Cinnamon for Parkinson’s

Spices have been used by humans ever since someone was smart enough to realise that a few dried sprigs of something made rancid meat a lot more palatable. Today we know that as well as having many culinary uses spices also have many health benefits and they are used widely in herbal medicine. Cinnamon, for instance, has shown an ability to help digestion and balance blood sugars. Now a new study has shown that this delicious spice may also help with Parkinson’s Disease.

There are two types of cinnamon, original Ceylon (Sri Lanka) cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum ) or Chinese cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia). As a plant cinnamon is a tree that is native to Sri Lanka and India. It grows in tropical forests and is now extensively cultivated throughout the world especially in places like the West Indies and the Philippines. The cinnamon tree is grown from cuttings and every second year the young trees are cut back to just above ground level. The bark is harvested from the young branches that sprout before they reach three years of age and left to ferment for a day. After that day the outer bark is removed and the inner bark is what we know as “cinnamon”.

Both species of cinnamon contain an essential oil that is made primarily of a substance called cinnamaldehyde. It is this cinnamaldehyde that is responsible for many of the actions attributed to cinnamon. However, it is not cinnamaldeyde that was the focus of the new study. The researchers for this study noted that both types of cinnamon, but especially Ceylon cinnamon, are metabolised into sodium benzoate which is an FDA approved drug for disorders of liver metabolism associated with a condition called hyperammonemia.

In the study mice were fed ground cinnamon and the researchers found that this led to changes in processes that underlie Parkinson’s Disease. For a start there were increases in two important proteins that are known to decrease in Parkinson’s; those proteins are Parkin and DJ-1. Additionally it was found that the ground cinnamon resulted in protection of brain neurons, normalisation of neurotransmitters and improved motor function in mice with Parkinson’s Disease.

Although Parkinson’s Disease affects around one in every 100 people over the age of 60, we know a little, but not enough, about its causes. Although it is not a cure and is not a complete answer to the problem of Parkinson’s these researchers say that cinnamon could potentially be one of the safest ways to help slow progression of the disease.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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