Real Cinnamon

by Daisy

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I’m feeling a little snookered.  What I’ve always thought was cinnamon is something called cassia.

On the right is cassia, what I’ve always known and loved as cinnamon sticks.

On the left is cinnamon.  Thin and brittle, unlike the thick, woody cassia on the right.

Most ground cinnamon is actually cassia, too.  Kroger Co., for example, reports that all of its cinnamon sold is cassia.

What’s the difference, besides the fact that they come from two different plants?  The taste is somewhat different, with true cinnamon having a milder and less bitter taste than its imitator.

What got me investigating is that cinnamon has been getting a lot of buzz because of its medicinal qualities.

If I was going to try and increase the cinnamon in my diet, I wanted to be using the right stuff.

While it’s tough to separate the science from folklore sometimes, here are some of the things cinnamon is purported to be good for:

  • lowering bad cholesterol
  • weight loss
  • assisting in blood sugar control in Type 2 diabetes
  • reducing arthritis pain
  • strengthening the immune system
  • relieving indigestion

The cinnamon is often combined with honey which also has many followers for its health benefits.

Of all the things out there supposed to be good for you, this has got to be one of the most delicious.

I don’t suppose they had cinnamon honey buns in mind when they recommended it for lowering cholesterol?

Disclaimer: This post may contain a link to an affiliate.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

LisaPie April 14, 2010 at 8:07 am

So, if the cinnamon and the cassia have similar properties, are they inter-changeable as far as the list of health benefits? Did you have to go find a new product and ditch the old “faux-cinnamon” in favor of the real stuff?

Tomato Lady April 14, 2010 at 9:19 am

LisaPie–While cassia does have some health benefits, the ones cited here, blood sugar, weight control, etc., are specific to ceylon cinnamon as far as I can tell. So don’t ditch your cassia, but if you were going to try extra cinnamon for health benefits, you might get a jar of ceylon cinnamon and give it a try.

Susanna a.k.a. Cheap Like Me April 14, 2010 at 10:05 am

Interesting! We have gotten bags of the “barky” cinnamon inexpensively at Indian grocery stories.

Jin6655321 April 14, 2010 at 10:47 am

Where did you purchase your real cinnamon sticks? I’ve heard that “cinnamon” isn’t really cinnamon and I’ve wanted to try the real stuff for awhile but I can never find any.

Angie April 14, 2010 at 11:02 am

Huh. I never knew this. Maybe I should try some “real” cinnamon, since I really don’t like what I thought was cinnamon.

Tomato Lady April 14, 2010 at 11:17 am

Jin–I bought mine at Penzey’s. We have a shop but I believe they have online sales, too.

KeLLy Ann April 14, 2010 at 11:56 am

I had no idea. Thanks for the information.
Cinnamon is a spice I use in Cooking, Drinks, Bath products, and Incense.
I’m excited to try it in the Bath and Incense recipes.

If you are looking for a good online place to buy herbs and spices, {I have not bought cinnamon from them, but plenty of other herbs and such} Mountain Rose Herbs is a good place to start. They are selling both.

Toria April 14, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Interesting. I’ve started buying my spices at a different place recently & noticed that the cinnamon had a sub label of cassia but didn’t know what that meant. I also noticed a stronger flavour, but thought it was because the spices are much fresher at this place.

Kari April 14, 2010 at 3:46 pm

I buy my cinnamon (Korjinte cinnamon?) at Costco. Super cheap and it has a much better flavor than any “cinnamon” I’ve bought anywhere else. It is pre-ground though so if you’re looking for sticks, I’m not certain if Costco has them.
Hope this helps you!

Elaine April 14, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Plain old cassia is also good for killing the mold you get on seedlings from damping off disease.

They’re closely enough related that I don’t think using cassia will be any different (as long as it’s fresh). I think Alton Brown, in his cinammon bun cooking episode, said he prefers cassia because it’s hotter than ceylon.

If cassia is hotter, you would think means that it has a higher concentration of “cinammonness” than ceylon, which would make it more medicinal. I’ve actually read in a few places that you can’t import it into Germany because of its blood-thinning effect… but I’m not sure if that’s accurate or an urban legend. 🙂

Amanda Y. April 14, 2010 at 7:23 pm

I find this utterly ridiculous! How can the jars not be labeled with what they truly are! I am quite upset that our society has allowed this, ESPECIALLY in light of the benefits of cinnamon being in the news lately!

astricker April 14, 2010 at 9:08 pm

You can also buy cinnamon oil. Both “real” cinnamon and cassia oils are available. I added some to my apple jelly last fall. Yum!

Wendy Booth April 15, 2010 at 5:44 am

I too am curious how you know if you are getting the real stuff. I buy my cinnamon (or hope is cinnamon) by the 4 lb bucket from Breadbeckers out of Atlanta. I guess I will call them and see if it really is cinnamon. I add it to my coffee every morning for the supposed health benefits. Do you have a source for the real stuff?

Handful April 15, 2010 at 8:31 am

I just checked my cupboard. Kroger out of Cincinnati.

It just says cinnamon. No ingredient list. So I hope it’s cinnamon.

