Historically, spices such as turmeric, ginger, or cinnamon used to be valued for their medicinal properties.
Although many people do not know this, various types of cinnamon have different health benefits.
Besides conventional Cassia cinnamon, Ceylon is becoming a household name increasingly. Therefore, this article explains why Ceylon may be the better choice than Cassia based on recent studies.
Is Ceylon Cinnamon Good for You?
Cinnamon is a bark that comes from various species of cinnamon trees. Producers cut down the tree, remove the outer bark, and harvest and dry the inner bark to make cinnamon sticks.
Due to the round shape of a tree trunk, it rolls in from both sides during drying. Then one can produce ground cinnamon by grinding the sticks into a fine powder.
The characteristic smell and taste of cinnamon come from an essential oil it contains, which has a very high cinnamaldehyde content.
This active compound is responsible for most of the spice’s effects (Torbati et al. 20141).
Therefore, cinnamon can provide wide-ranging health benefits in addition to its warming flavor.
For example, Ceylon cinnamon has been used in traditional medicine to treat the following ailments (Ranasinghe et al. 20132):
- Digestive disorders
- Gynecological problems
Ceylon cinnamon, also known as Cinnamomum verum or true cinnamon tree, is extracted from the bark of a tropical cinnamon tree that grows mainly in Sri Lanka but also in southern India and Madagascar.
Most people don’t know that there are different varieties of cinnamon. While cinnamon does not differ much in taste, there are significant differences in health.
Cassia vs. Korintje vs. Saigon vs. Ceylon Cinnamon
Firstly, we need to know the different types of cinnamon to distinguish their health benefits:
Cassia cinnamon, Chinese cinnamon, Cinnamomum cassia, or Cinnamomum aromaticum is the kind of cinnamon you can find in most grocery stores. Because this tree grows in large quantities in China, Cassia is cheaper than Ceylon cinnamon.
That is why most cinnamon products, such as powder, are made from it. Nevertheless, Cassia suits recipes that call for cinnamon.
However, cassia has a sharper, more intense flavor with less sweetness than Ceylon cinnamon. In addition, it is darker and has a reddish-brown hue. Also, cassia sticks are pretty hard and woody.
Indonesian cinnamon, Padang cassia, Batavia cassia, korintje, or Cinnamomum burmannii is a Cassia cinnamon variety native to Southeast Asia.
Because this variety of cinnamon is cheaper than Chinese Cassia, it represents the most common type of cinnamon sold as a powder in the United States.
The main disadvantage of Indonesian cinnamon is the highest content of coumarin, a potentially harmful compound in cinnamon.
Vietnamese cinnamon, or Cinnamomum loureiroi is also a member of the Cassia family. However, Saigon cinnamon is far more expensive and harder to come by than regular Cassia cinnamon.
It has a full, complex flavor with even less sweetness.
Unlike other cinnamon varieties, you are unlikely to find Saigon cinnamon in the spice section.
“True cinnamon,” Cinnamomum zeylanicum or Cinnamomum verum, is extracted from the crumbly inner bark of the Ceylon cinnamon tree.
It is light brown, and its flavor is sweet and delicate. Unfortunately, Ceylon is more expensive to purchase and produce than Cassia cinnamon.
Although both varieties share a sweet and spicy flavor spectrum, the health benefits differ significantly.
But other than that, there are few reasons to eat Cassia cinnamon. Moreover, Cassia contains coumarin, a chemical compound that can be toxic in high amounts (Felter et al. 20065).
In contrast, the health benefits of Ceylon cinnamon have a broad range from antioxidant to anti-inflammatory to anti-cancer properties.
How Much Ceylon Cinnamon per Day?
Although studies have proven the countless health benefits of Ceylon cinnamon, it’s hard to say how much you can or should consume to reap them.
It becomes even more challenging to recommend a general serving size because there are different forms of ingestion. For example, these include:
- Dietary supplements
- Essential oils
After most studies use a serving size between 1 gram and 6 grams of cinnamon, even a serving size of 1/2 to 1 teaspoon (2 to 4 grams) of the powder daily can offer health benefits.
While a little more probably won’t hurt, excessive consumption, such as through supplements, can have drawbacks.
Most experts agree that a typical pinch of cinnamon in food and beverages is harmless but still too little for noticeable health benefits.
Health Benefits of Ceylon Cinnamon
Not only does real cinnamon taste good, but it’s also full of anti-inflammatory properties that can improve digestion.
While it shares some benefits with Cassia cinnamon, Ceylon is also far less harmful regarding potential side effects.
Nonetheless, the outstanding spectrum of Ceylon cinnamon benefits ranges from the skin to heart and mental health.
Ceylon cinnamon contains antioxidants that can render free radicals harmless and protect the body from oxidative damage (Ranasinghe et al. 20136).
Due to its antioxidant properties, cinnamon can protect against DNA damage, cell mutation, and tumors.
