If you are like most shoppers, you may not give much thought to the cinnamon you buy/use. You look for cinnamon sticks or ground cinnamon on the spice rack at the grocery store, toss it in your cart, and keep on moving.
However, cinnamon is a diverse spice. By becoming familiar with different types of cinnamon, you learn how to choose the right type for health. Discover the many types of cinnamon in the market, and understand which one you should be buying.
How Many Types of Cinnamon Are There?
There are several species of cinnamon that are grouped together and referred to as “Cassia cinnamon” or simply “Cassia”. This specie accounts for the majority of the cinnamon being sold in the U.S. They are herbs that are often used as flavoring. The three most common types of cheap cinnamon are:
- Vietnamese cinnamon: Rich in oil, not very spicy, fairly smooth
- Chinese cinnamon: Extremely sweet, lends a sweeter scent to foods
- Indonesian cinnamon: Best used in its solid form; does not dissolve well in liquids
Note that these cinnamons are NOT the real cinnamon. In truth, there is only one real cinnamon. It is called Ceylon cinnamon. The science name is Cinnamomum verum. The word “verum” comes from the Latin word “verus” for “true“, which is why this specie of cinnamon is being referred to as the “true cinnamon”.
The real cinnamon rolls up into a long tubular form, rather than into two scroll-like tubes. It tends to be fairly thin and brittle, not thick like the cinnamon often found in American grocery stores. This cinnamon carries subtle notes of citrus fruits, floral scents, and pine.
Poison In Disguise
Information technology professional John Alexander, 58, had diabetes for 15 years. About two years ago, he shifted to a widely accepted Ayurvedic therapy of consuming cinnamon to control his blood sugar levels.
In the course of time he developed an abnormal liver. Doctors could not figure out the cause of his disease as his diet and lifestyle did not warrant such problem. His wife, Mary, looked up for information on the Internet and realized that the cinnamon Alexander was consuming could be the culprit.
There were reports saying a harmful species of the spice was being sold in the name of cinnamon.
“John stopped taking cinnamon the day we read the articles. In three-four months his liver tests showed substantial improvement,” Mary says.
Coumarin Is Poison
The cheap, hard and fake cinnamon, Cassia, contains coumarin which is a toxic phytochemical—a subtance used for making rat poison. According to the German Bfr coumarin causes liver damage. While the effects are apparently reversible according to them, the danger is still very real.
Low dosage of coumarin consumed over few months can cause liver damage. It could also lead to secretion of liver enzymes in blood, inflammation of liver and might even cause jaundice in some cases. Strong anticoagulant properties in Cassia can harm the body by not coagulating blood in times of injury.
Many European countries have banned Cassia and in some countries it is only used to make rat poison. But the U.S. imports Cassia from the East because of the very low cost.
How To Tell The Differences
Most stores carry the cassia-type cinnamon, unless the packaging is specifically labeled as “Ceylon cinnamon” or its science name. Apart from the packaging label, there is almost no way to tell which cinnamon powder you have in hand; but, the aroma of the true cinnamon would probably give it away.
Ceylon cinnamon has a heavenly, pleasant sweet fragrance compared to the common cinnamon. If you are familiar with the smell of Cassia cinnamon, you could probably tell the vast difference when you encounter the delightful Ceylon cinnamon.
As for the cinnamon sticks, perhaps the best way is to see how different they look in the image below.
The Cassia cinnamon (left) is rolled up like a thick bark layer in one neat piece. It is tough and difficult to grind and may be even difficult to digest. Its color is reddish dark brown.
The Ceylon cinnamon (right) has a thinner bark and you will see that when rolled up it appears as multiple layers and has a tanned brown color. This true cinnamon is more fragile, brittle and can easily be broken and ground into fine powder.
Health Benefits Of The Real Cinnamon
Ceylon cinnamon is one of the foods that are recorded for having the highest content of antioxidants. Although it may be difficult to find it in stores, even more expensive if you do find it, it really does a big difference when you consume the true cinnamon.
Sprinkling Ceylon cinnamon in your foods and beverage daily can help improve your health in a multitude of ways. Make the true cinnamon a regular part of your diet to improve:
Extremely high content of antioxidants: With an ORAC value of 267536 µmol TE/100g (USDA 2007), cinnamon is one of the top seven antioxidants in the world. High antioxidant activities reduce the damages of free radicals that cause cancer. This also means that it protects your entire body, repairing and healing damages done by carcinogens.
Blood sugar regulation: Keeps your blood sugar levels stable, prevents the development of diabetes and other blood-related diseases. Although cinnamon is not technically sweet, it stimulates the sweet response in the human body. As a result, you may have fewer sweet cravings and decrease the amount of sugar you eat.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Eating the true cinnamon significantly reduces IBS symptoms such as stomach discomfort, gas and bloating. Its antibacterial properties kill harmful bacteria that cause IBS symptoms and heal infections in the GI tract and normalizing the gut flora. Drinking cinnamon tea 2-3 times a day has been shown to be beneficial for healing IBS.
Tooth decay and gum disease: The antibacterial properties of Ceylon cinnamon is excellent for getting rid of harmful bacteria without damaging your teeth or gums. Put a pinch of cinnamon in a little water and swish your mouth with it for
Improves heart health: Consumption of Ceylon cinnamon seems to decrease triglyceride levels and boost antioxidant levels in the blood. This is of particular importance in the United States, where heart disease is the #1 killer of adults.
Supports healthy blood clotting: Ceylon cinnamon is effective as an anti-coagulant that acts as a blood thinner. Patients who are taking prescription blood thinners are cautioned not to consume cinnamon in concentrated form such as supplements or extracts.
Supports the immune system: The true cinnamon has long been used for its potent anti-microbial qualities that supports the immune system and prevents colds and flu. It is one of the best remedies for killing stomach bugs such as E.Coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter. At the first sign of sniffles, drink hot cinnamon tea until you overcome the nasty bugs.
Mental acuity: Even just smelling Ceylon cinnamon may improve mental function and performance. It has been shown to enhance cognitive processing and improve visual-motor speed, memory and attention to detail. A study found evidence that the real cinnamon can delay the effects of aggressive strains of Alzheimer’s-inducing genes, thus preventing and slowing down the effects of this brain-crippling disease.
Mood enhancer: There is evidence that certain types of gut bacteria may make you susceptible to depression. Smelling cinnamon can help to reduce irritability and improve your mood.
Improves digestive health: Consuming the right cinnamon helps to reduce flatulence, nausea and diarrhea, all ailments related to the digestive system.
Where To Buy Ceylon Cinnamon
Clearly, Ceylon cinnamon is the best spice for you if you want to improve your health. However, cassia may also have some health benefits. If you are choosing cinnamon for taste, try each type of cassia to see which taste you like the best.
BUY CEYLON CINNAMON:
You may want to switch some of the cassia in your diet for Ceylon cinnamon, even if you don’t get rid of cassia completely. Cassia is high in coumarin, a phytochemical that may be harmful for the liver and kidneys, when consumed in excess amount, though not a concern for occasional use in cooking for the taste and fragrance.
If you live in the U.S., you may buy Ceylon cinnamon from Amazon and they have quite a good range that are reasonably priced.
I buy my Ceylon cinnamon that is freshly ground on the same day of purchase, packaged and sent directly from Ceylon! They have other amazing products too. I’m recommending them here to keep them in business because I think they’re doing a good job. Go here and also explore their other products: Druera.com