Ceylon vs Cassia - Not All Cinnamon Is Created Equal.
Cinnamon is an extremely popular spice, used in various cuisines all over the world, in both sweet & savoury dishes. It has also been used for thousands of years for its medicinal properties.
Not only is it delicious, its also has many reported health benefits.
Cinnamon is cheap & widely available in most supermarkets. At least, one type is. But what most people don't realise, is that there are actually two main types of cinnamon, Ceylon & Cassia. One of which contains a toxin that is harmful if you eat too much of it.
So what are the differences between Ceylon and Cassia cinnamon?
What Is Cinnamon?
Cinnamon is a spice created from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum tree.
Strips of the inner bark are dried until they curl into rolls known as cinnamon sticks or quills. These can then be ground into powder or made into an extract.
The unique properties of cinnamon come from its essential oils & compounds, in particular cinnamaldehyde.
The cinnamaldehyde compound gives cinnamon its flavor & aroma, & is responsible for many of its health benefits.
Cassia Cinnamon is the cinnamon most commonly available in supermarkets.
It comes from the Cinnamomum cassia tree, also called Cinnamomum aromaticum. Originating in Southern China & also known as Chinese cinnamon. There are several subspecies now widely grown across Eastern & Southern Asia.
Cassia tends to be a dark brown-red colour with thicker sticks & a rougher texture than Ceylon cinnamon. It is considered to be of lower quality. It is very cheap & is the type most commonly consumed around the world. Almost all cinnamon found in supermarkets is the Cassia variety.
Cassia has long been used in cooking & in traditional Chinese medicine. Roughly 95% of its oil is cinnamaldehyde, which gives Cassia a very strong, spicy flavour.
Ceylon, or "true cinnamon," is native to Sri Lanka & southern parts of India. It is made from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum verum tree.
It is tan-brown in colour & contains many tight sticks with soft layers. These features provide a highly desirable quality & texture.
Ceylon cinnamon is less common & has long been prized as a cooking spice. It is quite expensive compared to the more common Cassia variety & has been graded as the fourth most expensive spice in the world.
Described as having a delicate & mildly sweet flavour makes it suitable for desserts as well as savoury dishes. Approximately 50–63% of its essential oil is cinnamaldehyde, which is quite low compared to Cassia. This explains its milder aroma & flavour.
Ceylon & Cassia Are Both Good for Diabetics
For generations, cinnamon has been prized for its health properties. In particular, it's been claimed to benefit blood sugar control, which is important for people with diabetes.
Studies show it may reduce blood sugar spikes, increase insulin sensitivity & improve metabolic markers associated with insulin resistance. Unfortunately, up til now, there aren't any studies to determine the optimal dosage of Ceylon cinnamon as a supplement. Cassia has been used in several studies of humans with and without type 2 diabetes. Most of these observed significant reductions in fasting blood sugar levels within several months of taking a dose of Cassia between 1–6 grams per day. It had minimal or no side effects.
Which Has More Health Benefits?
Ceylon and Cassia likely have slightly different health properties. This is because their essential oil ratios are somewhat different. However, current published studies have not attempted to make this distinction. For example, several of cinnamon's bioactive compounds appear to block a protein called tau from accumulating in the brain. This is important, as tau buildup is a characteristic of Alzheimer's disease. This effect has been observed using both Ceylon & Cassia cinnamon. Therefore, it's unclear if one is superior to the other in this regard.
Overall, it's not possible to say which one has more health benefits. However, an important point is that Ceylon has far less potential to cause harm when consumed regularly.
Cassia Contains Coumarin, Which Can Be Toxic.
Coumarin is a compound found naturally in several plant species which can be harmful in large doses. In rodents, coumarin is known to cause kidney, liver & lung damage. It may even cause cancer. In humans, there are incidents of similar effects. The Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) of coumarin used to be 0.5 mg/kg of body weight, but has now been reduced to 0.1 mg/kg
Cassia cinnamon, but not Ceylon, is a very rich source of coumarin. Cassia contains around 1% coumarin, while Ceylon contains only 0.004%. 250 times less. This is so low that it's often undetectable.
Exceeding the upper limit for coumarin is easily possible if you are consuming Cassia cinnamon. In many cases, just a teaspoon could bring someone over the daily limit. Therefore, if you regularly eat cinnamon or take a supplement that contains it, then it should be Ceylon and not Cassia.
If you intend to consume cinnamon regularly, or take a supplement, Cassia can be harmful because of the coumarin content.
At the end of the day, Ceylon cinnamon is better quality & much safer.
Three By One Cinnamon Sticks & Powder
Our cinnamon is true Ceylon cinnamon. Grown in & around our coconut plantations, it is harvested & processed by hand using traditional methods.
Harvested when the bark has turned brown, indicating maturity, sticks are carried first to the peeling shed. The outer corky tissues are scraped off, & then peelers rub the sticks with a brass rod to loosen the bark from the hard wood. Peeling is then done with a special small round knife. Cinnamon barks are then joined together by layering & overlapping, before hand rolling into quills or sticks. The quills are then air dryed for 4 – 7 days, after which they are hand cut to their final size.
To produce the powder, the quills are simply ground down into a fine powder.
The true art of the Cinnamon production process is the result of skill and technique unique to the Cinnamon peelers of Sri Lanka. Cinnamon peeling is a highly skilled technique which has been handed down from generation to generation in Sri Lanka.