Cinnamon is a versatile medicinal plant that has various health benefits. Though it is beneficial for adults, the safety and benefits of cinnamon for babies should be considered before including it in their diet.
The bark of the cinnamon tree is the most commonly used part and is infused into many sweet and savory dishes as a spice. However, almost all of its parts, including the flowers, leaves, and roots, are edible and have therapeutic value.
Read this post to understand more about the safety, benefits, and adverse effects of cinnamon on babies and how to include it in their diet.
Is Cinnamon Safe For Babies?
The U.S Food and Drug Administration considers cinnamon as “Generally Recognized As Safe” (GRAS) for consumption among babies (1). Anecdotal evidence suggests that one teaspoon of cinnamon powder a day should be safe to consume for babies who are at least six months old.
When Can Babies Have Cinnamon?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using cinnamon for babies once they are six months of age (2). If you wish to introduce cinnamon before the age of six months, then consult your pediatrician.
Health Benefits Of Cinnamon For Babies
- Immune function: Babies are more vulnerable to infections than older kids and adults. The use of cinnamon to support immunity has been a common practice in alternative medicine, especially for babies.
A research study showed that the aqueous extract of the cinnamon spice contains cinnamaldehyde that has been attributed to antioxidant properties (5).
- Cognitive function: Cinnamon contains phytochemicals that boost the brain’s ability to utilize glucose (6). Adequate and prolonged use of cinnamon might help boost cognitive development among babies.
- Generalized pain: Cinnamon is believed to possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that could potentially help reduce soreness and pain. This property of cinnamon has made it a popular alternative medicine to treat dental problems (7). However, before using any home remedy, consult a pediatrician.
- Common cold and flu: The use of cinnamon to get some symptomatic relief from cold and flu is common in alternative medicine. A cup of cinnamon tea with one teaspoon of honey is considered as an effective treatment for cold (8). However, honey is not safe for babies below the age of 12 months (9).
- Digestive health: The use of cinnamon in traditional medicine to treat digestive issues is well documented. The common digestive ailments for which the use of cinnamon was recommended were indigestion, flatulence, abdominal cramps, and intestinal spasms (10). Anecdotal evidence reaffirms the effectiveness of cinnamon to provide symptomatic relief from the mentioned ailments. However, the safety of use for babies is not well researched.
- Dental Care: In traditional medicine, cinnamon oil has been used to treat various dental issues. This practice is now validated by some recent research studies that indicate that cinnamon might prove helpful in maintaining dental health (11) (12). However, the use of cinnamon for babies for oral care is a decision you should take in consultation with a pediatrician.
- Skin Care: Cinnamon oil is an essential oil believed to promote skin health. A research study reaffirms the belief and indicates that regular use of cinnamon oil can reduce skin inflammation (13). However, there are no research studies to validate the safety and efficacy of cinnamon oil for baby’s skin.
The use of cinnamon has also been attributed to the treatment of reduced appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting. However, its safety and efficacy as a treatment for any health problem in babies are not well-researched. It is essential to use caution while using the spice for the baby, especially if the baby is prone to allergies.
Cinnamon Allergy In Babies
Cinnamon allergy is possible, but it is not common. A basic non-allergic reaction to cinnamon is a local rash at the spot where cinnamon touches the skin. In general, the allergic antibody-mediated reactions in the case of cinnamon are believed to be very rare. Besides, oral consumption is known to show non-allergic reactions consistent with “intolerances” (14).
A few cases of cinnamon-induced mucosal contact reactions have been documented. The signs and symptoms of oral contact allergic reaction to cinnamon may mimic other common oral disorders, which makes its diagnosis quite difficult (15).
Therefore, it is crucial that you be aware of the products which might contain cinnamon, especially if your baby is diagnosed with cinnamon allergy. Below are some basic symptoms that you might observe due to allergy (16).
- Runny nose
- Difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath
- Red, sore, and watery eyes
- Vomiting or nausea
- Swelling of the lips or tongue
Ways To Include Cinnamon In Your Baby’s Diet
You can add cinnamon to your baby’s diet in various forms. It can be sprinkled over to a puree or breakfast cereal, such as oatmeal. Below are some foods in which you can add cinnamon for flavor.
- Mashed sweet potato
- Carrot and pumpkin puree
Cinnamon can also be added to foods such as eggs and fish once your baby begins to eat them.
Selection And Storage Of Cinnamon
Below are some points to keep in mind while buying and later storing the cinnamon at home (17) (18).
- Buy cinnamon sticks or powder from reputed dealers, especially the ones with a proven record.
