Until recently, I had no idea that there was more than one type of cinnamon. We are all familiar with the common spice used in so many foods. I don’t know about you, but I love cinnamon. I have a cinnamon addiction that nearly rivals my pumpkin spice addiction, and yes, I am THAT girl. The one who obsesses about all things pumpkin when it comes into season. I literally have a stock pile of pumpkin spice coffee in my basement so I never run out. But, I digress.
Chances are, you have Cassia cinnamon in your spice cabinet right now. It’s available everywhere and is fairly inexpensive, it’s the cinnamon we grew up on. It has the taste, smell, and color we are used to. Before you panic, I’m not going to trash talk on your cinnamon…much. It was brought to my attention during a Facebook rant in which I said, I felt betrayed by my cinnamon when I learned that it contained carbs. I was pretty pissed, especially because I had been dumping loads of it in my bulletproof coffee every morning. A woman in a group I belong to, told me to look into the difference between Cassia and Ceylon cinnamon as she had recently discovered it herself. I do want to touch briefly on the mention of cinnamon’s carb count. It’s only 2 net carbs per serving, and in my opinion, it’s worth it. The health benefits far outweigh the carb impact.
Both provide health benefits.
Cinnamon is actually the inner bark of the Cinnamomum tree. The bark is dried causing it to curl into the roll shape we see when purchasing cinnamon sticks. It is then sold as whole sticks, in powdered form, or as an extract. Besides being delicious, cinnamon has some pretty remarkable health benefits.
Cinnamaldehyde, one of the main components of cinnamon, along with essential oils are responsible for both cinnamon’s antibacterial aspect and its role as an antioxidant. They work to protect the body on a cellular level by helping to get rid of waste particles and keeping the cells healthy. Scientists are also currently testing the effectiveness of cinnamon in the fight against HIV. One study found that some extracts of cinnamon rich in flavonoids blocked the virus from entering and infecting certain cells.
Cinnamon also has been noted in helping to regulate blood sugar, making it extremely appealing to those with diabetic conditions. Many experienced reductions in fasting blood sugar levels. In some cases, cinnamon has shown a reduction in blood pressure for patients who have tested high in the past. In addition, the bioactive components of both varieties of cinnamon appear to block a protein called ‘tau’ from accumulating in the brain. Tau build up is one of the observed characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Many other studies are in the works to explore the medicinal benefits of this multi-talented spice.
So what’s the difference?
Cassia comes from the Cinnamomum cassia tree which is found predominantly in southern China, it’s also called Chinese cinnamon. Ceylon comes from the Cinnamomum verum tree found in Sri Lanka and parts of India. Cassia is dark, brownish-red in color with a thick, coarse texture and strong spicy flavor. The sticks are one dense layer and don’t grind easily. Ceylon is much lighter in color, and the sticks are composed of very thin delicate layers making it easy to grind in to a fine powder. Its flavor is much milder with a gentle sweetness that compliments recipes rather than overpowers them. Cassia is a thought of a lower quality because it is inexpensive and commonly found. Ceylon is less abundant and more expensive, but there is one important detail that sets them apart.
Both contain coumarin, which is a compound occurring naturally in several plant species. Occasional ingestion is not shown to cause any issues, but in large doses it has been found to be toxic. Cassia cinnamon has significantly more coumarin than Ceylon, raising concern in people who use it in large amounts, like me. In laboratory testing, coumarin caused kidney, liver, and lung damage in rodents. More research needs to done, but from what I’ve learned so far, I eat way too much cinnamon to risk it.
Here’s a handy little side by side comparison for reference.
I hope you found this post helpful and informative. I know I was surprised to learn about the different types. There are links provided below in the sources if you want to read all the sciency stuff behind what I’ve written. Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions, comments, or feedback, don’t hesitate to leave them below.