(*) A Few Cautions About Cinnamon: All Cinnamon is not the Same!

By MAYS Latest Reply 2012-04-16 09:10:18 -0500
Started 2012-04-14 14:57:46 -0500

Diabetics who consume Cinnamon as a means to help them to manage their diabetes, should really take the time to read this (*) all Cinnamon is not the same, and there are some major health concerns to consider when consuming it!

True cinnamon is the inner bark of an evergreen tree, (Cinnamomum verum or cinnamomum zeylancium) grown mainly in Sri Lanka (previously Ceylon) and Southern India.

Since it is expensive, it has been replaced to a large extent by the bark of a related species called Cassia (Cinnamon aromaticum).

Pardon the expression, but Cassia is also referred to as bastard cinnamon.

(This is not related to the laxative sold in stores as Cassia or Senna.)

Both kinds of cinnamon, however, get their flavor from a chemical called cinnamaldehyde.

Cassia sticks or quills are a light reddish brown in color, and hard and woody in texture as they are made from the entire bark of the tree.

True cinnamon is made from the inner bark, lending itself to a finer and less dense texture. It is often said that the quills of the true cinnamon spice roll only towards one side whereas the cassia sticks roll inward from both sides.

The tightly-rolled quills of true cinnamon are very delicate and feel rather like parchment paper, which you can break apart easily; whereas Cassia sticks are hollow. If you have ever had to pound your cinnamon sticks to break them, then you definitely have Cassia!

There is a another variant of cinnamon called Malabathrum that is commonly used in the Indian sub-continent. It is from a related species called Cinnamomum tamala or Cinnamomum tejpata.


(*) Caution, Health Risk!

Cassia contains a compound called coumarin, that can be toxic if consumed in high quantities.
Coumarin has been banned in the US since the 1950s as an additive to foods.

Even relatively small amounts of coumarin can damage the liver and kidneys of particularly sensitive individuals but the good news is that this is not permanent damage.

True cinnamon contains low levels of coumarin (0.45%) which are considered to be safe whereas cassia cinnamon contains high levels (upto 5%) of coumarin.

It is therefore not a good idea to eat large amounts of cinnamon.

I know what you are thinking! Who chomps away on cinnamon?! And how much is “a large amount”?

According to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment in Germany, 2 milligrams of coumarin per kilogram of food is considered a safe amount to consume. Additionally, the cinnamaldehyde in Cassia has a moderate tendency to cause allergic reactions, especially in the bladder.

What does one do? Unless you are eating a lot of Cassia, in excess of 0.5g per kg of food, and on a regular basis, I would not be alarmed. I have a wonderful rule of everything in moderation, nothing in excess and it should work in this case, too.

The other thing one could do is to flavor your food with better quality cinnamon, true cinnamon. Look closely at the labeling on powdered cinnamon and try to buy powders made from true cinnamon or at least a blend of true cinnamon and Cassia.


8 replies

GabbyPA 2012-04-15 10:14:41 -0500 Report

I, too, have been reading about the different kinds of cinnamon and it is amazing what is out there. Using Nick's source or looking into any organic herb/spice shop will help too. There is a lot of information out there that it amazes me how we don't know these things. I know I just took it for granted that it was all the same but maybe taste. Now I am learning so much more. I just hope my brain can hold it all. LOL

MAYS 2012-04-16 09:10:18 -0500 Report

So true Gabby, so true!
So much information to research, I just hope that my mind doesn't decide to go on vacation anytime soon!

robertoj 2012-04-15 03:31:50 -0500 Report

The cinnamon sold in Mexican stores is real cinnamon and it is better for savory dishes. Cassia is used for dessert dishes. Most spice companies do not differentiate.

Nick1962 2012-04-14 19:21:18 -0500 Report

So true Mays, quality is also an issue. Some spice buyers will bypass older cinnamon because much of the natural oils have been dried out, or the sticks contain too much "wood" or non-desirable cinnamon bark. Unfortunately, some of this can make it's way into the concentrated medicinal cinnamons and sold at low prices (much like inferior fish oils), which could explain why some folks have seen no benefit and some do. Even more unfortunately, that "junk" cinnamon is what is largely sent to the US for us to use in the kitchen. This is why I always buy Ceylon or Korintje from shops like Penzeys. It's not much more expensive (you use less) and the taste is so much better.

Caroltoo 2012-04-14 15:26:52 -0500 Report

Very interesting. I use it frequently as a flavoring, but not enough to cause a problem. However, were I taking cinnamon in capsule form, this is a very important caution. I knew there were different types, but this article lists as the "true" cinnamon, a form that I don't believe I have heard of. Thanks for posting this.

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