The main reason for this is the active compound cinnamaldehyde, which comes from the bark of the cinnamon tree. While protecting DNA, it inhibits tumor growth and, at the same time, can induce the death of cancer cells (Ka et al. 20039).
Especially when it comes to colon cancer, the properties of cinnamon may have a positive impact.
Conversely, cinnamon may improve gut health, reducing the risk of colon cancer (Rao et al. 201410).
On the other hand, researchers have found that cinnamon activates detoxifying enzymes in the intestines of mice, which may inhibit cancer growth (Bhattacharjee et al. 200711).
One of the lesser-known benefits of cinnamon powder is its ability to preserve food.
Because of its antibacterial and antioxidant capabilities, cinnamon can be used as a preservative without chemical additives.
A recent study on the possible function of essential oils as preservatives identified cinnamon as the most effective against fungal growth (Xiang et al. 202012).
Therefore, another study suggests that brushing with cinnamon extract could help stop the discoloration of vegetables and fruits that begin to rot due to oxidation (Shan et al. 200513).
Cardiovascular diseases are responsible for most of the causes of death in the Western world.
In this context, high blood pressure plays a critical role not only as a symptom. Against this background, researchers found that Ceylon cinnamon can lower blood pressure in rats (Nyadjeu et al. 201114).
In addition, a comprehensive meta-analysis demonstrated that cinnamon consumption could lower triglyceride levels in type 2 diabetics and increase their HDL levels (Allen et al. 201315).
Since low levels of these blood lipids and high levels of “good cholesterol” are the best indicators of good heart health, this is a remarkable health benefit of cinnamon.
Those of us who suffer from allergies may find relief thanks to the many bioactive compounds in cinnamon.
Animal studies have shown that cinnamon can help reduce common allergy symptoms. For example, it’s precisely the anti-inflammatory properties of cinnamon that counteract histamine responses (Shakila et al. 199616).
In a further study, the polyphenols of the cinnamon extract could alleviate allergic rhinitis in mice (Aswar et al. 201517).
Studies show this spice and its antioxidants have potent anti-inflammatory properties (Gunawardena et al. 201518).
This property is especially beneficial since chronic inflammation promotes modern diseases such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, neurodegenerative, and heart diseases.
Furthermore, Ceylon cinnamon may also be beneficial in pain management. Accordingly, studies have shown that cinnamon helps reduce muscle soreness and menstrual and age-related pain (Mashhadi et al. 201319; Gunawardena et al. 201520).
Ceylon cinnamon also offers antibacterial benefits. Accordingly, cinnamaldehyde, the component of cinnamon essential oil that gives it its unique odor, can fight various bacteria (Ranasinghe et al. 201321).
Cinnamaldehyde targets the membrane of bacterial cells, which can destroy them (Rana et al. 201122).
Ceylon cinnamon might be the proper remedy if you’re looking to prevent neurodegenerative diseases or boost your cognitive abilities.
For example, one study found that cinnamon can improve neuroprotective proteins in the brain, suggesting a potentially successful application in treating Parkinson’s disease (Khasnavis et al. 201423).
Additionally, cinnamon could inhibit two significant markers of Alzheimer’s disease in a laboratory study (Peterson et al. 200924).
Furthermore, Ceylon cinnamon improved the cognitive abilities of rats in which scientists previously induced cognitive decline. After taking the cinnamon extract, the rats’ memory improved significantly (Jain et al. 201525).
Many new studies suggest that cinnamon consumption may positively affect mood.
For example, some researchers suggest using cinnamon essential oil as an adjunct therapy for depression and anxiety disorders (Sohrabi et al. 201726).
Moreover, a red-hot study attributes antidepressant benefits to cinnamon. Since cinnamon inhibits the inflammatory process in the hippocampus, the body can increase serotonin to an optimal level there, according to scientists (Parisa et al. 202027).
Insulin, as our essential storage hormone, is instrumental in metabolism. But unfortunately, after refined carbohydrates dominate most diets, more and more people develop insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance is how our body protects itself from the high levels of insulin that these foods cause. It could be life-threatening if cells were too sensitive to excessive insulin levels.
Insulin resistance is a primary pre-existing condition inducing metabolic syndrome and type-2 diabetes.
However, studies show that cinnamon positively affects the essential factors of metabolic syndrome. For example, these include (Qin et al. 201028):
- Blood pressure
- Blood sugar
- Insulin resistance
Therefore, Ceylon cinnamon may subsequently be beneficial in weight loss.
Weight Loss Benefits of Ceylon Cinnamon
Healthy blood glucose is low but stable. Therefore, it can prevent insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Because Ceylon cinnamon contains the polyphenol cinnamtannin B1, it can increase insulin sensitivity and thus counteract blood sugar spikes after a meal.
Also, researchers concluded that Ceylon cinnamon improves glucose metabolism and helps with weight loss (Ranasinghe et al. 201229).
