AUTHORITY NUTRITION

Honey and Cinnamon: A Powerful Cure or a Big, Fat Lie?

Written by Becky Bell, MS, RD on November 19, 2016

Honey and cinnamon are two natural ingredients with multiple health benefits.

Some people claim that when these two ingredients are combined, they can cure almost any disease.

While there is some evidence that each has some medicinal uses, some claims about the mixture of honey and cinnamon seem too good to be true.

This article reviews the benefits of honey and cinnamon, separating fact from fiction.

Honey is a sweet liquid produced by bees. It has been used for centuries as both a food and a medicine.

Today it is most commonly used in cooking and baking, or as a sweetener in beverages.

Cinnamon is a spice that comes from the bark of the Cinnamomum tree.

People harvest and dry its bark, which curls into what are commonly known as cinnamon sticks. You can purchase cinnamon as whole sticks, ground into a powder or as an extract.

Both honey and cinnamon have multiple health benefits on their own. However, some people assume that combining the two is even more beneficial.

In 1995, a Canadian tabloid published an article that provided a long list of ailments that could be cured by a mixture of honey and cinnamon.

Since then, bold claims about the honey and cinnamon combo have multiplied.

These two ingredients do have plenty of health applications, but not all the claims about the combination are backed by science.

Bottom Line: Honey and cinnamon are ingredients that can be used as both food and medicine. However, not all of the claims about honey and cinnamon are supported by research.

Cinnamon is a popular spice in cooking and baking that can also be taken as a supplement.

There are two major types:

  • Cassia cinnamon: This variety, also known as Chinese cinnamon, is the most popular type in supermarkets. It is less expensive, but of lower quality than Ceylon cinnamon.
  • Ceylon cinnamon: This type is also known as "true cinnamon." It is much harder to find than Cassia cinnamon and it has a slightly sweeter flavor.

Cinnamon's health benefits are linked to active compounds in its essential oil.

The most well-studied cinnamon compound is cinnamaldehyde. This is also what gives cinnamon its spicy flavor and aroma ().

Here are some of cinnamon's most impressive benefits:

  • May reduce inflammation: Long-term inflammation increases the risk of chronic disease. Studies show cinnamon may help reduce inflammation (, ).
  • May help treat neurodegenerative diseases: A few test-tube studies suggest that cinnamon might help slow the progression of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. These results need to be confirmed in human studies (, , , , ).
  • May help protect against cancer: A few animal and test-tube studies found that cinnamon helps prevent the growth and reproduction of cancer cells. However, these results need to be confirmed with human studies (, ).

Some have also suggested that cinnamon may be a natural treatment for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), premenstrual syndrome (PMS), polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and food poisoning.

However, there is not sufficient evidence to support these claims.

Bottom Line: Cinnamon is one of the healthiest spices in the world. Both types of cinnamon have health benefits, but Ceylon cinnamon is the better choice if you are going to consume it on a regular basis.

In addition to being a healthier alternative to table sugar, honey has several medicinal uses.

However, it's important to note that not all types are equal.

Most of the benefits of honey are associated with active compounds that are most concentrated in high-quality, unfiltered honey.

Here are some of honey's health benefits that have been supported by science:

  • May be an effective cough suppressant: One study found that honey was more effective at suppressing nighttime coughs than dextromethorphan, the active ingredient in most cough syrups. Yet more research is needed ().
  • A powerful treatment for wounds and burns: A review of six studies found that applying honey to the skin is a powerful treatment for wounds (, ).

Honey is also thought to be a sleep aid, a memory booster, a natural aphrodisiac, a treatment for yeast infections and a natural way to reduce plaque on your teeth, but these claims aren't supported by science.

Bottom Line: Honey has several health benefits connected to its antioxidant capacity and antibacterial properties.

The theory is that if both honey and cinnamon can help on their own, then combining the two can have an even stronger effect.

What is known is that there are several similarities between the health benefits of honey and cinnamon. Both are beneficial in the following areas:

Honey and Cinnamon May Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease

A mixture of honey and cinnamon has the potential to lower your risk of heart disease.

That's because it may help reverse several health signs that significantly raise that risk.

These include elevated levels of "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and high triglyceride levels.

High blood pressure and low levels of "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol are additional factors that can increase your risk of the disease.

Interestingly, honey and cinnamon may positively affect all of these.

Studies have shown that consuming honey lowers "bad" LDL cholesterol by 6–11% and lowers triglyceride levels by as much as 11%. Honey may also by about 2% (, , , , ).

A meta-analysis found that a daily dose of cinnamon lowered total cholesterol by an average of 16 mg/dl, LDL "bad" cholesterol by 9 mg/dl and triglycerides by 30 mg/dl. There was also a slight increase in "good" HDL cholesterol levels ().

While they have not been studied together, cinnamon and honey have individually been shown to cause modest decreases in blood pressure. However, this research was in animals (, , , ).

Additionally, both foods are rich in antioxidants, which have multiple benefits for the heart. Polyphenol antioxidants improve blood flow to the heart and prevent blood clots, lowering your risk of heart attack and stroke ().

