lower blood sugar safely, cinnamon in coffee. cinnamon lowers blood sugar

Over the past 15 years, researchers have reported that cinnamon can amplify the effects of insulin and help cells respond more appropriately (Khan et al, Diabetes Care, Dec. 2003; Mang et al, European Journal of Clinical Investigation, May 2006; Kirkham et al, Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism, Dec. 2009; Davis & Yokoyama, Journal of Medicinal Food, Sep. 2011; Anderson et al, Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, April 18, 2015). But which cinnamon lowers blood sugar best? That is a controversial topic.

Lower Blood Sugar vs. Liver Safety:

Q. You’ve written about cinnamon as a supplement that could help control blood sugar levels. I understood you to say that Cinnamomum cassia has more coumarin than Cinnamomum verum. Coumarin should be avoided because it might harm the liver.

The cinnamon I purchased says Cinnamomum burmannii (bark) on the label. Do you know how much coumarin this type of cinnamon has?

Coumarin in Various Types of Cinnamon:

A. Cinnamomum burmannii is native to Indonesia. It contains many of the same compounds that provide the familiar cinnamon flavor from cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) or Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum). C. burmannii has anti-inflammatory activity and can help regulate blood sugar after a meal (Al-Dhubiab, Pharmacognosy Review, Jul-Dec. 2012).

You are right that coumarin has the potential to damage the liver (Iwata et al, Frontiers in Pharmacology, June 20, 2016). Relatively high levels are found in cassia cinnamon and also in C. burmannii. In fact, both Indonesian cinnamon (C. burmannii) and Saigon cinnamon (C. loureiroi) contain even more coumarin than cassia cinnamon (Wang et al, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, May 8, 2013). C. burmannii seems to be one of the most commonly used sources of cinnamon flavoring in foods sold in the US.

Avoiding Excess Coumarin:

Since coumarin is not water soluble, we suggest you make tea or another type of water extract with your C. burmannii. This should provide you with the benefits and minimize the risk of harmful liver effects. If you have the opportunity to use Ceylon cinnamon or Taiwanese C. osmophloeum twigs or leaves, you would be getting natural products with little if any coumarin (Yeh et al, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Feb. 19, 2014).

Which Cinnamon Lowers Blood Sugar?

In many research reports, the investigators do not specify which type of cinnamon they used in their study (Costello et al, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Nov. 2016). Consequently, we have some difficulty determining which cinnamon lowers blood sugar most effectively. The first studies were conducted using cassia cinnamon. Soon thereafter, scientists began to examine C. verum (aka C. zeylanicum) to see if it can moderate blood sugar and insulin spikes after meals. Although initial results were discouraging (Wickenberg et al, British Journal of Nutrition, June 2012), research in rats and a handful of human volunteers suggests that C. verum may also be useful for blood sugar control (IM et al, Food & Function, Sep. 2014).

Reducing Coumarin While Lowering Blood Sugar:

Q. I was recently diagnosed with pre-diabetes. From reading previous People’s Pharmacy columns, I was aware that cassia cinnamon can be toxic unless put in a paper filter with coffee grounds. I have been mixing one teaspoon of cinnamon in my coffee grounds before brewing my coffee every morning.

In a recent column, a reader wrote that he wound up in the emergency room after consuming the same amount of cinnamon on a daily basis that I have been taking. Is it no longer considered safe to put cinnamon in coffee as I have been doing? I love the taste of cinnamon and would hate to have to take it in capsule form.

Avoiding Coumarin in Cassia Cinnamon:

A. The reader who developed liver damage from taking cinnamon didn’t say how he took it. That experience underscores the potential toxicity of coumarin in plain ground cinnamon.

Coumarin is a compound that is found in the same tree bark used to make cassia cinnamon. The compound can be toxic to the liver, and some years ago, the German government issued a warning that German citizens should avoid eating too many cinnamon star cookies at Christmastime. As Grinch-like as that seemed, the agency was attempting to protect the public health.

Because the amount of coumarin varies considerably depending on the source of cassia cinnamon, you can’t know without specialized testing how scary your supermarket cinnamon may be. The technology used is high-performance thin layer chromatography-bioautography-mass spectrometry (HPTLC-MS) and it demonstrates the extremely wide range of coumarin in cinnamon-containing foods (Kruger, Winheim & Morlock, Food Chemistry, Jan. 15, 2018).

