Many women suffer unnecessarily painful periods each month, often requiring pharmaceutical medication to get by. Unfortunately, drugs such as NSAIDs can have harmful side effects, particularly if a high dosage is required. On the other hand, new research shows that cinnamon is an effective treatment for painful periods, otherwise known as dysmenorrhoea.
Comparing Cinnamon to Other Treatments
In a randomized, double-blind trial, 114 female college students received either 420mg of cinnamon, 400mg of iburoprofen, or a placebo three times daily for the first three days of menstruation. There were no significant differences between the three groups, however, the longer menstrual periods of the cinnamon group was not exceedingly far from significance.
While the difference in pain scores between cinnamon and placebo groups was only 0.2-0.3 points until 8 hours, at 8 hours the difference began to diverge, this time at 0.6 points (6.5 in the control group, 5.9 in the placebo group). Pain scores were on the Visual Analogue Scale out of 10.
From 16 hours onwards, pain scores for the cinnamon group were at least 2 points lower than in the placebo group; at 16 hours they were 4.3 and 6.3 respectively, and at 72 hours they were 1.8 and 4.0 respectively.
If these effects are unsatisfactory, there are many other natural treatments for dysmenorrhoea that can be used alongside or instead of cinnamon. Period pain is often caused by an increased production of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins such as PGF2.
The Components of Cinnamon
Two of the main components of cinnamon’s essential oil are cinnamaldehyde and eugenol; cinnamaldehyde having an antispasmodic effect and eugenol being anti-inflammatory, as it can reduce prostaglandin synthesis.
Additionally, a study comparing cinnamon, ginger, and placebo for their effects on muscle soreness found that cinnamon both reduced the levels of IL-6, an inflammatory chemical, and significantly reduced muscle soreness. Levels of IL-6 fell from 48.6 to 22.1 on average.
Cinnamon Solution Via Aromatherapy
Other research investigating the effect of aromatherapy massage compared it to the effect of massage using almond oil alone as a placebo. The essential oil intervention involved cinnamon, clove, rose, and lavender oil. It was found to be more effective than the base oil only massage in reducing not only the duration and severity of menstrual pain, but also the amount of menstrual bleeding. Participants received massages once daily for seven days prior to menstruation.
Cinnamon has also been shown to be effective in controlling blood glucose levels in people with prediabetes and Type II diabetes. In fact, the cinnamon for diabetes connection is quite strong. A meta-analysis of 8 clinical trials found that cinnamon intake as either whole cinnamon or its extract significantly reduced fasting blood glucose by around o.5mmol/L.
Which Cinnamon to Choose?
Both whole cinnamon and the extract seemed to perform at a roughly equal level. This is important because raised fasting blood glucose contributes to the many complications of diabetes by causing tissue damage, such as to the blood vessels, especially by the glycation of proteins.
While cinnamon is an effective medicinal herb for blood sugar regulation, and certain inflammatory issues, it must be remembered that selecting “true” cinnamon, of Cinnamomum zeylanicum, and not C. cassia, is necessary to achieve the best health benefits of cinnamon.