The Safer Cinnamon

The Safer Cinnamon
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There are four common types of cinnamon: Vietnamese, Chinese (cassia), Indonesian, and Ceylon (true) cinnamon. Which is safest in terms of the level of coumarin, which may damage the liver at toxic doses?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Second in spice popularity only to black pepper, cinnamon is the powdered inner bark of four different species of cinnamomum trees. There’s Vietnamese cinnamom, Chinese cinnamon, Indonesian, and Ceylon.

A recent review raised concerns about one of them, because of a compound called coumarin, which new human data suggests may be toxic to the liver. It’s been banned as a food additive, but still can be found naturally in Chinese cinnamon—also known as cassia cinnamon. It is not found in significant amounts in so-called true cinnamon—Ceylon cinnamon—and we don’t have enough data on the other two.

Now, these traffic lights are not for recreational users. These are only for people going out of their way to add like a teaspoon or more to their daily diet—which ideally should be everyone, since it appears so health promoting, and anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antitumor, cardiovascular, cholesterol-lowering, and immunomodulatory effects. Especially useful for those with diabetes, or prediabetes.

So, if you’re eating cinnamon every day, great— just make sure it’s the right kind. In the U.K., if it says cinnamon, then it’s Ceylon cinnamon. Chinese cinnamon is labeled cassia. In the U.S., though, they can both just be labeled cinnamon, and since Chinese is cheaper, that’s what most cinnamon is on our shelves. So make sure it specifies Ceylon.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to photo8, Badagnani via flickr, and FotoosVanRobin via Wikimedia

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Second in spice popularity only to black pepper, cinnamon is the powdered inner bark of four different species of cinnamomum trees. There’s Vietnamese cinnamom, Chinese cinnamon, Indonesian, and Ceylon.

A recent review raised concerns about one of them, because of a compound called coumarin, which new human data suggests may be toxic to the liver. It’s been banned as a food additive, but still can be found naturally in Chinese cinnamon—also known as cassia cinnamon. It is not found in significant amounts in so-called true cinnamon—Ceylon cinnamon—and we don’t have enough data on the other two.

Now, these traffic lights are not for recreational users. These are only for people going out of their way to add like a teaspoon or more to their daily diet—which ideally should be everyone, since it appears so health promoting, and anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antitumor, cardiovascular, cholesterol-lowering, and immunomodulatory effects. Especially useful for those with diabetes, or prediabetes.

So, if you’re eating cinnamon every day, great— just make sure it’s the right kind. In the U.K., if it says cinnamon, then it’s Ceylon cinnamon. Chinese cinnamon is labeled cassia. In the U.S., though, they can both just be labeled cinnamon, and since Chinese is cheaper, that’s what most cinnamon is on our shelves. So make sure it specifies Ceylon.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to photo8, Badagnani via flickr, and FotoosVanRobin via Wikimedia

Doctor's Note

Why would one want to go out of their way to add cinnamon to their diet? It’s one of my five Superfood Bargains, and a component of The Healthiest Beverage. As I indicated in the Indian gooseberry video, Amla Versus Diabetes, though, one should concentrate on reversing prediabetes and diabetes with a plant-based diet in the first place (see How To Treat Diabetes).

Also check out my other videos on spices, including another cautionary one on overdoing turmeric (Oxalates in Cinnamon).

And be sure to check out my video Update on Cinnamon for Blood Sugar Control for the latest.

For more context, check out my associated blog post: Cinnamon for Diabetes.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

 

45 responses to “The Safer Cinnamon

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  1. Why would one want to go out of their way to add cinnamon to their diet? It’s on my 5 Superfood Bargains and a component of The Healthiest Beverage. As with the Indian gooseberry video Amla Versus Diabetes, though, one should concentrate on reversing prediabetes and diabetes with a plant-based diet in the first place (see How To Treat Diabetes). See my 13 other videos on spices, including another cautionary one on overdoing turmeric (Oxalates in Cinnamon) and hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects.




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  2. Thanks so much for all the information you post! Would it be possible for you to post the respective botanical names of each type of cinnamon? For instance Cassia is Cinnamomum burmannii (I think). Are ‘sweet cinnamon’ and Cinnamomum verum the same as Ceylon?

    I cannot tell you how grateful I am to have readily accessible sources for defending my lifestyle to those around me. Thank you again!




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  3. Anyone know where we can get a bargain on Ceylon cinnamon? I’ve been buying mine at Costco, and I just checked. It’s Vietnamese. I found organic Celon cinnamon at $20 per pound at iherb.com with free shipping until the end of April 2012. Is that a good price?




