Just a short post about a spice that is probably sitting in all of your cabinets right now. Cinnamon is a culinary spice that is derived from the fragrant inner bark of a group of small evergreen trees called Cinnamomums. It is the second most popular spice used in the United States, right behind black pepper.
There are two major types of cinnamon found in the US. They are Ceylon cinnamon and Cassia cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon is typically from Sri Lanka, and is also referred to as "true cinnamon.” While Ceylon is the predominate source of cinnamon sold in the UK, it is not the predominant spice typically sold as cinnamon in the United States. More common is Cassia cinnamon, which is typically from Burma but also grown in China and Vietnam and is sometimes called Chinese cinnamon. Cassia is darker in color and often has a stronger more pungent taste.
According to a major study done measuring antioxidants of various foods, cloves were found to be the most potent supply, by weight, but cinnamon wasn’t far behind. As such, cinnamon is an excellent food to be included into your normal diet. Evidence suggests that cinnamon has “anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antitumor, cardiovascular, cholesterol-lowering, and immunomdulatory effects.”
That said, the distinction between Ceylon and Cassia makes a bigger difference than one would imagine. Cassia cinnamon is the main source of coumarin found in most people’s diet. Courmarin is a naturally occurring toxin which has the potential to damage the liver when taken in high doses.
Recent studies have revealed that regularly consuming Cassia cinnamon powder could be problematic, resulting in potentially harmful levels of coumarin intake. For example, Dr. Joel Furhrman, reports that one study estimated that small children eating oatmeal sprinkled with cinnamon a few times a week would exceed the established safe upper limit of exposure.
Cinnamon also is high in oxalates. Oxalates have been linked to cause oxalate kidney stones which sounds rather uncomfortable to me. However, less than 10% of the oxalates found in cinnamon are absorbed, so even taking large doses of cinnamon on a daily basis shouldn’t be a problem in this regard.
Since Ceylon cinnamon has been tested as having near-zero levels of courmarin, it’s worth the time and money for American consumers to find a good source of Ceylon cinnamon. FRONTIER Natural Products Co-Op is my preferred choice as I can get it easily from Whole Foods or any other natural/organic grocer. Because of it's many health benefits, Ceylon Cinnamon is an excellent, easy and delicious way to boost one's antioxidant intake.
As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.
Fuhrman, Joel. “Choosing the Right Cinnamon,” http://www.drfuhrman.com/library/choosing_the_right_cinnamon.aspx