Ceylon vs Cassia : 9 Important Things to Know about Cinnamon
This Thanksgiving holiday we will gather around a table to eat and celebrate with our friends and family. Many recipes made for the Thanksgiving feast will include a spice favorite for many cooks and bakers; cinnamon.
But did you know there is more than one kind of cinnamon? And did you know that the different types of cinnamon will affect your health differently?
This time we are checking out the differences between ceylon vs cassia cinnamon, and giving you 9 very important things you need to know about your cinnamon.
1) There Are Different Types of Cinnamon
There are hundreds of types of cinnamon, but only 4 varieties are used for commercial purposes. These include Ceylon, Cassia, Saigon, and Korintje Cinnamon.
Cassia, Saigon, and Korintje cinnamon are scientifically classified as Cassia Cinnamon, due to similarities in color, shape, and coumarin content. Most cinnamon sold in the United States is from the Cassia variety.
The scientific name for Cassia is Cinnamomum cassia. The scientific name for Celyon is Cinnamomum verum— “verum,” meaning ‘true.’
2) There Are Important Differences Between Ceylon and Cassia
Ceylon cinnamon has a sweeter, more delicate flavor than Cassia cinnamon. However, one very important distinction is the presence of coumarin, a natural plant chemical that acts as a blood thinner.
Coumarin is present in much higher concentrations in Cassia than in Ceylon cinnamon, which may be very important if you are taking certain hepatotoxic medications, preparing to undergo a surgical or dental procedure, if you’re considered to be at a high risk of bleeding, have liver damage.
3) The link between Cassia, Coumarin, and Liver Damage
Though Coumarin is a natural ingredient, it carries a risk for causing liver damage or failure in sensitive individuals, and among those who consume the Cassia cinnamon daily, or in large amounts. Cassia cinnamon has high levels (about 0.4-0.8%) of coumarin, which is why some European countries have banned the Cassia variety.
4) Why you should Make the Switch to Ceylon Cinnamon
For this reason, those who take Cinnamon on a daily basis for health reasons should switch to Ceylon Cinnamon, which only has 0.03-0.04% Coumarin.
A 2012 review article published in “Diabetic Medicine” (here) examined 16 studies of Ceylon cinnamon specifically, and uncovered beneficial effects of Ceylon cinnamon for diabetics, yet found no toxicity to the liver and kidneys.
In fact, coumarin-free Ceylon cinnamon may actually be beneficial to the liver, according to studies reviewed by “BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine”, while showing no negative effects to any other organ systems.
5) Additional Benefits of Ceylon Cinnamon
Ceylon cinnamon also contains antioxidant compounds called proanthocyanidins. Proanthocyanidins are similar to the antioxidant compounds found in green tea and grapes, which have been shown to strengthen capillaries and offer antioxidant protection against heart disease and cancer. It also contains the mineral manganese, which helps the body manage enzymes that produce hormones, repair bones, and works as an antioxidant to protect the body from free radicals.
Insulin Response Improvement
Cinnamon may also benefit people with insulin resistance or diabetes by improving the body’s natural response to insulin, moderating blood sugar levels, and reducing the risk of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia incidents.
Ceylon cinnamon may have anti-inflammatory properties due to its active ingredient, cinnamaldehyde, which has been shown to reduce the body’s inflammatory response, leading to fewer negative symptoms. Inflammation is linked to chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.
Early studies indicate that cinnamon may help lower cholesterol levels, including “bad” LDL cholesterol, which is linked to heart disease, without significantly affecting “good” HDL cholesterol.
6) How to Identify Ceylon vs Cassia
Some bottles of powdered cinnamon may not specify which variety of cinnamon it contains. however, Ceylon cinnamon will generally be labeled on the bottle.
If you have unlabeled, whole cinnamon sticks — which are actually the plant bark — the rolled bark of Ceylon cinnamon (left) will be thinner and multilayered compared to the thicker bark of its Cassia cousin (right)
But wait, there’s more.
There’s always more. So while the Cassia variety can become an issue if you have pre-existing medical conditions, or are taking medications that may become a cause for concern, you may not need to be terribly concerned if you’re not ingesting too much.
How does one determine “too much?” A few ways, but first let’s look at how much Cassia Cinnamon is required for a minimum lethal dosage.
7) The Lethal Dosage of Cassia Cinnamon
The median lethal dose of coumarin is set at 275 mg/kg of body weight, and there is only .31g – 6.97g of coumarin in each kg of Cassia cinnamon. So how much needs to be ingested for the average adult, weighing 195.5 lbs. for a minimum lethal dosage?
Answer: The average 195.5lb adult would need to consume roughly 3.5 kilos of Cassia Cinnamon to get the amount of coumarin in a day for the minimum lethal dosage. That’s about 15 cups of Cassia cinnamon. That is insane. Most people won’t do that.
8) Cassia Cinnamon May Not Be Too Harmful to the Average Person
In this regard, research varies from study to study on the suggested amount of Cassia cinnamon that may be consumed daily to avoid liver damage, ranging from less than 1-5 grams, or 1 teaspoon a day. For those that consume more than this amount on a regular, daily basis; switching to Ceylon cinnamon may be a better option.
9) What to Do if You May Have Consumed Too Much Cassia Cinnamon
Vitamin K supplementation is often used as a treatment for a Warfarin (a coumarin drug) overdose. If you are worried about your previous coumarin intake, stop eating Cassia Cinnamon immediately, consult with your physician, and be sure to include foods high in Vitamin K in your diet.
While abstention from Cassia Cinnamon is warranted for some individuals, the average person does not need to worry about coumarin overdose.
For individuals that regularly consume more than a teaspoon of Cassia Cinnamon a day, a diet that is rich in Vitamin K may help, as will switching to Ceylon cinnamon to avoid potential risks to the liver.
BONUS: Want to Find Your Minimum Lethal Dosage of Cassia Cinnamon?
([Insert your weight] lbs= [convert to kg] )
Each kg = 275mg of coumarin.
275mg x [converted weight to kg] = [how many]mg, and then convert to grams. That is the number in grams you need for your minimum lethal dosage of coumarin. Divide that number by 6.97. That answer is how many kilograms of Cassia it would take to reach your minimum lethal dosage. Then, convert to cups or teaspoons to ease your mind.
Share your answer in the comments below!