You are following the best practice for protecting yourself from coumarin by using the water extract (in the form of your coffee) and leaving the rest of the powdered spice behind. Coumarin is not water-soluble, while the compounds that reduce blood sugar are. Consequently, consuming the “aqueous extract” as you do when you put cinnamon in your paper coffee filter is a good way to lower blood sugar safely.

Ellie has a suggestion on how to do this:

“Our family has been adding cinnamon to our pot of coffee for years. We put a mixture of cinnamon and cacao powder (no sugar included) into the coffee filter. Then, we put another filter on top of the cinnamon-cacao filter in which we put the coffee. It makes a slight chocolate-cinnamon flavor to the coffee to go with added health benefits. Yumm!”

What About Ceylon Cinnamon?

Ceylon cinnamon, although it is pricier, would be even safer than C. burmannii, as C. verum contains little or no coumarin (Beejmohan et al, BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Sep. 23, 2014). Research shows that it reduces post-meal blood sugar by about 20 percent compared to placebo. A review found that Ceylon cinnamon could be helpful in reducing metabolic syndrome, a disorder associated with a large waistline, high cholesterol, hypertension and elevated blood sugar (Mollazadeh & Hosseinzadeh, Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences, Dec. 2016).

What Is the Difference Between Cassia and Ceylon Cinnamon?

Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) and cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) are two different species within the same genus. In both cases, the spice is made from the tree bark. Other species of tree that are sometimes used to produce cinnamon include C. loureiroi, termed Vietnamese or Saigon cinnamon, C. burmannii, sometimes termed korintje cinnamon, and C. citriodorum, or Malabar cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon and Indonesian cinnamon are the types most often found as ground cinnamon spice on North American supermarket shelves.

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  1. JAS

    Could the People’s Pharmacy address the additional issue about cinnamon’s (coumarin)? Spice manufacturing companies mention on their websites that coumarin is a “naturally occurring” substance also found in blueberries, strawberries, cherries, apricots, green tea… If we eat a high amount of these foods would we also get the same toxic effects similar to that of eating the cassia cinnamon? Or would this typically only affect those of us with liver diseases? Thank you!

    • Terry Graedon

      The dose is relevant. Coumarin occurs in relatively high amounts in cassia cinnamon, as well as tonic bean (Dipteryx odorata) and a few other plants. It doesn’t seem to be present in nearly such large quantities in blueberries or strawberries.

  2. JAS

    I cannot drink coffee or tea for heart arrythmia issues. How can I consume cinnamon (less toxic version) in the least toxic form other than Cinsulin? Has Consumer Labs approved this product Cinsulin? (At age 57 I was diagnosed with fatty liver disease/non-alcoholic steatohepatitis – N.A.S.H. – [Fibroscan liver test result at Stage F0-F1/6.5 level]; need to bring down my A1c of 6.3 & desperately need to lose 50 pounds to try & reverse any liver fibrosis.) In total shock after getting this diagnosis as I have N.E.V.E.R. drank alcohol my entire life nor do I have ANY of the high risks of liver disease…. and I have been tested for every Hep possible A, B, C, one sex partner entire life, no blood transfusion, etc….. (EXCEPT)…. (A) I have some of Metabolic Syndrom; overweight (BMI: 32) since pregnancy (20 years) ; drank regular & diet soda for 30 years (stopped it cold turkey) & have unknowingly been using high fructose corn syrup products (including & esp.) chocolate products since the “Chocolate-is-an-antioxidant!-Craze” HELP!!

  3. Edward

    I have used Ceylon cinnamon obtained from Amazon for 6 mo. It has lowered my A1C from 6.5 to 5.7 and now it is 5.4. Thanks so much for the article(s) on cinnamon. What an easy way to lower chances of metabolic syndrome!

  4. Sandy
    Anacortes, Wa

    Just ready Gerry’s comments…what a lovely family story. Writers like this make for a good morning. Added plus is, I’m actually going to use my own family drip coffee pot right now for some personal cinnamon blend. I’ll be leaving the strong “man blend” for my handsome prince to enjoy.

    As a side comment on cinnamon: I use a supplement of cinnamon and chromium. It’s been successful in lowering my blood glucose levels to the point that I no longer use the dreaded Metformin or suffer the side effects. I haven’t been drinking water with it, though. My liver thanks you for the tip.
    Another aside: since taking the supplement, no more meds for blood pressure, either.
    WIN, WIN!

