Parikh NutritionBlog

Practical, simple, and evidence-based nutrition and diabetes information.

Will the real cinnamon please stand up?

Cinnamon spiced teas in winter anyone? 

I’ve been obsessed with cinnamon and my pantry is stocked with cinnamon powder and cinnamon sticks. I love cinnamon in my tea and adding a cinnamon stick to my smoothies for a delicious kick of sweetness with a kick.

I used to buy the big organic version from Costco and was shocked when I learned that I had been duped. I was buying the wrong type of cinnamon and it could actually be toxic to my liver. What? 

There are two main types of cinnamon- Ceylon and cassia. 

Ceylon cinnamon or Cinnamomum zeylanicum or Cinnamomum Verum is considered “true” cinnamon. It comes from Ski Lanka and it typically more expensive. This is the one you want to use! It’s worth the extra cost.

Cassia cinnamon or Cinnamomum cassia or Chinese cinnamon is a relative to Cinnamomum zeylanicum but does not come from the same plant. Cassia cinnamon is lower quality than Ceylon cinnamon but it’s less expensive and easily found in grocery stores. 

Cassia cinnamon contains high amounts of a compound called coumarin. Coumarin can cause liver toxicity in large amounts. Ceylon cinnamon on the other hand has as very low quantity of coumarin compared to cassia.

The tolerable daily intake of coumarin is approximately 0.05 mg/pound of body weight, or 5 mg per day for a 130-pound person. So just 1 teaspoon of Cassia cinnamon could put you over the daily limit. 

The FDA allows for Cassia to be labeled exactly the same as Ceylon. The brand found in most grocery stories in the US is Cassia. If it is Ceylon cinnamon, it will usually say it is Ceylon cinnamon. If the label does not say Ceylon cinnamon, it is usually cassia cinnamon. 

Cinnamon can be a useful treatment for type 2 diabetes but most studies are using the Ceylon cinnamon and therapeutic doses. Having 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of Ceylon cinnamon a day can decrease fasting blood glucose and cholesterol. To take advantage of the many health benefits of cinnamon, just add one teaspoon to your smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt or tea. 

And remember, if you are using cinnamon for blood sugar control, talk to your doctor. 

Sources: 

  1. Hasanzade, F., Toliat, M., Emami, S. A., & Emamimoghaadam, Z. (2013). The Effect of Cinnamon on Glucose of Type II Diabetes Patients. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, 3(3), 171–174. https://doi.org/10.4103/2225-4110.114900
  2. Abraham, K., Wöhrlin, F., Lindtner, O., Heinemeyer, G., & Lampen, A. (2010). Toxicology and risk assessment of coumarin: Focus on human data. Mol. Nutr. Food Res., 54(2), 228–239. https://doi.org/10.1002/mnfr.200900281

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