Cinnamon is often used by women (commonly those with PCOS and/or diabetes) for help in stabilizing the blood sugar, using about 1/2 teaspoon per day. Many nutritionists also claim that it helps to reduce inflammation and decrease appetite. Chinese medicine says that cinnamon helps improve pelvic blood flow, is warming, and can help increase a mans sperm count.
But could the type of cinnamon you consume be harming your body?
A few months ago I was chatting with a friend when she brought up the topic of cinnamon, and it was the first time I’d heard about “true” cinnamon.
After a bit of digging around on google, and looking through my own cupboards, I found that there is in fact a couple different kinds of cinnamon. Most notably:
- grown in Sri Lanka
- light brown in color
- thinner and softer
- more mild in flavor
- the inside of a stick is filled like a cigar
- contains a minimal amount of coumarin (which thins the blood)
(I buy my ceylon cinnamon from Mountain Rose Herbs* – I love the quality and flavor)
- grown in China, Vietnam, Indonesia
- darker brown in color
- thicker and hard
- inside of the stick is hollow
- more intense flavor
- much higher levels of coumarin
- this is the type most often found in the US
In the picture below, you can see the difference in the sticks of these two kinds of cinnamon. The Ceylon (or sweet) on the left, the cassia on the right.
Much of the problem with the less expensive (which is why it’s used more) cassia cinnamon, lies in the coumarin content. Coumarin is a phytochemical that flavors the food source. (it’s also found in strawberries, lavender, cherries, and sweet clover and other plant-based foods to some extent)
While coumarin looks like it may have some health benefits; blood thinning, anti-fungal, and helps to prevent against tumors, in excess it can also do damage to the body as it is moderately toxic to the liver and kidneys and could cause uterine contractions. A few different web-based sources even comment that some European health agencies have warned against high consumption of cassia due to the coumarin content.
There may also be a connection from cassia to allergies, due to the dust mites in the bark.
So the idea of cassia cinnamon consumption bothers me in a couple of ways.
1. The fact that it could bother or be toxic to the liver in any way is a cause for concern to me. Because the liver is so important to our body’s detoxification system, if it’s overloaded or incapacitated in any way, we can’t get rid of environmental toxins or excess and old hormones.
2. People often take medicinal amounts of cinnamon each day, some people who contact me take over a tablespoon per day. (I don’t recommend that by the way) If taken long-term at such high amounts, the toxicity to the liver may become a reality.
Now, I don’t think that in small amounts that cassia would be a big issue. But when you’re using it to try to reverse or control physical ailments, you’d be best to search out Ceylon, or sweet, cinnamon. Personally I buy sweet cinnamon from Mountain Rose Herbs* for all of my home use, but I don’t worry about the small amount I might consume outside of the home.
Do you use cinnamon for medicinal benefits? Have you ever heard of the problems cassia might cause?