Cinnamon is cinnamon. Right? Just like nutmeg is nutmeg and rosemary is rosemary. Nope, it’s not.
Cinnamon comes from the Cinnamomum Zeylanicum plant commonly referred to as “Ceylon cinnamon” or from the Cinnamomum Cassia / Cinnamomum Loureiroi / Cinnamomum Burmannii plants commonly referred to as “Cassia cinnamon”. It’s grown in Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) or China & Indonesia. It tastes sweet, or pungent & woody. It is fragile which makes it easy to ground into a very fine powder, or hard and tough which grounds into a coarse powder.
Both can help regulate blood sugar levels and are antioxidants, but one can also damage your liver if taken in high doses.
The problem is, unless you compare the two types you would never know that the cinnamon in your kitchen is not as finely ground as it should be, not as sweet as it could be and ultimately not as good for you as you thought i.e. you bought Cassia cinnamon in stead of true Ceylon cinnamon.
In a study of 91 cinnamon samples from various stores in Germany they found 63 times more coumarin in Cassia cinnamon powder than Ceylon cinnamon powder. High levels of coumarin can cause liver damage. Seeing as Cassia cinnamon is cheaper than Ceylon cinnamon, the cinnamon we get in supermarkets are from the cassia plant – the one with the high levels of coumarin. (If you want to know more about the difference between Cassia cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon, this article has a handy comparison.)
Because of the damage that high dosages of coumarin can cause to your liver, the EU has laid down guidelines for the maximum content of coumarin in foodstuffs – 50mg per kg of dough in foods that are only consumed occasionally, and 15mg per kg of dough in everyday baked goods. In our house, and I guess in most households, we probably won’t reach levels higher than this recommendation, but I would still never go back to “regular” cinnamon. It just doesn’t taste as nice as the true Ceylon cinnamon.
In fact, I would say a big difference between Cassia cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon is that even if you use too much Ceylon cinnamon it won’t burn your tongue, but try eating a desert with a too thick sprinkling of regular cinnamon and your tongue will be on fire. That’s a sure way of knowing what type of cinnamon you are using.
I grew up with regular cinnamon and never ever thought there was a different type of cinnamon that could be so sweet and fine. We sprinkle Ceylon cinnamon on vanilla ice cream and plain cheesecake (OMG, so good!!!), we sprinkle it on Redbush tea and have it in overnight oats. I also love adding Ceylon cinnamon to vegetarian dishes, like Quinoa with Roasted Sweet Potato and Red Onion Salad.
I only recently discovered that cinnamon also has health benefits. To me it was just a fragrant spice to sprinkle on deserts. But when my husband struggled to regulate his blood sugar levels and had slightly high blood pressure we went looking for a natural cure and cinnamon came top of the list. (You can read one of the articles here.) It worked for him and it’s still working.
So if the cinnamon we buy in supermarkets are the dodgy kind, where do you get the sweet, fine, true Ceylon cinnamon? I buy organic Ceylon cinnamon on Amazon from Buy Wholefoods Online. The 250g bag lasts us around 6 months. A quick online search will provide loads of other places you can buy true Ceylon cinnamon and I’m sure most health food stores will sell it as well.
If you are used to regular supermarket cinnamon, do yourself the favour and try Ceylon cinnamon. You’ll never want to go back to supermarket cinnamon.