Herbs & Plants

Ceylon or Cassia Cinnamon; Which One is Better?

In my previous post about papaya, cinnamon made a cameo appearance in the blog.  I discussed very briefly about the anti-inflammatory properties of cinnamon and how nicely it pairs with papaya, which is also anti-inflammatory.  After writing the blog I realized cinnamon deserved a post all its own.  It’s a spice that’s well known but what’s not well known are the healing properties.  In this blog post this ancient spice is stepping up full force as the headliner.

Most of us have eaten cinnamon whether it’s been in cereal, pie, bread or cookies.  And we’ve all smelled cinnamon especially around the holidays.  We know the taste and the smell but not many of us know how great this spice is in regards to medicinal properties.  There are two cinnamons sold in the market place “real” cinnamon called ceylon and cassia cinnamon which is the cinnamon that is most commonly used in North America.

Cinnamon comes from small evergreen trees which are actually called cinnamon trees.  These trees have oval shaped leaves, berry fruit and very thick bark.   After the tree grows for a couple of years it’s ready to be harvested and he leaves and bark of the tree are used for the spice.

 As quoted from Wikipedia, “Cinnamon has been known from remote antiquity.  It was imported to Egypt as early as 2000 BC…”   Ceylon cinnammon known as  “Cinnamomum Verum” and also “the true” cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh and Myanmar.  Actually ceylon cinnamon comes from the place Ceylon, Sri Lanka which is how the name came to be.   In biblical times cinnamon was considered so valuable that it was comparable to gold and ivory and was given as gifts to Kings and Gods.  Another use for cinnamon was by the Egyptians in which they used it for embalming purposes.

Cassia cinnamon otherwise known as “Cinnamomum  Burmanni”originates from China but can also come from Indonesia and India.  It’s a species of the cinnamon evergreen tree.  The difference is the tree does not produce berry fruit and has elongated leaves that are a reddish in color.  There are buds that form on the tree and these buds can sometimes be grounded into the cinnamon.  The bark of cassia tree is much thicker, harder to crush and has a rougher texture.  The flavor is much less delicate than ceylon cinnamon.  Cassia cinnamon has a very strong flavor which is why it’s used the majority of the time in North America.

The real difference between ceylon and cassia is that cassia has a component in it called coumarin which is very toxic in high amounts.  It’s not abnormal for plants to contain coumarin a lot of plants do but in much lesser amounts, for example ceylon cinnamon contains 250 times less coumarin than cassia.  According to the  US Library of National Medicine  coumarin has carcinogenic properties and in amounts as little as 1-2 teaspoons can be harmful.  Remember the cinnamon challenge on Youtube about a year or two ago?  More than likely the cinnamon used was cassia cinnamon.  I wonder who created that challenge and if they knew of the dangers involved in it.  The dangers being possible liver, kidney or lung damage and a risk of getting cancer.

Now lets concentrate on the benefits of ceylon cinnamon.  Ceylon cinnamon has:

  • High antioxidants and can be used as a food preservative.
  • Anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Anti-microbial properties to help fight bad breath and tooth decay.
  • The ability to lower blood sugar levels.
  • Shown to inhibit the growth of bacteria like salmonella and listeria.
In order to tell what type of cinnamon you’re buying you can tell by the cost and the color.  Ceylon will be lighter in color, cost more and normally will be labeled Ceylon.  Cassia cinnamon will be darker, cost less and will be labeled Korintje, Vietnamese cinnamon or just plain cinnamon.

It might cost more money to get ceylon over cassia cinnamon but normally and it’s sad to say this but you get what you pay for and unfortunately to eat healthy nowdays it costs more.  However there are ways to get really good spices at a low cost and that would be buying in bulk whether at a health foods market or online.   A good online option for spices and herbs is Mountain Rose Herbs . 

Peace & Wellness,
Native Batch