Cinnamon comes in two primary forms: Ceylon and cassia. Both are beneficial, but one has a toxin that might be harmful if consumed in excess.
Cinnamon is a beloved spice not just for its tasty flavor but also for its numerous health perks. Though it’s easily found in stores, usually, only one kind is sold.
In this article, we’ll delve into the distinctions between Ceylon cinnamon and cassia cinnamon.
What is cinnamon?
Cinnamon is derived from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum tree.
When this inner bark dries, it forms rolls known as cinnamon sticks or quills. These sticks can be ground to produce a powder or used to create an extract.
The distinct qualities of cinnamon arise from its essential oils and compounds, with cinnamaldehyde being especially noteworthy.
Cinnamaldehyde not only gives cinnamon its signature taste and smell but also offers several health advantages.
Summary: Cinnamon originates from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum tree. It owes its distinct characteristics to essential oils, particularly cinnamaldehyde.
The cassia variety of cinnamon is derived from the Cinnamomum cassia tree, sometimes referred to as Cinnamomum aromaticum.
This type traces its roots to Southern China and is also labeled as Chinese cinnamon.
Today, a few subspecies of it are cultivated extensively in Eastern and Southern Asia.
Cassia cinnamon is usually a dark reddish-brown and has thicker rolls with a coarser texture compared to Ceylon cinnamon.
Generally perceived as a lower-quality cinnamon, cassia is budget-friendly and is the kind most people eat globally. Almost all cinnamon you spot in grocery stores is cassia.
It’s been a staple in culinary dishes and traditional Chinese medicine for ages. Approximately 95% of its oil content is cinnamaldehyde, resulting in cassia’s potent, spicy taste.
Summary: Cassia cinnamon is the predominant type found in stores. It boasts a more robust flavor than Ceylon, with cinnamaldehyde making up 95% of its oil.
Ceylon cinnamon, often referred to as “true cinnamon,” hails from Sri Lanka and the southern regions of India.
This type is produced from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum verum tree.
With its tan-brown hue and multiple tight rolls with soft layers, Ceylon cinnamon stands out in terms of quality and texture.
Though cherished for its culinary uses, Ceylon cinnamon is rarer and usually pricier than the cassia type.
It offers a gentle and slightly sweet taste, making it perfect for desserts.
Cinnamaldehyde constitutes about 50–63% of its essential oil, a percentage lower than cassia, giving Ceylon its subtle scent and taste.
Summary: Ceylon cinnamon, known for its quality, has a mild flavor, with 50–63% of its oil being cinnamaldehyde.
Ceylon and Cassia’s benefits for diabetics
Cinnamon has long been celebrated for its health attributes.
It’s especially recognized for its potential to regulate blood sugar, a crucial factor for diabetics.
A comprehensive review of 16 studies focusing on diabetes care highlighted the promising effects of Ceylon cinnamon powder when used as a supplement.
Research involving animals and lab tests suggests that it can help in minimizing blood sugar fluctuations, enhancing insulin responsiveness, and bettering markers linked to insulin resistance.
However, the lack of human-based studies means the effectiveness or ideal dosage of Ceylon cinnamon supplements remains undetermined.
Conversely, cassia’s impact has been examined in multiple human studies, including those without type 2 diabetes. A significant majority noted marked reductions in blood sugar levels after a few months of cassia consumption.
Suggested read: 11 evidence-based health benefits of cinnamon
Typically, the dosage for cassia ranged from 1–6 grams daily and was generally well-tolerated.
Summary: Both Ceylon and cassia cinnamon seem to offer benefits for blood sugar management. However, cassia’s effects have been more extensively researched in humans.
Which provides more health benefits?
The health perks of Ceylon and cassia cinnamon might vary a bit.
Their unique blends of essential oils could be the cause for these differences.
Yet, current studies haven’t conclusively contrasted the two.
For example, some components in cinnamon seem to stop the protein tau from building up in the brain. This is significant since an abundance of tau indicates Alzheimer’s disease.
This trait has been observed in both Ceylon and cassia, making it tough to determine if one is better than the other.
To wrap it up, it’s hard to definitively say which type of cinnamon holds more health benefits. But, Ceylon is generally thought to be safer when taken regularly.
Summary: There isn’t a definite winner between Ceylon and cassia cinnamon in terms of health benefits, but Ceylon is typically viewed as the safer option for frequent consumption.
Cassia’s high coumarin content can be harmful
Coumarin naturally exists in various plants.
Taken in excessive amounts, it can be detrimental.
In animals, coumarin has been shown to harm the kidneys, liver, and lungs and might even lead to cancer. There have been rare cases of similar outcomes in humans.
Initially, the acceptable daily coumarin intake was set at 0.2 mg/lb (0.5 mg/kg) of body weight, but it’s now been lowered to 0.05 mg/lb (0.1 mg/kg).
Cassia cinnamon is a significant source of coumarin, unlike Ceylon.
Cassia boasts about 1% coumarin, whereas Ceylon has just 0.004% or even 250 times less. This amount in Ceylon is so minuscule it’s often not even measurable.
Surpassing the recommended coumarin limit is quite easy if consuming a substantial amount of cassia cinnamon. In some scenarios, a mere 1-2 teaspoons could exceed the daily threshold.
Suggested read: 10 delicious herbs and spices with powerful health benefits
Thus, if you’re a heavy consumer of cinnamon or take supplements with it, it’s wiser to opt for Ceylon over cassia.
Summary: Cassia’s high coumarin content can be harmful when consumed in large amounts. Ceylon, with its minimal coumarin, is the better choice for those consuming a lot of cinnamon.
Ceylon and cassia both offer health benefits and a delightful flavor.
Yet, for those planning to consume it in large quantities or as a supplement, cassia could pose risks due to its coumarin content.
Ultimately, Ceylon cinnamon stands out in terms of quality and safety.