Further cinnamon studies confirmed these results as their participants could increase muscle mass and reduce weight (Qin et al. 201030).
Similarly, 84 women suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome successfully lost weight by taking cinnamon capsules for eight weeks only (Borzoei et al. 201831).
In addition, animal studies have shown that cinnamon helps mitigate glucose and insulin spikes after sugar consumption (Shihabudeen et al. 201132).
Ceylon Cinnamon Benefits for Your Hair
Although there are few studies on this, individual studies suggest that cinnamon may improve hair growth.
For example, in a recent study, researchers significantly increased the diameter and length of hair in male rats by applying cinnamon oil (Indriana et al. 201833).
According to the researchers, cinnamon oil stimulates blood flow to the scalp. Instrumental in this was the compound cinnamaldehyde, which could increase blood flow to the hair follicles, thus supporting hair growth.
On the other hand, the antifungal effect of cinnamon could also be beneficial for human hair.
Since cinnamon is effective against Malassezia, a fungus common cause of dandruff, it may counteract its formation (Mariappan et al. 201334).
Ceylon Cinnamon Benefits for the Skin
Due to its antibiotic and antimicrobial properties, cinnamon may benefit skin health. For example, it can protect the skin from irritation, rashes, allergic reactions, or infections.
Studies confirm that applying cinnamon essential oil directly to the skin can relieve inflammation, swelling, pain, and redness (Han et al. 201735).
Moreover, many people swear by using cinnamon and honey together for:
- Skin allergies
Here is a simple but effective recipe for a honey cinnamon mask:
Honey and Cinnamon Mask for Acne
- 1 tbsp Ceylon Cinnamon ground
- 3 tbsp Honey organic
- Mix the ingredients well.
- Put the mixture in the microwave for 30 seconds, making sure it doesn't get too hot.
- Spread the mixture on your face and leave it for 10 minutes.
- After that, wash off the mask and pat your face dry with a clean towel.
Cinnamon Side Effects and Risks
In the short term, the consumption of Ceylon cinnamon is considered safe for most people. Therefore, it may be consumed with minimal risk of side effects.
However, with Cassia cinnamon, you should be more careful.
Cassia Cinnamon and Coumarin
While Ceylon cinnamon contains only trace amounts, you’ll find high concentrations of coumarin in Cassia.
Although this is a natural spice, it can cause heartburn, indigestion, and mild sweating when eaten in high doses.
For this reason, people should talk to their doctor before adding Cassia cinnamon to their diet if they:
- take blood thinners or other medications,
- have diabetes,
- or liver disease.
Too Much Cinnamon and Allergies
When used as a spice and, therefore, in comparatively small amounts, Cinnamon is generally not known to cause adverse reactions or allergies.
However, in a few people, cinnamon gum can cause sores in the mouth, usually disappearing after 1-2 (Allen et al. 198838).
If taking it as an extract or essential oil, it is possible to have too much cinnamon, affecting medications and medical conditions.
Therefore, you should be careful with cinnamon supplements if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have liver disease or have recently had surgery.
Because of its blood sugar-regulating effects, people taking diabetes medications must also be careful (Morales et al. 201439).
Therefore, always follow the recommended daily dose of cinnamon extracts and oils; ideally, talk to your doctor before taking them.
Also, with cinnamon essential oil, you should apply a small drop to your skin to test for irritation and allergic reactions.
Nevertheless, cinnamon is considered non-toxic not only for humans but also dogs. However, like bipeds, quadrupeds should prefer Ceylon cinnamon to minimize coumarin consumption and avoid adverse side effects.
The Bottom Line
Ceylon cinnamon is one of the few spices no pantry should have. For example, even advocates of the Carnivore Diet use it occasionally.
Finally, its antioxidant power benefits blood sugar, heart, brain, and skin health. In addition, it helps to lose weight and curbs cravings.
Nevertheless, it makes a difference what kind of cinnamon you buy. If you want to reap the full health benefits of cinnamon, look for Ceylon.
While more commonly available in supermarkets and cheaper, Indonesian and Cassia cinnamon provide fewer benefits and more potential side effects.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How much Ceylon cinnamon is safe per day?
According to experts, about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon or 2 to 4 grams of cinnamon powder a day is considered healthy.
Is Ceylon cinnamon bad for your kidneys?
Coumarin in cinnamon may support the development of cancerous tumors in the kidneys. However, Ceylon has way fewer coumarin content than Cassia cinnamon.
Is Ceylon cinnamon better than regular cinnamon?
Ceylon is healthier than regular Cassia cinnamon because it brings more health benefits and fewer potential side effects due to its lower coumarin content.
What is the difference between cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon?
Compared to the cheaper cassia cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon offers more health benefits and fewer risks due to the lower coumarin content.
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Mag. Stephan Lederer, MSc. is an author and blogger from Austria who writes in-depth content about health and nutrition. His book series on Interval Fasting landed #1 on the bestseller list in the German Amazon marketplace in 15 categories.
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