Ceylon cinnamon

We get excited when we learn about natural products that have health benefits. Consequently, we were intrigued 13 years ago when we first heard that cinnamon might help control blood sugar (Diabetes Care, Dec. 2003). The initial placebo-controlled trial showed that cinnamon also lowered triglycerides and cholesterol. The researchers used a water-based cinnamon extract. Later, other scientists confirmed that such an extract can lower fasting blood glucose significantly better than placebo (European Journal of Clinical Investigation, May 2006). These studies were conducted with regular cassia cinnamon. Does Ceylon cinnamon have the same effects?

The downside from cinnamon is the possibility of harm from taking plain cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia). This spice from the bark of a Chinese tree is what we usually find on the grocery store shelf. Unfortunately, cassia cinnamon may contain coumarin in variable quantities. Consuming large amounts of coumarin, such as that found in certain German cinnamon cookies, might harm the liver (Food Chemistry, July 15, 2008).

How Do Ceylon Cinnamon and Cassia Cinnamon Differ?

Q. You recently wrote about cinnamon in your column and mentioned coumarin in cassia cinnamon. You said Ceylon cinnamon doesn’t contain this hazardous compound.

Do cassia cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon taste the same? (I believe you said cinnamon on supermarket spice shelves is cassia.)

A. You are right that most cinnamon in supermarkets is the less expensive cassia cinnamon. It may contain coumarin, which might damage the liver at high doses. That’s why we don’t recommend people take supermarket cinnamon on a regular basis, except as a water extract. Using it to flavor food is not a concern.

How Do They Taste?

Cassia cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon have slightly different flavors. Cassia is “hotter” and Ceylon is more complex. You might find it interesting to sample them to see which flavor you prefer.

Safety and Effectiveness:

Ceylon cinnamon does not contain significant coumarin, but more studies on the benefits of cinnamon for controlling blood sugar and lowering cholesterol have used cassia cinnamon. The two types are derived from the bark of related tree species. A recent review of research shows that either type of cinnamon may offer some modest improvement of blood sugar control in addition to regular diabetes treatment (Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Nov. 2016).

You will find more information about both types of cinnamon and other spices in our new book, Spice Up Your Health.

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  1. Jackie
    Chapel Hill
    Reply

    Is there any good research on the use of Ceylon cinnamon to control blood sugar?

  2. Paul
    Butler, NJ
    Reply

    I am wondering if the bashing of Chinese and Vietnamese cinnamon types via coumarin is orchestrated somehow by the owners of Ceylon Cinnamon suppliers since the Chinese and Vietnamese types taste better IMHO and Ceylon suppliers have lost big time market share? Like how margarin companies bashed butter and eggs for having cholesterol in the 60s & 70s. Sort of like President Trump and Coal. LOL Also, the potential for misinformation can come from questionable studies by big pharma that may produce diabetes drugs that compete with cinamon? Be interested to hear thoughts by those in the know about this. Thanks.

  3. Cynthia
    Neche, ND
    Reply

    Several people here are asking whether Saigon cinnamon is safer to use than the ordinary cassia-type cinnamon you find in the grocery store. Saigon cinnamon is closely related to cassia, and has comparable amounts of coumarin; hence, to eat a lot of it (a couple of teaspoons every day, maybe even less if your liver is sensitive) over a period of time will damage your liver.

    BUT–I want to point out that coumarin is NOT water soluble, so if you have cassia or Saigon cinnamon in chips or sticks, and steep them like a tea, you can drink the resulting brew quite freely, because there will be so little coumarin in the drink–it will be left in the sticks or chips. And the tea is DELISH, even all by itself. You will note that the original research on cinnamon (cassia) that found it effective in lowering blood sugar used a WATER EXTRACT (tea) of cinnamon. This avoided the dangers of ingesting too much coumarin.

  4. Donna
    raleigh
    Reply

    I too wonder if Saigon cinnamon is ok to use – or is that just Cassia cinnamon with a different name?

  5. Linda
    Texas
    Reply

    What about Saigon Cinnamon? I have a bottle from Kroger’s Simple Truth line that we use in our coffee pot in the morning.

  6. Bethyl
    Florida
    Reply

    I bought a large bottle of Kirkland cinnamon and all it says is “Ground Saigon Cinnamon”. How would I know which type it is?

  7. Susan
    Tidewater, VA
    Reply

    Since I read an article last year in The People’s Pharmacy, I’ve been able to purchase Ceylon cinnamon at local grocery stores mixed in with all the other spices. The brand is organic cinnamon. I can’t taste any difference between the two types of cinnamon. But Ceylon cinnamon is the only type I will ever buy. I would prefer not to ingest Coumadin unless it’s prescribed by my physician.

  8. Sharon
    Portland, OR
    Reply

    How much cinnamon should one use per dose? I use 1/2 tsp. of Ceylon cinnamon in a fruit smoothie most days, but not everyday, (and only when I remember to do it at all). The docs tell me I’m pre-diabetic and also my kidneys are OK, but on the edge too. I’m 81 years old.

    • c
      greensboro
      Reply

      You are confusing coumarin and coumadin, They are NOT the same thing.

  9. Robert
    Dallas, TX
    Reply

    As far as I can tell, the Ceylon cinnamon that you’re talking about is cinnamomun verum, also known as Mexican Cinnamon. You can find it in whole sticks in Latin-American supermarkets. It has a much thinner bark than the cassia cinnamon, almost like the bark from a crepe myrtle tree.

  10. ebm
    Reply

    Cassia cinnamon is no longer used in large amounts in
    bakery products and my sister in Germany said they now
    have ceylon cinnamon on market shelves, which is more
    expensive there also. The danes were protesting the
    restrictions because their “Danish” pastries did no longer
    taste good. They caught on faster than the US.

  11. Barb
    Washington
    Reply

    What about Saigon cinnamon?

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