Honey and cinnamon might also help prevent heart disease because they both reduce inflammation. Chronic inflammation is a major factor in the development of heart disease (, , ).

The Honey and Cinnamon Combo Is Useful for Healing Wounds

Both honey and cinnamon have well-documented healing properties that could be useful for treating skin infections when the mixture is applied to the skin.

Honey and cinnamon both have the ability to fight bacteria and decrease inflammation. These are two factors that are very important when it comes to healing the skin ().

Applied to the skin, honey has been used successfully to treat burns. It can also treat diabetic foot ulcers, which are a very serious complication of diabetes (, ).

Cinnamon may provide some additional benefit for healing wounds, due to its strong antibacterial properties.

Diabetic foot ulcers have a high risk of becoming infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A test-tube study found that cinnamon oil helps protect against antibiotic-resistant bacteria (, ).

However, this study used cinnamon oil, which is much more concentrated than the powdered cinnamon you can find at the grocery store. There is no evidence that powdered cinnamon would have the same effect.

Honey and Cinnamon May Be Good for Diabetics

It is well documented that consuming cinnamon on a regular basis is good for diabetics. It may also help prevent diabetes (, , ).

Numerous studies have shown that cinnamon decreases fasting blood sugar levels in diabetics (, , , , ).

One of the ways cinnamon lowers blood sugar is by increasing insulin sensitivity. Cinnamon makes the cells more sensitive to the hormone insulin and helps sugar move from the blood into the cells ().

Honey also has some potential benefits for diabetics. Studies have shown that honey has less impact on blood sugar levels than sugar ().

Additionally, honey may lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in diabetics, while raising “good” HDL cholesterol levels (, ).

Honey and cinnamon may be relatively healthier than table sugar for sweetening your tea. However, honey is still high in carbs, so diabetics should use it in moderation.

Honey and Cinnamon Are Packed With Antioxidants

Both honey and cinnamon are excellent sources of antioxidants, which have multiple benefits for your health (, , ).

Antioxidants are substances that protect you from unstable molecules called free radicals, which can damage your cells.

Honey is rich in phenol antioxidants, which have been associated with a decreased risk of heart disease ().

Cinnamon is also an antioxidant powerhouse. When compared to other spices, cinnamon ranks at the very top for antioxidant content (, , ).

Consuming honey and cinnamon together can give you a powerful dose of antioxidants.

Bottom Line: There are some health conditions that the combo of honey and cinnamon may help. The combo might improve your heart health, treat wounds and may be useful for diabetics.

The concept of combining two powerful ingredients to create an even more powerful remedy makes sense.

However, there are no direct studies showing that the combination of honey and cinnamon creates a miracle substance that cures multiple ailments.

Additionally, many of the proposed uses for honey and cinnamon have not been backed by science.

Here are some of the popular but unproven claims about honey and cinnamon:

  • They can fight allergy symptoms: Some studies have been done on honey's ability to reduce allergy symptoms, but the evidence is weak (, ).
  • Honey and cinnamon can cure the common cold: Honey and cinnamon have strong antibacterial properties, but most colds are caused by viruses.
  • Honey and cinnamon can treat acne: While the antibacterial properties of both ingredients can be beneficial for acne-prone skin, studies have not explored the mixture's effectiveness for treating acne.
  • They are a natural weight loss tool: A few studies suggest that replacing sugar with honey contributes to less weight gain, but there is no evidence that honey and cinnamon will help you lose weight (, ).
  • Rubbing the mixture on your joints can relieve arthritis pain: Honey and cinnamon do reduce inflammation, but there is no proof that applying these foods to your skin can reduce inflammation in the joints.
  • Honey and cinnamon can calm digestive issues: There are claims that honey can coat your stomach and both ingredients will fight bacterial infections in the gut. However, this isn't backed by research.
Bottom Line: Honey and cinnamon are both beneficial for your health, but there is no evidence that combining them will multiply their effects.

The best way to use honey in your diet is as a replacement for sugar.

Make sure you purchase unfiltered honey, since most of the highly processed honey on supermarket shelves doesn't have any health benefits.

Use honey with caution though, since it is still high in sugar -- just "less bad" than regular sugar.

You should also be aware that cinnamon contains a compound called coumarin, which can be toxic in large doses. Coumarin content is much higher in Cassia cinnamon than in Ceylon cinnamon (, ).

It is best to purchase Ceylon cinnamon, but if you are going to consume the Cassia variety, limit your daily intake to 1/2 teaspoon (0.5–2 grams). You can safely consume up to 1 teaspoon (about 5 grams) of Ceylon cinnamon per day ().

To use honey and cinnamon to treat a skin infection, mix honey with a small amount of cinnamon oil and apply it directly to the infected skin.

Bottom Line: Honey and cinnamon can be eaten or applied to the skin. Purchase high-quality unfiltered honey and Ceylon cinnamon if you want to get the most benefits.

Honey and cinnamon both have multiple health benefits individually, many of which are backed by science.

Both of these ingredients are especially useful for improving your heart health and healing infections.

However, there is no scientific evidence to show that combining honey and cinnamon creates a miracle cure.

An evidence-based nutrition article from our experts at Authority Nutrition.

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