Within the past five years, the Cinnamon Challenge has become a certified viral trend. Hitting its peak in 2013 and 2014, the “challenge,” being able to eat an entire spoonful of powdered cinnamon in one go (and of course filming it for posterity), has been accepted tens of thousands of times, and all videos are essentially the same: The person (usually a teenager) puts the spoonful in their mouth, coughs, gags, chokes, lets out a huge plume of cinnamon, drinks some water, and everyone laughs. But this gag is actually a lot more dangerous than it seems.
First, think about what cinnamon is: It’s basically powdered tree bark, or cellulose. As opposed to simply swallowing it down as many expect they’d do, because the powder is so fine they usually end up inhaling it, triggering the gag reflex, causing burning and inflammation in the airways and lungs, and potentially setting up long-term lung damage because cellulose doesn’t break down, it simply stays in the lungs. It’s also coated with cinnamon oil, which is a caustic substance that can lead to chronic lung inflammation and eventually lung scarring, which can permanently affect your ability to breathe normally.
If you happen to inhale a whole spoonful of the stuff, you can be in big trouble. Last year, for example, a four year-old who came across a jar of cinnamon powder put some in his mouth and accidentally inhaled it, and he sadly ended up choking to death.
While this challenge might sound fun at the time (and teenagers tend to think that they’re invincible), trying to swallow a spoonful of cinnamon could have life-altering health effects.