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    1.  Thanks for the tip about iherb, Paul – that is the best price I’ve seen.  Beats amazon by $7/lb for the same product.  When I placed my order, it said I could pass along this code to others for $5 off their first order POD782 .  And, I noticed you can pick one freebie per order (click on the tab at the top of the page for choices) – bummed that they were out-of-stock on the free goji berries!




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  4. Wow this is really good to know since I put about a teaspoon or more in my oats or cream of wheat every morning. Thanks again Dr!




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  5. I have McCormick. Checking their web site it does not say anything for the regular product. For the ‘Gourmet’ version, is says its “Saigon Cinnamon”. I put a bunch on my cereal every morning, so I’ll switch brands to something that definitively says Ceylon.




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  6. How important when buying spices is organic vs non-organic? I have been purchasing spices and herbs from PENZEYS but they are NOT organic.  




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    1.  It is always preferable to buy organic. By checking product websites you can usually get information about the products and the companies policies. Occasionally you will have to email the company for some information. It is best to keep things in perspective however. Most chemical exposure to chemicals (e.g. carcinogens, pesticides, heavy metals, endocrine disruptors) occur through the consumption of animal products. 




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  7.  I’m buying a 1 lb bag of Ceylon cinnamon from iherb; do you think powdered cinnamon is just as good as ground cinnamon or whole cinnamon?  Since the bag is going to last a while I wanted to make sure it’ll stay in optimal condition.  Should I refrigerate it?




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  8. My local herb store is a mail order company as well as a retail outlet. I checked and the cinnamon we buy from them is from Indonesia. The manager said if I could get him an article on cinnamon and blood sugar that showed the cinnamon from Ceylon is better than cinnamon from Indonesia, he would see if he could switch. Can you reply with a link to your reference article on this?




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    1. Suggestion: to the right of the video window is a lot of text on a black background – click on transcript and you can print a transcript of the video; click on sources and you can print the list of sources (reference articles) for the video content. You can give these to your local herb store manager along with the url for the video.




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  9. Well, this is amazing information. I consume lots of cinnamon. Put it in my Chai Tea and even take it as a supplement. Now I’m kind of worried. Last time I was at the doctor’s for a physical, my liver emzymes were up. Now I’m wondering if that might have had something to do with it. :-/ Thanks for the info.




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  10. Sticks to Your Ribs Rather than Your Buns Cinnabun

    – 1 cup millet
    – 3 cups water
    – 1 heaping tbsp Ceylon cinnamon http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-safer-cinnamon/
    – 1 heaping tsp ground ginger
    – ¼ tsp ground cloves
    – ¼ tsp nutmeg
    – 2 handfuls raisins
    – 1 tbsp date sugar
    – 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
    – Pinch sea salt

    Place all ingredients in a pot and stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat and leave pot on the hot burner, covered, until millet cooked and fluffy, about 40 minutes. Serve topped with flaxseed meal, nuts, and fresh fruit.

    Mix a cup of leftovers with 2 tbsp flaxseed meal, one sliced banana, handful almonds and top with a little boiling water or rice/almond milk.

    Bookmark my new Plant-Based Emporium Facebook page for all my latest recipes. https://www.facebook.com/PlantBasedEmporium?ref=stream&hc_location=timeline

    ~Complements of lovestobevegan




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  11. I apologize for replying too late but Paul the Vietnamese “Saigon Cinnamon” from Costco is absolutely not ceylon cinnamon. It is a type of Cassia cinnamon.




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  12. This was a suggested video for me this morning on YouTube as I was having a break and sipping my morning smoothie. There’s about a teaspoon of cinnamon in my smoothie recipe so I shot into the kitchen to read the label – Cassia! I’m in the UK and the brand I used is Schwartz. Schwartz are the main supplier of herbs and spices to UK supermarkets.

    Thank you for the information. Off to the local organic deli I go!!




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  13. I absolutely love the sweetness of Vietnamese Cinnamon. When will the data be in that one???? Anyone know. I use teaspoon or more a day on my oatmeal and other cereal. I have a plant-strong diet.




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  14. Hmm, interesting to know. Guess I’ll cut back on the Saigon for now considering I use about a quarter cup or so a day on my coffee, lol should probably cut back on that too! Thanks for the info




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  15. Hyla Cass, M.D. (assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA and chair of the Dept. of Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the American University of Complementary Medicine) write in her article “Controlling Blood Sugar with Cinnamon” (http://www.life-enhancement.com/magazine/article/1153-controlling-blood-sugar-with-cinnamon) about the coumarin problem:

    “Fortunately, Mother Nature has solved this problem nicely, by making coumarin fat-soluble, not water-soluble.”

