Cinnamon is a spice that we often sprinkle on toast and lattes. However, people have been using extracts from the bark, leaves, flowers, fruits, and roots of the cinnamon tree in traditional medicine for thousands of years. It’s not only used in cooking and baking but is also added to various foods.
There are four main types of cinnamon. The darker cassia cinnamon is the most commonly sold in the United States, grown in southeastern Asia.
In other countries, they use Ceylon cinnamon, also known as true cinnamon. The cinnamon you find in stores could be either Ceylon or cassia, or sometimes a mix of both. Ceylon is easier to grind, but it may not offer the same health benefits.
Health Benefits of Real Cinnamon
Cinnamon is a tasty spice, and now modern science has proven what people have believed for a long time. Here are some health benefits of cinnamon that scientific research supports.
- Rich in antioxidant: It is rich in antioxidants that can help protect the body from oxidative stress and damage caused by free radicals.
- Heart health: Consuming cinnamon may have positive effects on cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and overall heart health.
- Antimicrobial properties: Cinnamon has natural antimicrobial properties that can help fight against bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
- Anti-allergic properties: Cinnamon may help reduce allergic reactions and alleviate allergy symptoms.
- Anti-cancer: Preliminary research indicates that cinnamon extracts may possess anti-cancer properties, though more studies are needed.
- Anti-inflammatory properties: Cinnamon contains compounds that help reduce inflammation in the body, potentially benefiting various health conditions.
- Antioxidant effects: It is rich in antioxidants that can help protect the body from oxidative stress and damage caused by free radicals.
- Skin health: Applied topically, cinnamon can help with skin issues due to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Brain health: Some studies suggest that cinnamon might have neuroprotective effects, benefiting brain health and cognitive function.
- Digestive aid: It may aid in digestion and alleviate digestive discomfort, such as gas and bloating.
How to Spot Fake Cinnamon
It is very likely that what you are buying as cinnamon is actually Chinese cassia. When compared to the original or Ceylon cinnamon, the latter has a much less complex and mild flavor. Cassia, like real cinnamon, does not have a strong aroma.
Check the texture first to tell the difference between the two. Cassia is coarser and thicker, whereas cinnamon is thinner. Cassia also curls primarily on one side. By adding one drop of iodine to ground cinnamon, it can be tested for cassia. It is infused with cassia if it turns blue.
Key difference between Cinnamon vs Chinese Cassia
- Source: Cinnamon comes from Cinnamomum verum trees (Ceylon cinnamon) in Sri Lanka, while Chinese cassia is from Cinnamomum cassia trees in China.
- Flavor: Ceylon cinnamon has a sweet taste with a hint of citrus, while Chinese cassia is stronger and slightly bitter.
- Appearance: Ceylon cinnamon is lighter in color and thinner, while Chinese cassia is darker and thicker.
- Coumarin content: Both types have coumarin, which may be harmful in large amounts. Chinese cassia has more coumarin, so it’s better to use it in moderation.
- Culinary use: Ceylon cinnamon is great for desserts, while Chinese cassia is used in savory dishes in Asian cuisines.
- Health considerations: If you’re concerned about coumarin, choose Ceylon cinnamon and use it in small amounts.
Side Effects of Real Cinnamon
Cinnamon is usually safe, and most people tolerate it well. But if you take too much, you might have some side effects like headaches, heartburn, bloating, or upset stomach. It could also cause nausea, diarrhea, or allergic reactions.
If you experience any of these side effects, stop taking cinnamon supplements and talk to your doctor. Be careful not to take very high doses, as it may harm your liver.
Interactions with other drugs
Taking too much cinnamon can cause problems with certain medications. It can lower blood sugar too much if you’re taking diabetes medication.
Also, the coumarin in cinnamon can interact with medicines that affect the liver, like acetaminophen or statins, and increase the risk of liver damage.
If you have diabetes or are taking medications that affect your liver, talk to your doctor before taking cinnamon supplements to avoid any negative interactions.
Cinnamon is a well-known spice that can be good for your health. It has antioxidants and compounds that can reduce inflammation in the body.
Taking cinnamon as a supplement might help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It can also help control your blood sugar, which is important for managing diabetes.
Before you start taking a cinnamon supplement, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider. They can make sure it’s safe for you and suitable for your health needs.