The liver is the largest organ in the body that is located above the abdominal cavity to the right.
It usually weighs around 3 pounds.
The liver receives oxygenated blood from the hepatic artery and the hepatic portal vein supplies it with nutrient-rich blood.
The liver performs many important functions like regulating chemical levels in our blood and excreting waste products.
Blood from the intestines and stomach pass through the liver and this is broken down for easier absorption by the body.
It also produces blood plasma proteins, cholesterol, converts excess glucose to be stored and used later as glycogen, regulates levels of amino acid in the blood, stores iron by processing hemoglobin, converts toxic ammonia to urea to be excreted later, gets rid of other harmful toxins and regulates blood clotting.
Being such a vital organ, damage to the liver can cause serious health problems.
Benefits of Cinnamon for the Liver
Cinnamon is a spice that is used as a flavoring agent.
There are two common varieties used – Ceylon and Cassia cinnamon.
Of these two, cassia cinnamon is said to have the greater healing properties and is used to treat a range of health problems like diabetes, flatulence diarrhea, cold, common infections, high blood pressure, kidney disorders and more.
There have been studies which have shown alcohol cinnamon extracts may prevent liver damage. Excess alcohol consumption causes cirrhosis of the liver.
Cinnamon extracts have anti-inflammatory benefits and could protect the liver against alcohol-induced steatosis.
This is through the ability of cinnamon to inhibit expression of MyD88.
In another study, the liver of diabetic mice was treated with extracts of Cassia Cinnamon.
It was found that this extract of cinnamon significantly reduced blood glucose, lipid peroxidation, and other parameters, therefore, preventing diabetic complications.
Chemicals like carbon tetrachloride can damage and injure the liver.
Studies were conducted on the ability of cinnamon to protect against such oxidative stress. Both ethanol and aqueous extracts of cinnamon were used for this study.
Animals whose liver as affected by carbon tetracholoride were divided into groups with one group treated with cinnamon extracts and the other a control group.
Ethanol cinnamon extracts were found to offer greater protection to the liver than aqueous extracts.
Can Cinnamon Damage the Liver?
The liver can get damaged by viruses, drugs, excess alcohol consumption or poisons.
These cause a host of liver diseases like hepatitis A, B, and C, cirrhosis, liver cancer and hemochromatosis which is an inherited liver disease.
Used in food amounts, cinnamon will not affect the liver.
However, cassia cinnamon contains large quantities of coumarin – a phytochemical.
People who are sensitive to this chemical must avoid it for it could cause or worsen liver disease.
When a person is taking hepatotoxic drugs, they must avoid taking large amounts of cassia cinnamon. This will increase the risk of liver damage.
Coumarin tastes like vanilla and this is why cassia cinnamon is widely used in food.
Apart from cinnamon, coumarin is also found in cherries, licorice, lavender, sweet clover, strawberries, etc.
Coumarin has anti-fungal, anti-tumor and blood-thinning benefits.
Since it is a blood thinner, consuming foods containing coumarin could increase blood flow in our veins and reduce the permeability of our capillaries.
Hence, coumarin-based products must not be consumed when a person is taking anticoagulants. Excess coumarin taken over long periods could cause toxicity.
Knowing the type of cinnamon you consume or is used in a supplement is therefore critical.
The levels of coumarin will vary in cassia cinnamon varieties that grow in different regions. Cinnamon is usually sold as powder or sticks and the country of origin is rarely mentioned on the packages.
While both Ceylon and Cassia Cinnamon contain couumarin, Cassia variety has 63 times higher levels than Ceylon variety.
Scientists who examined 91 varieties of cinnamon found that different samples contained different levels of coumarin.
It is not possible to distinguish between Ceylon and Cassia cinnamon powder.
However, Cassia cinnamon quills or sticks are thicker than Ceylon sticks which are thinner come in layers.
When purchasing a cinnamon supplement, you can try to establish a variety of cinnamon used.
The safe dosage of ground cinnamon powder is 1-1.5g a day.
This was tested on diabetic patients.
Anyone with liver disease is advised to limit their intake of cassia cinnamon to food amounts.
Those who are sensitive to cinnamon, pregnant and breastfeeding women must avoid it. Heavy exposure to cinnamon oil could cause allergic reactions and skin irritation.
Anyone with kidney or liver problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, bleeding problems like heavy and long menstrual periods, thyroid problems, allergies and require surgery must inform their doctor if they take drugs or foods that contain coumarin.
Both cinnamon varieties offer benefits for diabetic patients.
However, these people invariably suffer from higher levels of liver enzymes due to excess deposits of fat in the liver.
This causes a condition called fatty liver disease. Hence, when taking cinnamon for diabetes, make sure the higher doses are safe to use and will not harm the liver.
Cinnamon oils are used in making toothpaste, chewing gums, mints, etc.
The cinnamaldehyde content in this could cause inflammation of the face, lips, mouth tissue and mouth sores.
Anyone who plans to use cinnamon and suffers from any liver disease must consult their doctor before doing so.