Cinnamon is one of those ingredients we always have on hand in our pantries. Whether we're making a breakfast treat for the kids or baking oatmeal-raisin cookies, cinnamon has a comfortable place in our kitchens. It's far more versatile than nutmeg (although, to be fair, nutmeg is a necessity for béchamel sauce), and it has a long shelf life, making it a consistent presence on the spice rack. But it's not just delicious in apple pies or on buttered toast. It's been suggested that cinnamon is chock full of health benefits. Ancient Chinese medicine has long valued cinnamon for its medical value, and now that holistic treatments and home remedies are so in vogue, we're paying more attention to the capabilities of the bark-turned-spice.

While the following claims should be taken with a grain of salt (or a pinch of cinnamon), the following are some widely-held beliefs about the health benefits of cinnamon.

1. The spice's aroma has been said to boost mood, cognitive function and memory. Specifically, notes the website World's Healthiest Foods: "cinnamon improved participants' scores on tasks related to attentional processes, virtual recognition memory, working memory, and visual-motor speed while working on a computer-based program."

2. It may lower blood sugar in individuals with diabetes. It can also help stabilize blood sugar, which assists in weight loss, so if you adore the flavor, add a dash to your morning cereal or cup of coffee each morning. With any luck, your hunger hunger and sugar cravings will be reduced throughout the day.

3. Just half a teaspoon a day may lower "bad cholesterol" (LDL), but this does not mean that you should forego exercise or wantonly indulge in foods high in saturated fats.

4. It can help stop the growth of bacteria in foods, thus making it a natural food preservative.

5. When mixed with hot water and honey or tea with ginger, it may prevent the onset of the flu or a cold. It may also alleviate headaches or migraines.

6. Cinnamon is also believed to be a homeopathic menstrual aid, in that it may ease uncomfortable cramping, but even bigger claims link it to fertility problems by jumpstarting irregular menstrual cycles.

7. High in antioxidants, the spice may come in handy treating acne issues and making way for clearer complexions. Learnvest.com suggests trying this treatment method: "Mix 1 teaspoon of powdered cinnamon with 3 tablespoons of honey, apply to the skin, and let the mixture sit for a few hours or overnight. Wash off with warm water."

8. Medication-resistant yeast infections may also benefit from the ingestion of cinnamon, based on its anti-fungal properties.

So go ahead, make the spice a grander part of your life, and see what it can do for you. If you like tea, start by adding a dash to your evening mug. Given the numerous health benefits of tea (as demonstrated in the slideshow above), combining the two practically guarantees to take your health to the next level.

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