Cassia April 16, 2010 at 5:17 pm

Hey everyone! My friend who has her degree in holistic med gave me a pamphlet from her first job on cassia as a joke (my name is Cassia) …It said as a herb it is interchangeable with cinnamon and the fruit from cassia is still used as a natural laxitive in India and China today. So you have nothing to worry about as long as your using fresh, pesticide free cassia 🙂

jo April 17, 2010 at 9:15 am

My father in law started taking an awful lot of cinnamon a year or so ago after someone told him about the health benefits – he developed a terrible rash and felt rather unwell, and it took quite a while for him to link it to the cinnamon (confirmed by his doctor – a nasty reaction). Please remember – ‘good for you’ doesn’t necessarily equate to ‘more is better’, and some people are quite sensitive to cinnamon.

Suzanne December 10, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Everyone, Ceylon Cinnamon should be the only thing you use! Cassia causes liver dammage. Especially if you are going to use it in large amounts mixed with honey for your health! Look it up, You will see I know what I’m talking about.

Joe February 20, 2011 at 9:05 pm

the cinnamon we buy here in the US has ingredients that is not good for your liver if you eat alot. So much so that Germany has banned it for a long time now. The cinnamon thats good for you is hard to find in the states. Not sure where to get it.

m Phillips August 18, 2011 at 6:44 am

ceylon cinnamon is supposed to be the real stuff according to all I’ve heard and read about….!

Dena September 15, 2011 at 11:10 am

Read that Ceylon Cinnamon is the one used for medicinal purposes. Cassia Cinnamon has a toxicity to it in large doses. Try Sprouts or Cox Farms (natural food stores) for the Ceylon (real cinnamon)

jools August 1, 2012 at 5:16 am

im surprised that cinnamon being so good is not readily available even in the states. hey am in africa, kenya to be precise will i ever get the ‘real,’ stuff i.e ceylon cinnamon????????????
hey someone help ????????????????????

Allergies August 30, 2012 at 3:33 pm

I recently developed a severe allergy to cinnamon, now I just have to figure out if it’s really “true cinnamon” or cassia that I am allergic to. Any ideas on how to find out?(preferably finding a way to tell without having my throat close…) I also could use advice on how to best avoid it since US law says it doesn’t have to be named on ingredient lists it can just be referred to as “spices”.

Daisy August 30, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Allergies–I hesitate to advise you on such a potentially dangerous topic. Check with an allergy specialist and hopefully they can provide you with the information you need. Sorry about your allergy. Cinnamon is everywhere, isn’t it?

Sarahs November 30, 2012 at 9:43 pm

They both help with sugar levels the cassia can actually cause blood issues over time. They are both a type of cinnimon and come from the same family species. But you really should stick with true cinnimon. I would suggest a health food store because they usually have a better idea of where the products are coming from. I know simply organic cinnimon was a lot lighter in color and almost positive it was true cinnimon. But you always want to check first.

Star February 5, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Exerpt from “The Thyroid Diet Revolution” – “Keep in mind that the cinnamon you find in the grocery store is probably not “true” cinnamon and, therefore, doesn’t have the same health properties.”

Just look on your bottle. If it is “Saigon” or “cinnamomum cassia” or cinnoman cassia, it’s not really going to help your blood sugar, cholesterol, etc., but it tastes good.

On the other hand, look for “Sri Lanka” Cinnamon or “Ceylon” cinnamon or cinnamonomum verum (true cinnamon).

You should be aware that you can also take cinnamon oil pills for health as well – if you don’t want to taste it or use it as a powder. However, make sure it is Cinnamomum verum and NOT another type of cinnamon. For instance, Natrol Cinnamon Extract is 1000 mg and from cinnamomum ramulus – twigs, but it is from cassia, not verum. While Cinnamon Force by New Chapter, is made from cinnamomum verum and is also an oil capsule.

Just some things to think about.

Cinnamon Vogue February 11, 2013 at 1:17 am

I never knew my country of birth, Sri Lanka, the home Ceylon Cinnamon produced the greatest Cinnamon in the world. It was only after my mother went to Sri Lanka and brought back a bottle of Ceylon Cinnamon Oil did I discover the wonderful benefits of Ceylon Cinnamon. Then I realized that we Sri Lankan’s use Ceylon Cinnamon sticks in virtually anything we cook. No wonder the cancer rates in Sri Lanka are so low. OK OK the evidence is anecdotal. But Ceylon Cinnamon sticks create amazingly exotic multi layered taste sensations. We are putting lots of Sri Lankan recipe on our site. And Ceylon Cinnamon Oil is even more impressive and can be used for disinfecting, aromatherapy, lifting your mood and so much more.

In fact I was so impressed I started my own Ceylon Cinnamon company called Cinnamon Vogue. So if you want to buy Ceylon Cinnamon please buy from me. As a thanks you, readers of this blog can use coupon code “ LITTLEHOUSE “ to get 10% off at any time. It will be valid until the end of 2013. Obviously it cannot be combined with any other offers we might put out. We would love the business as a new start up.

Droopy January 21, 2015 at 12:59 am

Both Cassia and Ceylon contain coumarin. Too much coumarin can be toxic and damage the liver. Ceylon (true) cinnamon contains roughly 1/1200 the coumarin that cassia does. Monterey Bay Spice Co. (online) sells Ceylon for $7.00 a pound.

David November 19, 2015 at 10:10 am

I read that other than Ceylon could harm your liver if taken often given that the chemistry is a bit different

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