It often seems to me that modern medicine suffers from a bad case of amnesia when it comes to remembering important and effective traditional ways to treat disease. A great example is one forgotten natural way to help memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Here’s the story…
In the ancient world, early healers turned to spices to heal maladies of the body, nervous system, and the brain. One of the most important was cinnamon. But unlike today, the spice cinnamon was considered uncommon and as valuable as gold.
The ancient Egyptians imported cinnamon from India so it could be used medicinally and in their embalming practices. The high cost of cinnamon was linked to its function as an essential medicine – used as a treatment for cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and high blood pressure.1
But while conventional medicine has largely turned its back on cinnamon, medical researchers are finally starting to wake up to cinnamon’s surprising health benefits.
Supporting Better Brain Function
It is well-known that cinnamon can be consumed to help the body be more sensitive to the effects of insulin. That’s why many doctors believe it may be useful in helping people with diabetes keep their blood sugar under control. In fact, this has been demonstrated in research at the University of Iowa and other institutions.2
And researchers are especially interested in how this venerated spice helps control blood sugar in the brain.
Research in Asia shows that a compound in cinnamon called cinnamic acid can influence the brain’s hypothalamus in ways that reduce brain inflammation and help brain cells absorb and use glucose more effectively.3 (The hypothalamus is a part of the brain that is involved in regulating hunger, thirst, the body’s temperature, sleep, and our emotional activity.)
Studies show that when the brain’s neurons don’t take in blood sugar very well, the resulting hyperglycemia in the brain – as blood sugar levels remain high – can impair memory and thinking powers.4 But researchers believe that cinnamic acid improves the function of neurons by reducing blood sugar, reducing oxidative stress and preventing what’s called cholinergic dysfunction.5 (This type of dysfunction occurs when signaling among neurons with the neurotransmitter acetylcholine is disrupted causing memory problems and other issues.)
Keeps Neurons Alive
Other researchers in Israel have found evidence that cinnamon bark extract may help neurons survive injury and can possibly be helpful in fending off Alzheimer’s disease.
Researcher Michael Ovadia, PhD, says he became motivated to study cinnamon after reading in the Bible that high priests used the spice as a holy ointment to keep them from contracting infectious disease during sacrifices. In this research, the Israeli scientists extracted a compound called CEppt from cinnamon bark and lab tests showed it has the potential to slow the development of Alzheimer’s and may also extend life expectancy.6
“The discovery is extremely exciting,” says Dr. Ovadia. “While there are companies developing synthetic Alzheimer’s inhibiting substances, our extract would not be a drug with side effects, but a safe, natural substance that human beings have been consuming for millennia.”
In other tests, Dr. Ovadia’s team has shown that cinnamon extracts can potentially help the brain’s neurons survive after a traumatic brain injury – preventing the death of neurons in the brain’s temporal cortex (where memories are encoded) and the dentate gyrus (a part of the brain that helps interpret what our eyes and ears see and hear.)7
Pushing Back Against A Junk Food Diet
For those of us who eat too much fast food and junk food, a study involving researchers in the U.S. and France shows that including cinnamon in your diet may at least partially offset the harm to brain and memory caused by poor food choices.
In these laboratory tests the researchers found that having some cinnamon can shield the brain from many of the negative effects caused by consuming high-fructose corn syrup and eating foods high in the unhealthy fats often included in fast food.8
Obviously, having some cinnamon in your food is probably more effective for helping brain health if you also eat a diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables.