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Cinnamon for Acne

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Cinnamon is a natural acne remedy. It provides antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and microdermabrasion benefits for acne sufferers.

Cinnamon is one of the effective herbal extracts used in the treatment of acne. It is available both as a powdered herb and as cinnamon oil.

Cinnamon extracts can be applied to the skin to treat acne. Acne is, however, not the only skin condition treated with cinnamon. It is also used to treat eczema and cleanse the scalp.

There are three major properties of cinnamon that makes it useful in acne treatment. These are its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

Since acne is the sum total of several changes to the nature of the skin including bacterial colonization of the skin, inflammation and increased breakdown of keratin, cinnamon has the right properties to effectively treat the skin disease.

While acne can be caused by several factors, the two most important contributors are a hormonal imbalance and bacterial skin infections.

Hormonal imbalance involves the increased production of male sex hormones while bacterial infections in acne development are due to two organisms, Propionibacterium acnes, and Staphylococcus epidermis. Cinnamon addresses this second cause.

Since cinnamon is applied on the skin, it does not restore hormonal balance by reducing the production of male sex hormones, but the herb is effective for stopping acne-causing bacteria and for reversing the changes on the skin triggered by both causes of acne.

What is Cinnamon?

Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner barks of the trees belonging to the Cinnamomum plant family.

The trees were native to Sri Lanka but today, different species and cultivars are now grown all over South East Asia.

The distinct flavor of cinnamon is due to its oil content. Essential oils make up 0.5 – 1 % of the content of the herb, and they are expressed by first pounding the bark. Then the bark is soaked in seawater to soften woody part and separate the oil before distilling the water.

Cinnamon oil is golden yellow in color although it becomes darker as it ages because of oxidation.

The major constituent of the oil is cinnamaldehyde which makes up 60% of the oil. Cinnamaldehyde is also responsible for the sharp taste and scent of the oil.

Constituents of Cinnamon Oil
  • Cinnamaldehyde
  • Eugenol
  • Linalool
  • Ethyl cinnamate
  • Beta-caryophyllene
  • Manganese
  • Calcium
  • Iron

As a spice, the culinary use of cinnamon is extensive. It is used as a condiment and for flavoring foods. Cinnamon is combined with sugar and used as a sweetener for teas, confectionery, and baked goods. It is also used in pickling and is one of the few spice-herbs that can be eaten directly.

Ground cinnamon contains carbohydrates which comprise a little sugar but mostly fiber. It also contains protein and a small amount of fat.

Cinnamon bark and leaf extracts have been shown to have antiviral properties. This ability is believed to be due to the terpenoids contained in cinnamon.

Different studies have also shown that cinnamon improves glucose and lipid control in diabetic patients. It also has an anti-cancer effect which is attributed to the anti-inflammatory properties of cinnamaldehyde.

Why Cinnamon Works for Acne

Cinnamon bark and oil work for acne because of the following properties of the plant: antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, microdermabrasion, and antioxidant.

Antibacterial Properties of Cinnamon

The antibacterial effect of cinnamon is the most studied of its properties.

A 2007 study published in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry demonstrated the effectiveness of cinnamon extract on five bacteria including Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella anatum and Bacillus cereus.

The study found that cinnamaldehyde and proanthocyanidins contained in cinnamon are responsible for this broad-spectrum antibacterial action.

This broad-spectrum antibacterial activity makes cinnamon effective against acne-causing bacteria like P. acnes and S. epidermis.

By removing these bacteria from the skin, cinnamon prevents the clogging of the skin pores and reduces the inflammation and increased sebum production caused by the microbes.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cinnamon

Cinnamon also reduces skin inflammation by other means. A 2002 study discovered that trans-cinnamaldehyde found in cinnamon extracts inhibits the production of nitric oxide. 

Cinnamaldehyde does this by inhibiting the enzyme called nitric oxide synthase.

Since nitric oxide is a major component of the inflammation process, reducing its production can help reduce acne swelling which presents as superficial (pimples, whiteheads, and blackheads) and deep (nodules and cysts) acne lesions.

Yet another mechanism by which cinnamon reduces inflammation in acne is through the inhibition of COX-2 or cyclooxygenase-2 synthesis.

COX-2 is also a major component of the cascade reaction in the body that leads to skin inflammation.

Other Anti-Acne Properties of Cinnamon

The antioxidant property of cinnamon also protects the skin from environmental toxins and other harmful substances produced as byproducts of bacterial metabolism or trapped in the skin pores by the accumulation of dirt.

By removing these harmful free radicals, cinnamon can prevent further damage to the sebaceous follicles and the proteins of the skin.

In addition, ground cinnamon or cinnamon powder can provide a microdermabrasion effect on the skin by sloughing off the top layer of dirt formed by sebum, bacteria and dead skin cells.

This exfoliation is provided by the fine fiber of cinnamon powder which is capable of cleansing the skin and exposing a new layer of healthy skin.

How to Use Cinnamon in Acne Treatment

Cinnamon can be used solely or combined with other remedies to treat acne. It can also be ingested or applied to the skin.

Cinnamon should only be gently applied to the skin because it can irritate the skin and might aggravate acne lesions.

You can make a cinnamon tea by adding ½ teaspoon of the powder to 8 ounces of water. Boil for 15 minutes and allow the tea to infuse properly before drinking.

Cinnamon is often combined with honey and then applied as an acne mask. There are different recipes for this mask but the simplest way to prepare it is to mix 1 tablespoon of cinnamon powder with 3 tablespoons of raw honey (preferably Manuka honey).

Honey is also a very potent natural acne remedy. It has a strong antibacterial effect too, and its soothing effect can counteract any irritation caused by cinnamon.

Mix the two ingredients until they form a brown paste of uniform consistency. Before applying the paste on your skin, wash the affected area with a mild cleanser and dry with a soft towel.

Apply the mask all over the area affected by acne. Leave on overnight or for 15 – 20 minutes before rinsing off with lukewarm water. You may need to re-apply this mask every day for 2 – 3 weeks if your acne is severe.

A similar mask can be made from cinnamon, honey, and nutmeg.

2 teaspoon of honey is mixed with 1 teaspoon of nutmeg powder and 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon. The paste formed is then applied and left on the affected area for 30 minutes before rinsing off with warm water.

Both of these masks are also useful for removing acne scars.

Cinnamon can also be mixed with other substances besides honey.

One common cinnamon acne mask is made by adding some cinnamon powder to 2 tablespoons of milk. This is then applied to the affected area and left on for 10 minutes before rinsing off with cold water.

Cinnamon can also be mixed with fresh lemon juice in equal parts. Apply the paste formed on the skin, and leave on for 15 minutes before washing it off.

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