  5. mary3

    Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice Tea. Anyone know the type of cinnamon it contains?
    Thank you

    • Kate

      Call the company and ask. Tell them why you want to know, and they will most likely be helpful.

  6. mary3

    After learning about cinnamon to lower blood sugar I did purchase some.[Cassia and Saigon]. Then I saw your warning about the coumarin, and it created concern, of course. Thank you for the safe method in brewed coffee [with a coffee filter]. I did as you suggested, and it is delicious.
    This is a great way to use up the Saigon and cassia and have now purchased bulk organic Ceylon and began adding directly to my Bulletproof coffee. Have noticed the Ceylon is MUCH more mild in taste. The same flavor is absent. Wonder if this is common or maybe I have received an old product. Any advice out there?

    • Cindy
      Roanoke, VA

      I have noticed that Ceylon cinnamon seems to have a milder, sweeter flavor, less “bite”.

  7. jerry
    La Habra, California

    What could be simpler than buying the Ceylon-King cinnamon, as long as we trust the label in not faked!

  8. Brigid
    Ann Arbor MI

    FYI: an aeropress coffee maker doesn’t work for this, the cinnamon blocks the filter!

  9. Gary
    San Antonio, TX

    I’m surprised to see no reference to CinSulin in your article. My understanding is that CinSulin is a water extract of Cinnamon that removes much of the water insoluable components of cinnamon, and is safer to use, as a result. I love adding it directly to my morning coffee for the cinnamon flavor (and, hopefully, added health benefits), but I’m wondering if I should treat your ommission as a caution.

    • Terry Graedon

      Cinsulin is a water-based extract of cinnamon and hence safe.

  10. John
    Southern New Mexico

    Great article! Thanks. A couple of years ago I decided I needed to lower both my blood sugar and blood pressure. In order to avoid both naturally and artificially sweetened drinks, I started drinking 4-5 cups of Celestial Seasonings’ Bengal Spice tea (first ingredient cinnamon) which has almost a sweet overtone. My blood sugar dropped significantly, and I was also able to get off my hypertension prescription. Who knew something so tasty could help regulate my blood chemistry so much?!

  11. Linda B.

    I take CinSulin, which is sold at Costco. It is a WATER EXTRACTED form of cinnamon bark (burmannii). It also contains Vit D3 and Chromium. To my knowledge, water extracted cinnamon is safe.

  12. Pam
    South Pasadena, Ca

    I’ve been taking Cinsulin which I understand removes the negative effects of raw cinnamon. It has helped reduce my A1c from 6.4 to 5.8. When I stopped, it rose back up to 6.1. My dr. suggested I go back to taking Cinsulin.

  13. Jesse

    The solution to avoiding liver damage from cinnamon is to stop eating cinnamon. Stop expecting some spice or food or herb to be a magic bullet to solve medical problems. Eat simple, healthy food, if you can find it. Organic if possible. Nothing unusual or exotic is going to turn you in to Cinderella at the ball. Reality requires you eat reasonable amounts of regular food. Perhaps eat the way your great grand parents did….mostly fresh fruit and vegetable in season and farm-raised chickens that peck on the ground. The best grocery stores offer sustainably harvested wild fish such as salmon. All this weird, faddish business is ridiculous and harms your pocketbook and can harm you.

  14. Robert

    Mexican or Latin supermarkets carry canela, which is the Ceylon cinnamon. It might say it’s from Sri Lanka, which is the modern name for Ceylon. Get the sticks, and grind or crush them yourself. The bark of Ceylon cinnamon is very thin, almost like a crepe myrtle. Cassia has thicker bark.

  15. Mat R.

    I use cinnamon powder from a big discount store. It is made in Vietnam. I do have some from Thailand but use it it in cooking.

  16. Gerry

    Old Family Story: when my parents first married (1935) mom staggered out of bed every morning to make dad breakfast. She was a tea drinker (English) so made him tea. After 3 months dad bought himself a little drip coffeepot; mom said, “Oh good, I don’t have to get up in the mornings!” I use the same 2-cup pot now. Two spoonfuls of coffee grounds and a sprinkle of cinnamon, then boiling water. Delish!

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