By Lindsey Garner, MD Anderson Staff Writer
Cinnamon, a spice found in kitchens across the country, has shown promise in preventing and treating cancer.
Stopping cancer in its tracks
Bharat Aggarwal, Ph.D., professor in MD Anderson's Department of Experimental Therapeutics, led a 2009 review of 41 common dietary spices and how they impact the various phases of tumorigenesis, the formation of tumors.
Aggarwal's study showed that many spices, including cinnamon, are promising preventive and treatment agents for cancer. Cinnamon nutraceuticals, part of a food that provides medical or health benefits, were given to mice. Results showed that they inhibited multiple pro-inflammatory pathways in cancer cells.
Inhibiting inflammation is key. It is linked to the formation and spread of cancer.
Recent study gives hope
In a 2010 study, researchers at the School of Life Sciences and Immune Synapse Research Center at the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in the Republic of Korea tested cinnamon's anti-tumor effects. Water-soluble cinnamon extract was shown to inhibit the growth and spread of cancer in laboratory cell cultures of various types of cancer including lymphoma, melanoma, cervical and colorectal cancer. In mice models with melanoma, cinnamon extract was orally administered and significantly inhibited tumor growth.
Precautions to take
However, large doses of cassia cinnamon, a common variety of cinnamon, taken long-term can have adverse effects for some people. It contains large amounts of a chemical called coumarin, which can cause negative side effects for those with liver disease. Diabetics should also exercise caution, as cassia cinnamon has been shown to lower blood sugar levels.
Consult a health care professional before use to determine the correct dosage and to avoid complications.
More research needed
With few studies solely dedicated to testing the cancer prevention and treatment capabilities of cinnamon, more research and clinical trials are needed to fully understand its potential as a complementary or alternative medicine.
However, due to cinnamon's high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, Aggarwal sees the incorporation of cinnamon into one's diet as positive.
"The medicinal value of spices, such as cinnamon, has been recognized for centuries by a variety of cultures," Aggarwal says. "Even so, much of their potential has only been realized over the past 50 years. We are just scratching the surface of how spices can impact cancer. The research being done is promising."
Note: More information on spices and their curative qualities can be found in Aggarwal's book, "Healing Spices: How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease."