Could cinnamon be used to treat multiple sclerosis (MS)? That’s what scientists at Rush University Medical Center want to know, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has committed $750,000 over two years to fund research into the issue.
“Since medieval times, physicians have used cinnamon to treat a variety of disorders including arthritis, coughing and sore throats,” said Kalipada Pahan, PhD., Floyd A. Davis professor of neurology at Rush and leader of the study. “Our initial findings in mice indicate that cinnamon may also help those suffering from MS.”
Researchers have yet to pinpoint the cause of MS. The most common theories point to a virus or genetic defect, or a combination of both. Geographic differences also indicate an environmental factor.
In earlier published studies, Pahan has been able to show that sodium benzoate, a metabolite of cinnamon, can inhibit the expression of various pro-inflammatory molecules in brain cells and block the disease process of MS in mice.
Different doses of sodium benzoate were mixed into drinking water, since it is highly soluble and non-toxic, and given to the mice. Sodium benzoate suppressed the MS clinical score by more than 70 percent and inhibited incidence of MS by 100 percent in the animal model. The Journal of Immunology previously published the results of the initial studies.
The drugs currently available to treat MS cost thousands of dollars a month and have many drawbacks. According to Pahan, “These medications are expensive, have many side effects, and are only 30-40 percent effective in patients. If our study is successful, there may be a day when just a teaspoonful of ground cinnamon per day with milk, tea or honey, may help MS patients manage the disease process and significantly cut down the drug cost drastically to $10 per month per patient.”
Cinnamon is safe and has a few advantages over currently approved MS drugs. It is non-toxic and can be taken orally, rather than through painful injections.
“The most devastating nature of this disease is that it affects young people just starting their careers and families,” said Pahan. “There is no other disease in the world that has such an impact on the quality of lives of young, vibrant adults. This is what motivates me to study this disease.”
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Ann Pietrangelo is the author of “No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis,” a memoir. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and The Author’s Guild, and a regular contributor to Care2 Healthy & Green Living and Care2 Causes. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo