Can an extract from this fragrant spice ward off the devastating brain disease – and maybe even diabetes?
A new Israeli study shows that the common spice cinnamon seems to delay the progress of Alzheimer’s disease, a degenerative brain condition.
The research builds on the work of Prof. Michael Ovadia of Tel Aviv University, who discovered about a decade ago that an extract of cinnamon — one of the aromatic ingredients in the incense used in the ancient Jewish Temple – has powerful anti-viral properties.
Curious about other applications, Tel Aviv University PhD student Anat Frydman-Marom added Ovadia’s cinnamon extract, CEppt, into her line of research on compounds that may fight Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Initial results surpassed her expectations and took her research in a new direction.
Now her work has the sweet smell of success: CEppt can delay the effects of five aggressive strains of Alzheimer’s-inducing genes, according to a multi-lab research paper co-authored by Frydman-Marom, Ovadia, Ehud Gazit, Daniel Segal and Dan Frenkel in the medical journal PLoS ONE.
Could help diabetes as well
Using in-vitro tests and then Drosophila fly and mice models, the team of scientists found that amyloid plaques, which can lead to Alzheimer’s, had been dissolved by CEppt.
The extract also showed pharmacological properties that could be more effective against Type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease than other compounds they were studying, Frydman-Marom tells ISRAEL21c.
The notion that cinnamon works to fight disease is “for me, a matter of fact, but it’s also a spiritual story,” says Frydman-Marom, referring to the biblical connection.
In their paper, the researchers note that cinnamon is one of the world’s oldest herbal medicines, mentioned in Exodus, Proverbs and the Song of Songs, as well as Chinese texts as old as 4,000 years.
The special healing abilities of cinnamon are due to components such as cinnamaldehyde, eugenol, cinnamyl acetate and cinnamyl alcohol, and a wide range of other volatile substances like safrole, coumarin and cinnamic acid esters.
Scientists have already shown cinnamon can help control blood sugar and has both anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. The researchers hope that this novel material, as a food additive, drug or vitamin, could be used in younger people to prevent the effects of Alzheimer’s later in life.
“My lab was in charge of the fly work, and in part was involved in the in-vitro work,” Segal tells ISRAEL21c. “It’s exciting because it seems we are onto finding some kind of molecule that may be able to alleviate some, if not all, the symptoms of Alzheimer’s so this could be prevented in younger ages, and in older ages too.
“Since it is an edible fraction of a common edible plant, it should be quickly translated to compounds made available for users pending doctors’ instructions. As a food additive in combination with others, we expect it to be highly effective,” Segal adds.
He believes that some health benefits could be derived from drinking cinnamon tea, but cautions against self-medicating, since the bark-derived spice also has elements that can be toxic in large doses.
But it’s certainly a pleasant material to work with, notes Frydman-Marom. “It’s very nice to work in the lab — where everything smells so bad — and then suddenly everything smells like cinnamon.”