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Cinnamon in pregnancy: questionable or not? The delicious spice has many positive effects for health.
However, during pregnancy, like other foods, it should be used with caution and only in moderation.
Cinnamon: An Ancient Remedy
The delicious scent of cinnamon does not only waft around your nose at Christmas time. It is also popular for rice pudding, in chewing gum and in cappuccino. It is available in the form of teas, in cosmetics and toothpaste or as a basis for food supplements.
In the past, it was also valued as a medicinal substance. The health-promoting effect of cinnamon was already known in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
From their homeland India and China, as well as Sri Lanka and Indonesia, the spice comes from cinnamon trees. To harvest, its branches are cut and the inner bark is dried into cinnamon sticks. Cinnamon powder is grated from it.
Healing effect it has in many areas. It is known for the following alleviations:
- regulating blood sugar
- blood pressure lowering
- good for blood lipids
- calming and mood-lifting
Cinnamon In Pregnancy: Is It Dangerous?
Healthy eating is especially important during pregnancy. Its beneficial properties could also make cinnamon the preferred food during pregnancy.
However, it is also suspected of promoting labor pains. What’s the truth of that?
Stimulate Labor With Prostaglandins
The analgesic and decongestant effects of cinnamon are achieved through the action of hormone-like substances produced by the body when cinnamon is consumed. These prostaglandins contribute to the relaxation of the cervical tissue.
It becomes softer and shorter as a result. The uterine muscles are also stimulated by the substances to contract.
The fact that prostaglandins trigger contractions is also used to induce birth. Administered vaginally, they are used to promote labor after the due date has passed.
Prostaglandins are also present in sperm in small quantities, which is why it is often recommended to have sexual intercourse to stimulate labor.
The Quantity Is Crucial
However, this connection is not a reason to completely avoid cinnamon during pregnancy. Just as having intercourse every time does not induce labor, eating cinnamon is not a concern for inducing labor.
In fact, in both cases, the amount of prostaglandins is so low that the effect is not felt. To actually induce labor, you would have to eat at least 250-300 grams of cinnamon.
For comparison, a baking sheet of cinnamon stars contains about 4 grams of cinnamon, or two teaspoons.
Be Careful With Body Oils And Cinnamon Capsules
So, cinnamon ingested through food during pregnancy cannot induce labor. The situation is different with body oils flavored with cinnamon.
They have a much higher concentration of active ingredients. You should not use them during pregnancy.
However, if the due date is approaching or has already passed, cinnamon oil can help you to stimulate the onset of labor.
You should also refrain from using cinnamon capsules, which are offered for diabetics and are supposed to regulate blood sugar levels. Again, the concentration of cinnamon is so high that the capsules can induce labor.
What Is Coumarin?
In addition to its ability to promote labor pains, cinnamon has made the headlines in other contexts: It contains the flavoring agent coumarin, which also provides the distinctive odor in woodruff and tonka bean. Coumarin is a flavoring substance that occurs naturally and is characterized by a spicy odor. Ingested in large quantities, it is harmful to health.
Coumarin is prescribed in medicine as a blood thinner. The risk of excessive consumption is bleeding. For this reason, it is also used as a rat poison.
Liver damage can also occur, but more likely as long-term damage. In a small group of very sensitive people, even a small amount of coumarin taken over a period of time can cause damage to the liver.
This leads to an increase in liver enzymes, and in severe cases even to liver inflammation or jaundice. However, this effect of coumarin has not yet been proven after the consumption of cinnamon.
Other side effects of larger amounts of coumarin are headache, dizziness and vomiting.
How Much Coumarin Can Be Ingested?
Coumarin, as an isolated substance, may not be added to foods due to possible adverse health effects. However, this does not apply if it is contained in plants that are used as a flavoring in foods. This includes cinnamon.
However, the EU set maximum levels in 2011 to limit the amount of coumarin in food. Accordingly, baked goods, such as cinnamon stars, may only contain 50 mg per kg of food.
In desserts, such as ready-made rice pudding with cinnamon, the limit is 5 mg per kg. In cereals or muesli, it is 20 mg per kg of food.
The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) assesses the risk of health damage from the consumption of coumarin as rather low. According to this, there is only a risk to health if a daily amount is consumed over a long period of time.
Completely harmless, even for sensitive people, is 0.1 mg per kg body weight.
An adult weighing 60 kg could therefore consume approx. 24 small cinnamon stars a day without having to fear any damage to health.
Thus, moderate consumption of cinnamon is not a problem even during pregnancy.
It Depends On The Type Of Cinnamon
If you still want to be on the safe side, it is worth taking a closer look when shopping. There are two types of cinnamon available in stores: the high-quality Ceylon cinnamon and the cheaper Cassia cinnamon.
According to Stiftung Warentest, Ceylon cinnamon contains almost no coumarin, while the proportion in Cassia cinnamon is much higher.
Especially with cinnamon powders, however, it is often not apparent from which variety of cinnamon the powder was made. If you want to consume cinnamon during pregnancy, you should follow these tips:
Avoid Ready-Made Products
Only if you cook and bake yourself will you know what ingredients you have used and what type of cinnamon has been used in your cookies.
Buy Cinnamon Sticks
On cinnamon sticks, the variety is labeled as opposed to powder. Using a small grater, it’s easy to make Ceylon cinnamon powder from the sticks.
Look For Organic Quality
To avoid pesticide residues in cinnamon, you should choose Ceylon cinnamon from organic farming.
While the moderate consumption of cinnamon during pregnancy does not pose a problem, cinnamon capsules should also be taken into account when it comes to coumarin. The higher concentration of cinnamon not only increases the risk of the capsules triggering contractions.
The coumarin content can also be above the tolerable level. It depends on the type of cinnamon used and its treatment. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment therefore advises pregnant diabetics against taking the capsules.
Also, with a high content of the essential oil cinnamaldehyde, the risk of harm to the unborn baby cannot be excluded.
Conclusion: Cinnamon In Pregnancy – Questionable Or Not?
Cinnamon in pregnancy is not fundamentally questionable. When consumed in moderation, it can neither promote labor nor is its coumarin harmful to you or your baby.
When cooking or baking, it is best to use high-quality Ceylon cinnamon, which contains almost no coumarin. If you are diabetic, you should avoid cinnamon capsules for blood sugar regulation in any case.
Not only can they induce contractions, but they also have an increased coumarin content. You should use cinnamon flavored body oils only in the last days of your pregnancy.
They can promote contractions and should therefore only be used shortly before the due date.