BALTIMORE, July 14 -- Cinnamon, the seasoning found in chewing gum, cereal, candy and mouthwashes, can cause burning sensations and ulcers in the mouth, resulting in physical agony, frustration and cancer fears in patients, a researcher said Friday. Although the relationship between cinnamon and mouth injury has been known for 50 years, cinnamon-related mouth ailments are frequently misdiagnosed and are believed to be occurring more frequently as the spice is used in more and more products. 'What people don't realize is that cinnamon is an irritant, a caustic substance that can dry out and irritate the oral soft tissue lining,' said Michael Siegel, associate professor of oral medicine at the University of Maryland at Baltimore Dental School. He said that eating products with cinnamon in them can result in mouth sores, inflamed taste buds and a burning sensation of the tongue and tissue in the mouth. In some people, the condition is caused by excessive contact of cinnamon with the tissues; in others it is due to an allergic reaction to cinnamon which can develop suddenly. In some cases, the mouth can erupt into a field of sores that makes eating painful, can produce dramatic weight loss and visits to myriad doctors for expensive and upsetting tests, Siegel reported to the annual meeting of the Academy of General Dentistry here. 'Most of my patients are incredibly relieved when I can tell them it's not cancer,' Siegel said, because many patients believe the unexplained sensations and sores are evidence of oral cancer.
An oral disease specialist is likely to see one case a week of cinnamon-related mouth injuries, Siegel told United Press International. Siegel, following up research by colleagues at the University of Louisville, cited two specific cases of cinnamon-related injury: --A 60-year-old healthy man developed a case of tiny mouth ulcers under the tongue and on the base of the mouth. He had no apparent health concerns, so Siegel asked him to keep a diary of what substances went into his mouth each day. They found that his wife has switched mouthwashes, from a green liquid to a red (cinnamon-flavored) liquid. When he stopped using the red mouthwash, the mouth sores healed. --A 35-year-old woman's mouth was so riddled with sores she couldn't eat and had been losing weight rapidly. Upon questioning her, the woman opened her purse to reveal cinnamon-flavored chewing gum; her desk contained cinnamon-flavored candies. When she stopped eating cinnamon, the sores vanished and did not return. Siegel said he also prescribes a steroid cream to help speed healing. 'The first step in treating cinnamon-induced oral problems is to identify the cause and have the patients stop eating cinnamon,' he said, warning that patients that foods containing cinnamon include pastries such as pumpkin pie, rice cakes, herbal teas, flavored coffees, breads, toothpaste, Pop Tarts and even some lip balms. 'It's in a ton of stuff,' he said. Siegel suggested that many physicians aren't aware of the cinnamon connection and can mistake cinnamon-caused sores and even some microscopic analyses for diseases such as diabetes, anemia, lupus or other systemic diseases. 'One of the first questions I ask a person who comes in complaining of red gums, oral ulcers or a burning sensation in the mouth is, 'Do you eat a lot of cinnamon?' (Written from West Palm Beach, Florida, by Ed Susman; edited from Washington by UPI Science and Technology Editor Larry Schuster)