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.
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