Cinnamon is packed with compounds that provide beneficial effects on health. Many studies have demonstrated that cinnamon is a powerful antioxidant, has antimicrobial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties, help to lower blood sugar and "bad" cholesterol levels, can fight against neurological disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.
A half of teaspoon of cinnamon can be added to your yogurt or oatmeal, undoubtedly improving their taste. You can also add a dash of cinnamon to your fruits, smoothie, tea or coffee. But if you consume a larger amount of cinnamon for health benefits, you need to understand more about types of cinnamon and possible side effects of this spice that available in the most supermarkets of US, Canada, and many other countries.
Cinnamon Side Effects
There are two types of commercially available cinnamon spices: Cassia cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon. Often Cassia is referred to as 'Fake', and Ceylon as 'True' cinnamon. Though, both Сassia and Ceylon cinnamons are derived from cinnamon trees of the genus Cinnamomum, but these two types possess different properties that are key for the right choice.
The most common type, about 99%, in US grocery stores is Cassia cinnamon. Typically, it is labeled as 'Cinnamon' with information about a place it was packed. If the information about the botanical source and country of origin are not available, most likely this is camassia.
Cassia cinnamon contains a higher percentage of coumarin, a chemical compound that in high concentrations can cause liver and kidney damage, and also has carcinogenic properties. Sensitive people and children can face a hepatotoxic effect even after consuming a small amount of coumarin.
German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment conducted a study in Germany and found that Cinnamomum cassia plants growing in China, Indonesia, and Vietnam contain the highest level of coumarin. Coumarin quantity in Cassia cinnamon varies widely even within a single tree from a small amount to the maximum 10 mg of coumarin in 1 g of the bark.
Another study in the Czech retail market analyzed Cassia cinnamon samples and found the coumarin levels range from 2 650 to 7 017 mg/kg. That means that one teaspoon of 2 gram of Cassia cinnamon contains from 5 to 14 mg of coumarin.
Those who take cinnamon as a dietary supplement should be aware that is may contain high quantities of Cassia cinnamon.
A daily safe limit for coumarin depends on body weight, approximately 0.1 mg per 1 kg. A daily safe limit for adults is about 5-7 mg. However, for small children, it can be dangerous. A daily limit for a 3-year-old child weighing 14 kg (31 pounds) is 1.4 mg of coumarin. The biggest concern is coumarin in bakery goods. One 5-gram cinnamon cookie contains 0.44 mg of coumarin, that means children can reach daily limit by eating 3 cookies. A tolerable limit for adults is 10 cookies.
'True' Ceylon cinnamon
'True' Ceylon cinnamon is derived from Cinnamomum verum species. It is native to Sri Lanka (Ceylon in past), Seychelles, and Madagascar.
According to the research conducted in Germany, 'True' Ceylon cinnamon has very little coumarin, 18 times less than Cassia sticks and 63 times less than Cassia powder. An assessment of coumarin levels in ground cinnamon in the Czech retail market has shown that the sample from Sri Lanka was coumarin-free.
Read how to distinguish between two types of cinnamon.
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Disclaimer. Statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition.