Healthy Food & Life: Why Ceylon Cinnamon is the Best Cinnamon to Use
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Why Ceylon Cinnamon is the Best Cinnamon to Use

Ceylon cinnamon sticks

Cinnamon is one of the most loved and healthiest spices in the world. It is used in all kinds of recipes and sprinkled on foods like sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and toast. But did you know there are different types of cinnamon, and not all cinnamon has health benefits. Ceylon cinnamon is the healthiest cinnamon, but it’s not the most commonly used. The most common is cassia cinnamon, which has some real health risks you should be aware of.

There are wonderful health benefits with cinnamon, and there is a good chance you had something with cinnamon in it today. Maybe you’ve already heard that cinnamon is healthy. But not all cinnamon is healthy, and if you want the health benefits, you should use the healthiest cinnamon.

The Different Types of Cinnamon

There are four main types of cinnamon:

  • Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum or Cinnamomum verum). Also called true cinnamon or Sri Lanka cinnamon.
  • Cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia). Also called China cinnamon or fake cinnamon.
  • Saigon cinnamon (Cinnamomum loureiroi). Also called Vietnam cinnamon.
  • Indonesian cinnamon (Cinnamomum burmanni). Also called Korintje or Java cinnamon.

In the United States, about 90% of the imported cinnamon is cassia cinnamon and is the most commonly sold and used. Saigon, Korintje and cassia cinnamon are sometimes referred to as fake cinnamon. That is not technically true as they are all types of cinnamon.

The word for true in Latin is verum, which is why Ceylon cinnamon is also called true cinnamon or Cinnamomum verum.

Ceylon cinnamon has a sweet flavor and is tan in color. Cassia cinnamon is more of a reddish-brown color and is courser in texture with a stronger more bitter taste. Ceylon cinnamon is not as hollow in the middle as cassia is.

cassia cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon sticks
Cassia and Ceylon cinnamon sticks / CinnamonVougue/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Why You Should Only Use Ceylon Cinnamon

The main reason you should only use Ceylon cinnamon is that Saigon, Indonesia, and cassia cinnamon all have high amounts of coumarin. Ceylon cinnamon has very little to no coumarin.

Coumarin is naturally found in various plants including cinnamon and is used in certain medicines and to fragrance personal care products like aftershave lotion, sunscreens, moisturizers, and other skincare products.  

Coumarin is mainly known because of its use in the making of the anti-coagulant drugs, Warfarin and Coumadin.

In 1954, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the use of added coumarin as a food additive because it possibly causes cancer. [1]

Coumarin is actually toxic to the liver and is a health risk if too much is eaten at one time or over a long period of time. And cassia cinnamon has some of the highest concentration of coumarin of any food.

The coumarin amount in cassia cinnamon can range from 7 to 18 mg per teaspoon while Ceylon cinnamon is basically coumarin-free. [2]

Health Risks of Coumarin

Eating too much food made from these coumarin containing cinnamons can lead to the following health problems:

  • Possible liver damage
  • Possibly promote cancer development
  • Possibly impairs cognitive development in children, especially if eaten while pregnant

There are also short term health risks that include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Easy bruising, unusual bleeding, and blood in the urine or stools

The fact that these cinnamons have coumarin can mean that cuts, injuries, and a bloody nose might take longer than normal to stop bleeding and clot.

The Wonderful Health Benefits of Ceylon Cinnamon

Ceylon cinnamon is one of the healthiest spices in the world with health benefits that include:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-oxidant
  • Antimicrobial (antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiviral)
  • Antiparasitic
  • Regulates blood sugar
  • Enhances cognitive ability
  • May prevent certain types of cancer
  • May prevent Alzheimer’s disease

Cinnamon Increases Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin resistance is a precursor to type 2 diabetes and occurs when the body produces insulin as normal, but the insulin cannot move the glucose into the cells.

Increasing insulin sensitivity is what helps reverse insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Several studies have found that cinnamon can increase insulin sensitivity almost immediately, and the effect can last for as long as 12 hours. [3]

Cinnamon Lowers Blood Sugar

Depending on what you eat, your blood sugar can rise dramatically after a meal. Cinnamon can help keep your blood sugar from spiking too high. [4]

Another study found that participants with diabetes lowered their blood sugar by 24% after consuming 1.5 to 2 teaspoons of cinnamon for 40 days. [5]

Cinnamon and Type 3 Diabetes

There is a connection between Alzheimer’s and diabetes with 70% of those with type 2 diabetes also developing Alzheimer’s later in life.

You might not have heard of it, but there is also type 3 diabetes, which has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Just like our body, our brain needs to utilize glucose or blood sugar to function properly. [6]

The brain can also get insulin resistance which can proceed to type 3 diabetes and possibly lead to Alzheimer’s later in life. Cinnamon can increase insulin sensitivity in the brain and prevent type 3 diabetes.

Cinnamon and Alzheimer’s

It is now believed that Alzheimer’s is caused when a protein in the brain — called tau — collapses into aggregates called tau tangles.

In a healthy brain, tau forms microtubules, essential structures that transport nutrients within nerve cells. The tau protein helps these microtubules remain strong and straight.

In the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient, the tau proteins collapse into tangles. When this happens, the microtubules can no longer sustain the transport of nutrients in the nerve cells, which over time leads to cell death causing Alzheimer’s.

Cinnamon has been shown to prevent these tau tangles or clumps from occurring, possibly preventing Alzheimer’s. [7]

Ceylon Cinnamon Conclusion

Ceylon cinnamon not only tastes great, it also has some amazing health benefits without any of the health risks that cassia cinnamon has. Especially if you’re like me and use a lot of cinnamon on your food and in cooking, it is probably best to only use Ceylon cinnamon.

About The Author

Sam Montana is a certified Food Over Medicine instructor from the Wellness Health Forum Center and certified in optimal nutrition from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

© 2019 Sam Montana/Healthy Food and Life

[1] US Food and Drug Administration
[3] PubMed: Effects of short-term cinnamon ingestion on in vivo glucose tolerance
[4] PubMed: Effect of cinnamon on postprandial blood glucose, gastric emptying, and satiety in healthy subjects
[5] WebMD: Does Cinnamon Help Diabetes?
[6] National Institute of Health: Alzheimer's Disease Is Type 3 Diabetes–Evidence Reviewed
[7] Alzheimer’s Net: Why Cinnamon May Hold Secrets to Alzheimer’s Prevention
Why Ceylon Cinnamon is the Best Cinnamon to Use


  1. Wow, I didn't know there were so many differences in the types of cinnamon! Or that cinnamon offered so many health benefits. Thanks for these helpful tips!

    1. I was surprised at the health risks of eating too much cassia cinnamon. When I added up all the cinnamon I used on my oatmeal for a year, I realized this could be a health problem. Now I only use Ceylon cinnamon, and it's nice to know there are also health benefits now, instead of health risks.

  2. I had no idea about any of this - thanks so much for sharing!