It is an ancient spice with a one-time mysterious origin, but now cinnamon seems to be making a comeback in modern medicine, according to an equine nutritionist.
Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER), said that cinnamon supplementation provided yet another example of a traditional herbal medicine making a comeback to benefit modern medical patients. Cinnamon and other plant-derived products were used years ago to fight infections, and now, in light of increasing antibiotic resistance, interest in plant products capable of warding off infection has renewed.
But research on the use of cinnamon in the horse is scant, she said.
A 2013 study into cinnamon’s medicinal properties found many potential health benefits, including antioxidant properties, antidiabetic effects and antimicrobial activity.
Crandell said that while horses don’t develop type 2 diabetes like humans, ” they certainly suffer from similar glucose and insulin dysregulatory issues that contribute to insulin resistance and equine metabolic syndrome, both of which go hand in hand with laminitis”.
However, no controlled research on the benefits of cinnamon to horses, other than insulin sensitivity, has been conducted, Crandell said.
Because of this, there is no clear directive about if and how much cinnamon to give horses and in what form.
“Several studies have also shown that cinnamon may benefit human patients with gastric ulcers associated with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. It is important to note, however, that ulcers in horse are not caused by H. pylori,” Crandell said.
Cinnamon has been known from remote antiquity. It was imported to Egypt as early as 2000 BCE. Cinnamon was so highly prized among ancient nations that it was regarded as a gift fit for monarchs and even for a god.
Through the Middle Ages, the source of cinnamon was a mystery to the Western world, with its source was kept mysterious for centuries by the middlemen who handled the spice trade, to protect their monopoly as suppliers. Cinnamon is native to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Malabar Coast of India, and Burma.
“Before adding, changing, or modifying any aspect of your horse’s diet, understand that important interactions between herbs and ingredients or nutrients exist,” Crandell said.
Ranasinghe, P., S. Pigera, G.A.S. Premakumara, et al. 2013. Medicinal properties of “true” cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum): A systematic review. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 13:275.
Brancheau, D., B. Patel, M. Zughaib. 2015. Do cinnamon supplements cause acute hepatitis? American Journal of Case Reports. 16:250-254.