you want to spice up your life and lower your blood sugar at the same time, consider cinnamon.

David Keisler is a gastroenterologist and internist in Aiken.