Spice Up Your Life
(and improve your health)

By Brit Elders

  In ages past herbs and spices were cures for just about anything that ailed you. Then we decided we were smarter than Nature and began manufacturing similar properties of the natural plants in a chemical state. Nature was no longer our medicine chest; it had become the research tool used to manufacture pharmaceuticals that mimicked the real thing.

Now we are beginning to recognize the qualities of the natural spice or herb and, finally, research is being done to document the health benefits of these natural wonders, most of which are probably already in your spice cabinet.

As always, check with your health professional before you use spices or herbs as part of any health program. Herbs and spices can have side effects and interact with other substances. It is important that you understand how they may interact with other medicinal formulas, whether they natural or pharmaceutical.

It’s a great additive to tea, coffee, baked goods, or as a topping for oatmeal or yogurt because it tastes good. But that isn’t all that cinnamon does.

According to recent research conducted at the University of California, Santa Barbara, UCSB, may well be the natural line of defense against Type II Diabetes. With over 170 million people worldwide suffering from type II diabetes, this could be a major natural step to prevent and alleviate diabetic symptoms.

According to the UCSB press release, “Cinnamon may be more than a spice – it may have a medical application in preventing and combating diabetes. Cinnamon may help by playing the role of an insulin substitute in type II diabetes, according to cellular and molecular studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Iowa State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"Cinnamon itself has insulin-like activity and also can potentiate the activity of insulin," said Don Graves of UCSB. "The latter could be quite important in treating those with type II diabetes. Cinnamon has a bio-active component that we believe has the potential to prevent or overcome diabetes."

Using nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectroscopy, the researchers obtained results, which allowed them to describe the chemical structure of a molecule with "insulin-like" activity in cinnamon. Graves and others reported earlier that this compound, a proanthocyanidin, could affect insulin signaling in fat cells.

Richard Anderson of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a former Graves student and the discoverer of the insulin-like activity, recently completed a human study with associates in Pakistan using cinnamon. Promising results were obtained by 30 test subjects with type II diabetes after only 40 days of taking cinnamon. They had a significant decrease in blood glucose, triglycerides, LDL, and cholesterol. The researchers hope that a human trial may begin in the US, possibly in Santa Barbara, using cinnamon and its water-soluble extract to treat type II diabetes.

Type II diabetes is a disease in which the body develops a resistance to insulin, thus preventing the cells from receiving the glucose that they need to function. The work at UCSB is focused on the way cinnamon operates at cellular and molecular levels, looking at how it works with the cell's insulin receptor and other proteins involved in reactions associated with the action of insulin.

 What else might cinnamon do?
There is some analysis being conducted on the effects of cinnamon when used by patients with pancreatic cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. One of the most interesting articles I found was from Kansas State University whose research showed that the presence of cinnamon prevented the growth of E Coli, specifically Escherichia coli 0157:H7.

"This research indicates that the use of cinnamon alone and in combination with preservatives in apple juice, besides its flavoring effect, might reduce and control the number of E. coli O157:H7," concluded Ceylan, a Ph.D. graduate assistant at K-State. "Cinna-mon may help protect consumers against foodborne bacteria that may be in unpasteurized juices and may partially or completely replace preservatives in foods to maintain their safety," he said.


Dynamic Living Magazine Issue Vol. 1  Jan/Feb 2011 continue to page 2