- Check for “manufacturing” or “to be used by” date. These dates are helpful for proper storage. However, they are reliable only if the food is kept at the mentioned temperature during storage and handling.
- The thickness of the sticks determines the quality of the spice. Basically, the thinner the cinnamon sticks, the better the quality (19).
- For household use, buy small quantities only, especially loose cinnamon powder, which loses flavor quickly.
- Keep the cinnamon packet away from heat, humidity, fluorescent lighting, and direct sun to preserve the cinnamon’s flavor and color.
- Once you have opened the packet, store the cinnamon within a tightly-shut container in a dry and cool environment. It will help avoid moisture and maintain freshness.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are the types of cinnamon most suitable for use?
Cinnamon bark is the source from which cinnamon powder and essential oils are derived. While many use this spice in their daily life, it is often not known that it has four main types (6). However, out of these, the two most used types are:
- True cinnamon or Ceylon cinnamon or Mexican cinnamon
- Cassia cinnamon or Chinese cinnamon
According to a few studies, cassia cinnamon can cause exposure to coumarin, a highly hepatotoxic and carcinogenic element found in cassia cinnamon (20). Therefore, it is wise to buy certified true cinnamon for babies.
2. Is cinnamon good for teething babies?
Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties that help in reducing inflammation. This property of cinnamon can prove useful while your baby is teething as teething makes gums swell due to inflammation. However, there are no clinical indications that support the use of cinnamon during teething.
3. Can we give cinnamon water to babies?
Cinnamon water can be given to babies. However, the amount of cinnamon added to water must be monitored carefully. As per the US FDA, oral intake of one to six grams of cinnamon per day is considered safe for adults (21). However, there is no safe limit marked for babies. Therefore, consult your pediatrician about the safe limit.
Cinnamon is known for its exotic flavor and aroma. Its use for babies is possible, and the little one could reap some benefits too. You can make the spice a part of various baby foods. However, it is important that you choose the right type of cinnamon and practice caution while introducing it in your baby’s diet.
Use cinnamon with caution, try and buy good quality sticks and either grind them at home or use a fine grater to freshly grate when needed.
2. Easing Infants & Toddlers into Halloween Fun: Tips from the AAP; American Academy of Pediatrics
3. Priyanga Ranasinghe et al., Medicinal properties of ‘true’ cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum): a systematic review; National Center For Biotechnology Information
4. Gruenwald J et al., Cinnamon and health.; National Center For Biotechnology Information
5. Franziska Roth-Walter et al., Immune Suppressive Effect of Cinnamaldehyde Due to Inhibition of Proliferation and Induction of Apoptosis in Immune Cells: Implications in Cancer; National Center For Biotechnology Information
6. Pallavi Kawatra and Rathai Rajagopalan, Cinnamon: Mystic powers of a minute ingredient; National Center For Biotechnology Information
7. Hamid Mollazadeh and Hossein Hosseinzadeh; Cinnamon effects on metabolic syndrome: a review based on its mechanisms; National Center For Biotechnology Information
8. Natural cold and flu remedies from around the world; World Vision
9. Botulism; Health Direct
10. Rafie Hamidpour et al., Cinnamon from the selection of traditional applications to its novel effects on the inhibition of angiogenesis in cancer cells and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, and a series of functions; National Center For Biotechnology Information
11. Wiwattanarattanabut K et al., In Vitro Anti-Cariogenic Plaque Effects of Essential Oils Extracted from Culinary Herbs.; National Center For Biotechnology Information
12. Gupta D and Jain A.; Effect of Cinnamon Extract and Chlorhexidine Gluconate (0.2%) on the Clinical Level of Dental Plaque and Gingival Health: A 4-Week, Triple-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial.; National Center For Biotechnology Information
13. Xuesheng Han and Tory L. Parker; Anti Inflammatory Activity of Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) Bark Essential Oil in a Human Skin Disease Model; National Center For Biotechnology Information
14. Can Spices Cause Allergic Reactions?; American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
15. Ana P. M Vivas and Dante A Migliari; Cinnamon-induced Oral Mucosal Contact Reaction; National Center For Biotechnology Information
16. Cinnamon Allergy; Allergy Knowledge Base
17. Food Storage for Safety and Quality; National Ag Safety Database
18. Cinnamon, Ingredient of the Month; American Culinary Federation Education Foundation
19. Cinnamon; Transport Information Service
20. Yan-Hong Wang et al.; Cassia Cinnamon as a Source of Coumarin in Cinnamon-Flavored Food and Food Supplements in the United States; Researchgate
21. Is Cinnamon Good For You?; University of Washington