Cinnamon is the second most used spice in the US and Europe, right after pepper. If you ask me I would have said salt... I mean salt and pepper are like pea's and carrots! I paused, thought about this and over the next several days I started to pay attention to our daily consumption in the home and whilst I was browsing the supermarket isles.
For as long as I can remember I have been aware of cinnamons health benefits; high in antioxidants, supporter to the metabolism, aids in digestion, has anti-inflammatory properties, the list goes on. Cinnamon has been an important component in both cooking and in rituals. Indeed cinnamon and its health benefits are part of the medical and spiritual love of many cultures all over the world. I have purposely been adding cinnamon where ever and when ever I can, just a few examples: smoothies, plain yoghurt, baked goods, granola, roasted veggies, stews, soups, curries...
I was unaware that there are two different types of cinnamon: Ceylon known as 'true cinnamon' (Cinnamomum verum or zeylanicum) and Cassia (Cinnamomum burmanni). 80-90% of cinnamon in the supermarket isles is Cassia cinnamon as well as those used in all premade goods, mainly due to the fact that Ceylon is more expensive. There is a hidden truth behind cinnamon and this is what separates the two kinds.
Cinnamon produces a chemical compound called coumarin, this natural occurring anti-coagulant (blood thinner) can be toxic to the liver, kidneys as well as causing cancer in rats and tumors in humans. It is known as a flavoring substance in the food industry and is actually banned as a food additive in the US and Western Europe.
The important difference between Cassia and Ceylon cinnamon is that Ceylon produces trace amounts of coumarin where as Cassia makes 63x more. This is a huge difference!
While many suggest that it is safe to consume either variety and one would have to consume large quantities to have any effect, others argue that if coumarin was actually measured that as little as1tsp a day would be considered toxic overload. So how does one gauge daily consumption? It is not tested nor labeled; every jar will have varying amounts. You can control what you do in your home but how about when dinning out or buying premade foods. Just think about the amount of kid’s snacks that have cinnamon added for flavor!
To be on the safe side from now on we are only buying Ceylon cinnamon and being conscious of which snacks contain cinnamon as a flavor, opting to skip and add our own cinnamon where we can i.e.; apple sauce. Most supermarkets only carry cassia; usually it just says cinnamon and doesn’t differentiate between which kinds. Ceylon will always say Ceylon. Our local heath food market had it and you can easily buy online from mountain rose herbs too.
Cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum burmanni) sourced in Indonesia, also known as Chinese cinnamon, has a peppery taste to it. Its bark is harder, thicker, rougher and usually tanner in color. Actually if you take real iodine and add a drop to the powder it should turn blue!
Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum or zeylanicum) sourced from Sri Lanka and Southern India is sweeter with a more delicate flavor. The stick is thinner, softer and consists of multiple layers.
If using cinnamon bark store in the fridge to keep fresh.
Sticks last longer yet the powder has more flavor.
Store in glass containers.
Sticks usually loose their flavor after about a year.