Monday, December 10, 2012

Medical Mondays: Cinnamon and the Dangers of the Cinnamon Challenge

Hey guys. I had so much fun writing the wintergreen post last week that I thought I'd blog about a favorite spice of mine, cinnamon. It's one of my favorite candy flavors of all time. Give me some Red Hots or Hot Tamales or cinnamon gum, and I'm a happy girl. Mmmm.

Cinnamon has been around for millennia. It was a sought-after spice that comes from the soft, inner bark of the Cinnamomum species. Most cinnamon found in grocery stores is from Cinammomum Cassia, which originates from China. Ceylon cinnamon, or Cinnamomum Verum ("true cinnamon") can be find in specialty stores and is sweeter, milder, and more aromatic than its stronger, harsher, and less expensive counterpart.
Cassia cinnamon also contains a chemical called coumarin*, which if taken in high quantities can cause liver toxicity. For this reason, Cassia cinnamon importation is banned in Germany.

*coumarin, which is a fragrant, organic compound also found in sweet grass and sweet clover, can be converted to the anticoagulant dicoumarol by certain fungi. It caused the spontaneous bleeding death of cows when they ate moldy sweet clover. Coumarin is also the precursor to making warfarin, or Coumadin, which many people take to prevent their blood from clotting and causing strokes or deep vein thrombosis (DVT or pulmonary embolism). Coumarin smells like freshly cut hay, and is used sometimes in cosmetics. Like the lotion I used yesterday that covered my hands in a rash. YUCK!
source
Traditional Medicinal uses of cinnamon (Chinese and Aryuvedic)
  • helps with nausea, indigestion, menstrual cramps, colds, diabetes, 
  • increases energy, circulation
(source)

Some interesting cinnamon research:
  • cinnamon has been shown to kill mosquito larvae
  • it's been found in some studies to work against HIV and HSV (herpes virus), and found to have general anti-viral properties
  • may inhibit Alzheimer's in mice
  • may prevent colon cancers
  • cinnamon supplements have helped treat type 2 Diabetes in some patients

A few words on the Cinnamon Challenge. It's been making the rounds on YouTube and the internet. Apparently, the challenge is to swallow a spoonful of ground cinnamon in a minute, without water or food. People find the videos entertaining, because within a few seconds, the cinnamon dries out the mouth of the person, and some crazy coughing and spewing of brown cinnamon clouds ensues.

(I wanted to insert a YouTube video of someone doing the Cinnamon Challenge, but every single one has serious profanity, for obvious reasons. So here's a picture instead.)
I didn't actually do the challenge. Cinnamon aspiration is NOT on my To-Do list.
Maybe it's funny, but there is a serious risk to doing this challenge. Inhaling cinnamon can cause serious inflammation of the lungs, gagging, and can lead to infection. Also, most commercial cinnamon in the U.S. is made of Cassia, which means a tablespoon of ingested cinnamon has moderately toxic levels of coumarin in it.

So yeah, leave this challenge to the YouTube fame-mongers. Please!

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30 comments:

Carrie Butler said...

As always, I loved your illustration. :) Thanks for sharing, Lydia!

Nas said...

Thanks for this informative post, Lydia. A while back there were this Cinnamon strips, you put in your mouth and the flavor would explode. It used to be used as a breath freshener.

Shelley Munro said...

I'm a cinnamon fan too. I haven't seen the videos but common sense tells me the result wouldn't be pleasant!

mooderino said...

Strange that only Germany feels the need to ban it.

I've seen those videos. Masochists!

mood
Moody Writing

Natalie Aguirre said...

Sad about that cinnamon challenge. I love cinnamon too. Glad it's okay if not used in excess.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

My fifth grade students are always amused to learn that cinnamon, along with cloves and black pepper, was considered one of the treasures of the Orient in the Age of Exploration. Countless explorers died trying to find an advantageous route to the Spice Islands, for items now found in their mothers' pantry cabinets.

Old Kitty said...

People. Please don't eat raw cinnamon. LOL!!

Take care
x

B.E. Sanderson said...

Interesting. I'm not a huge fan of cinnamon flavored stuff, and even in baked goods I only like a sprinkle. Who knew it could kill mosquito larva, though. Yay! Anything that kills those things is A-OK in my book.

Louise Bates said...

I am feeling rather horrified now over the fact that my cousins and I used to gnaw on cinnamon sticks for a treat (they weren't allowed any sugar when they were kids).

Of course, looking back on our childhood together, liver poisoning is probably the mildest of ways we could have killed ourselves. We were neither sensible nor timid - a very bad combination!

Sarah said...

Oh, man. People. That drawing tells me all I need to know about the Cinnamon Challenge, except why someone would try to do it in the first place.

Karen Lange said...

Interesting! I love cinnamon and had heard of some of the benefits. Not looking to inhale any soon though. :) Thanks for the info!

Linda Gray said...

Fascinating! I'm guessing the medicinal use for increasing circulation and energy is the Cassia variety--is that right? I didn't know about Ceylon cinnamon. That sounds good, yum!

Kim Van Sickler said...

Hadn't heard of inhaling cinnamon. Crazy.

I actually have an entirely fictional couple of scenes in one of my fantasies that involves trying to find a cure for a deadly disease. It's been a challenge to write!

Shelly said...

I've always loved how cinammon has helped any nausea that I've had, but I didn't know it had the other uses, too. The cinammon challenge will never have me as a contestant!

A Lady's Life said...

I love cinnamon but I guess too much of anything is not good.

Barbara Watson said...

Good for nausea. This I need to remember.

lbdiamond said...

Why do people do these things. Geesh.

Deb Salisbury said...

Fascinating! I've never been a big cinnamon fan (I like a *little*, not the hot stuff), but I may need to use more since it has so many health benefits.

Clarissa Draper said...

I love cinnamon, especially when I'm tired. It really perks me up. However, I've seen that youtube video and that woman is an idiot.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Crossing cinnamon snorting right off my list!

prerna pickett said...

fascinating information. I've seen the cinnamon challenge videos and I can't believe people actually do stuff like that. Ridiculous.

Lynda R Young said...

Yep, I had heard of the dangers of the cinnamon challenge. Stick to the dry buscuit challenge!!
I didn't know cinnamon has been shown to kill mosquito larvae. Cool!

JEFritz said...

That's pretty cool. I never heard of the cinnamon challenge. Or maybe I did and didn't believe people could do something so dumb.

walk2write said...

Lots of great information here. One of the oil blends I use for aromatherapy has cinnamon oil in it. I'll have to look into the source (whether from China or Ceylon). As for the cinnamon challenge, yep, idiocy knows no bounds.

Southpaw said...

I do love cinnamon. Ugh, that challenge. I have read a couple of people have been hospitalized trying to do that.

Bathwater said...

I can totally see how spices like cinnamon, clove and black pepper could be worth a fortune in a society without. Imagine opening a Cinnabon store in ancient Rome! I'd be rich!

Casey L. Clark said...

OMG... a guy a work did that challenge... your drawing was dead-on. :)

Great post!

Krispy said...

It's amazing the kind of crazy things people come up with. I love cinnamon, but I don't want to die from it. Thanks for the warning, haha. :)

Kelly Polark said...

How do people come up with these things? I think I saw the Cinnamon Challenge on Tosh.0.

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