Is cinnamon healthy or harmful? Answering this question is easy because it simply is both. First and foremost, cinnamon is a wonderful herb which is easy to add to food, and it has a long history as a medicinal herb. It can also be harmful, which means that it is important to choose the right type of cinnamon, as I will explain here.

100 Types of Cinnamon

Cinnamon trees are grown in many countries but what most people don’t realize is that although over 100 types of cinnamon exist, only two of them are common in grocery stores. They are Cassia, or Chinese cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia – synonym C. aromaticum) and Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum – synonym C. zeylanicum). Cinnamon is extracted from the inner bark of the cinnamon tree and can be traced to Sri Lanka and India. As a matter of fact, Sri Lanka’s former name is Ceylon. Cassia cinnamon is more spicy and chefs use it in savoury dishes, but Ceylon cinnamon is sweeter and is more commonly used in cakes and desserts.

Ceylon Cinnamon or Cassia Cinnamon?

Ceylon cinnamon is often called „true cinnamon“ in English, which is a reference to the word verum in its Latin name. In the United Kingdom and Australia it‘s forbidden to sell cinnamon as cinnamon unless it‘s Ceylon cinnamon, other types of cinnamon are simply called Cassia. Cassia cinnamon is the type of cinnamon that is the most common in grocery stores, both in the United States and Europe. It‘s a lot cheaper than Ceylon cinnamon, which can be up to three times more expensive. It‘s easy to tell the difference between these two types if you simply look at the cinnamon sticks. Ceylon is lighter, layered, and can easily be crushed. Cassia, however, is darker, not layered, and so hard that you couldn‘t possibly crush it by hand.

Ceylon cinnamon

Cassia cinnamon

The Healing Power of Cinnamon

There‘s a long tradition of using both Cassia and Ceylon cinnamon for medicinal purposes and their potency is considered similar. Traditionally, Cassia cinnamon is used as medicine in China but Ceylon is used in the Western world. In herbal medicine, herbs are rarely used by themselves, instead, herbalists mix many herbs together. This also applies to cinnamon, as it‘s almost never used by itself in traditional herbal medicine. In China, for example, it‘s often used with ginger and licorice root. Cinnamon has been trending lately and has been a popular research topic for scientists. Research has supported the traditional use of cinnamon for medicinal purposes.

Cinnamon Has a Positive Effect on the Blood

Nowadays, cinnamon is most known for lowering blood sugar, and studies have shown its positive effect on diabetes. If you have type 1 diabetes and want to ingest cinnamon you have to do that in consultation with professionals to keep your insulin in balance. One side effect of diabetes are chronic fungal infections but luckily, cinnamon is fungicidal and can work well against them. Cinnamon lowers cholesterol in blood and can thin the blood so it is not recommended to ingest big doses of it while taking blood thinners.

It‘s Anti-Inflammatory and Has an Antioxidant Effect

Antioxidants are substances that can inhibit or slow down the oxidation of other substances. Oxidation often produces so-called free radicals, which can damage both living cells and food. Antioxidants reduce the harmful effects of free radicals, as well as being anti-inflammatory. Cinnamon contains a very high percentage of antioxidants, which strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Studies have shown that cinnamon has an anti-inflammatory effect on inflammatory and rheumatic diseases.

Cinnamon Can Reduce the Risk of Cancer

Numerous studies have shown that cinnamon can inhibit the growth of cancerous cells. To date, these studies have only been performed in test tubes and on animals but not on humans.

It‘s Good Against Colds and the Flu

Cinnamon is bactericidal and antiviral and has been considered good against colds and the flu for centuries. Also, it stimulates blood circulation and warms cold hands and feet.

Cinnamon Improves Digestion

Cinnamon strengthens the digestive system and is extremely good for all kinds of indigestion, bloating, flatulence, colon cramps, nausea and diarrhea

Does It Matter What Type of Cinnamon Is Used?

But does it actually matter what type of cinnamon you use? According to the European Food Safety Authority, the answer is yes. Cassia cinnamon contains a considerable amount of coumarin, and according to the standards of the Food Safety Authority, the tolerable daily intake (TDI) for coumarin is 0.1 mg / kg of body weight per day. However, it‘s considered okay to ingest three times this amount for 1-2 weeks without causing harm.

Studies of isolated coumarin have shown that in high doses it can cause blood thinning, liver damage and promote the formation of cancer cells. Cassia cinnamon (also Indonesian and Vietnamese cinnamon) contains 1250-1490 mg/kg of coumarin while Ceylon cinnamon contains almost no coumarin. However, it‘s worth noting that some studies have questioned the criteria for tolerable daily intake of coumarin. Active substances in herbs could potentially reduce the toxicity of coumarin, compared to the effect of coumarin as an isolated substance.

I Only Use Ceylon Cinnamon

I choose to only use certified organic Ceylon cinnamon in all my cooking and I highly recommend using cinnamon in food instead of taking it through capsules. However, if you want to use cinnamon in capsules, make sure that they contain Ceylon cinnamon rather than Cassia cinnamon. Here‘s a recipe for a wonderful breakfast porridge that contains cinnamon. Afterward, you can make this tasty and energizing drink which contains a considerable amount of cinnamon.

Attention

I don‘t recommend eating cinnamon in large doses continuously for a long time, especially not Cassia cinnamon. I also don’t recommend Cassia or Ceylon cinnamon during pregnancy, especially not in big doses. If you have type 1 diabetes and want to have cinnamon you should do that in consultation with professionals. Furthermore, it is not recommended to have big doses of cinnamon while taking blood thinners.

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About the Author

Anna Rósa is a medical herbalist and author of the bestselling book Icelandic Herbs and Their Medicinal Uses. She’s the CEO and founder of Anna Rósa Skincare and a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists in UK. It’s the oldest herbalist institute in the world, founded in 1894.

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Anna Rósa CEO and Founder of Anna Rósa Skincare