by: Amy Goodrich
(NaturalNews) Cinnamon is one of the world’s most consumed spices. For thousands of years, it has been prized for its medicinal properties and sweet, warming taste. Aside from sprinkling cinnamon on top of your lattes or adding magic to grandma’s apple pie, researchers have found that consuming this tasty household spice also might enhance learning skills.
Scientists at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found that increased ingestion of cinnamon significantly improved the memory of “poor learning” mice. Recently, their findings were published in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology in an article entitled “Cinnamon Converts Poor Learning Mice to Good Learners: Implications for Memory Improvement.”
The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Alzheimer’s Association.
How cinnamon affects the brain
For the study, lead researcher Kalipada Pahan, a neurology professor at Rush University Medical Center, and his team zoomed in on two key proteins, GABRA5 and CREB, located in the hippocampus region of the brain. The hippocampus is a small part of the brain that generates, organizes, and stores memory. Previousresearch has shown that lower levels of CREB and higher levels of GABRA5 occur in the brain of poor learners.
To see if ground cinnamon could improve the memory of slow learners, the researchers took a group of mice and placed them in a maze with 20 holes. The experiment was focused on watching the mice learn how to locate their target hole.
When they tested the mice again after one month of cinnamon feeding, the researchers found that the mice determined to be poor learners had significantly improved their memory and learning skills. They could find their target hole twice as fast.
Pahan and his team explained that when cinnamon is ingested the body converts it into sodium benzoate, a chemical compound used to treat brain damage. Furthermore, they discovered that when benzoate entered the mice’s brains, it increased CREB, decreased GABRA5, and stimulated hippocampal neurons, which led to improved memory and learning skills.
“We have successfully used cinnamon to reverse biochemical, cellular and anatomical changes that occur in the brains of mice with poor learning,” Pahan said.
However, no significant improvements were seen in the mice that were considered good learners. But Pahan added that if these results could be replicated in slow learning students, cinnamon could become one of the safest and easiest approaches to convert weaker students to good learners.
Cinnamon may halt the progression of Parkinson’s disease
Pahan and his colleagues previously found that cinnamon had a positive effect on the brains of mice with Parkinson’s disease. When cinnamon transforms into sodium benzoate, it works to protect the neurons, normalize brain cells, and improve communication within the brain, which slows down the progression of the disease.
Given their promising results, Pahan and his team – supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health – plan on moving forward with testing in human patients with Parkinson’s disease.
“This could potentially be one of the safest approaches to halt disease progression in Parkinson’s patients,” Pahan said. “It would be a remarkable advance in the treatment of this devastating neurodegenerative disease,” he added.
Before starting to add cinnamon to all your dishes, know that not all cinnamon is created equal. Pahan explained that there are two major types of cinnamon available in the United States – Chinese or cassia cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon. While both metabolize into sodium benzoate, Ceylon cinnamon is much better than Chinese cinnamon. Chinese cinnamon contains coumarin, a molecule that can damage the liver.