    Extracting all the good stuff in cinnamon by boiling crushed Ceylon cinnamon (i.e making tea…), should the solve the coumarin problem..? (for those who mainly get their cinnamon via tea/lemonades)

    But, it leaves me with two questions:

    1) Is the amount of procyanidins (type A) in cinnamon connected to the amount of coumarin..?

    Is it a lot of procyanidins (type A) in the cassia, and almost nothing in the Ceylon cinnamon..?

    2) If yes, I assume I then can safely switch from Ceylon to cassia ..? (since 99% of my cinnamon intake are as tea)




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  16. Hi.. I am from Sri lanka and one of owner of Cinnamon lands. we have very good organic Cinnamon. i would like to discus with your company for business !




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  17. In this video, Dr. Greger makes a quick reference to cinnamon lowering cholesterol. Yet, I can’t find this claim substantiated anywhere. Seems like I read about it or saw a video about it on this site, but now can’t find any real evidence. I would be grateful for more information.




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  18. I have heard this before, and am curious, as my intuition tells me something different about the greater ‘safety’ of Ceylon. I have purchased “Simply Organic” Frontier organic (cassia) cinnamon for years- get it at Whole Foods.. I read these articles insinuating higher medicinal impact of Ceylon, and read that cassia often comes from China (eek), so a few months ago, bought the Ceylon, instead. Result: BLEAH. The taste is different; I did not like the feeling I got after I ingested it….and, as one who trusts my gut over anything else, I am guessing that maybe “Ceylon” cinnamon, coming from India, etc, is as vulnerable to toxic metal contamination as anything coming from China, these days. In brief: research is fickle and mutable. I will go back to Cassia, until my body tells me something different…




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  19. Great …. just found out I have been taking the poison cinnamon from Costco ARGH ! warnings about cinnamon
    intake:
    – often in supermarkets you don’t buy true cinnamon, but
    cassia (chinese cinnamon bark), which is a cheap cinnamon from china, vietnam
    and indonesia. it contains a potentially dangerous substance called coumarin.
    (unfortunately, saigon cinnamon is actually cassia. look for CEYLON cinnamon!)
    – cassia should be avoided by pregnant women, those with liver
    disease, and diabetes
    – coumarin is toxic to the liver, is an anticoagulant (it thins
    the blood), and has been shown to cause cancer in rodents
    – the Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) for coumarin of 0.07 mg per
    kg of bodyweight per day
    – if you consume cassia over a period of time (such as with
    oatmeal a few times a week), you can greatly exceed your TDI




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    1. From the studies that I’ve seen, Vietnamese or Saigon cinnamon has 6.97 mg (or less) of coumarin per kilogram. One entire10.7 oz (.3 kg) container of Costco Saigon Cinnamon has about 2.1 mg of coumarin. Now, I weigh 200 pounds, which is about 90 KG, so with a TDI of .07 mg per KG, I would have to eat 6.3 mg of coumarin a day which is about three Costco containers. Seems like this concern is overblown.




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  20. I drink Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice, a cinnamon tea daily so I wrote and asked them where they get their cinnamon. Here is their answer:
    “The cinnamon ingredient used in Celestial Seasonings® Bengal Spice is the spice Cinnamomum cassia which has been in use for over 2000 years
    in many different food and beverage products around the world. Coumarin is naturally occurring compound found in cassia cinnamon, but does not dissolve in water and so the amount in brewed tea should be negligible. If you have further concerns regarding the use of our product, you may wish to
    consult with your physician.” Is this true? Thanks so much! I love the tea and would hate to have to stop drinking it.




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    1. Hi Sunny. I am confused about what you are asking? Sounds like they just responded about what type of cinnamon they use. Seems fine to me :) Let me know more. Thanks!

      Joseph




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    2. Hi, I just started drinking the same tea. Love it. But I’m a bit concerned too. Have you had any problems with it since then? It makes sense that the tea wouldn’t have any fat soluble coumarin in it.




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  21. Oh dear. I have been eating cinnamon on lots of things. I am particularly fond of using it on a sliced apple in the evening. I started using Saigon cinnamon about a year ago. THen I bought Whole Foods Korintje Cinnamon. This I gather is Indonesian and falls into the bad variety category. Guess I’ll do I little research to get the Ceylon. I will go to our Asian super market.




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  22. Hello. I’ve read that drinking and mix of cinnamon with honey is good for all sorts of things. is this true? I don’t really believe that honey is very good for you!




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  23. I want to weigh in briefly. I have suspected oxalate problems but didn’t realize cinnamon was a problem. I recently got some Swartz which is cassia and I didn’t know. Since consuming a lot of it I noticed pain in my legs and swollen veins and hardened lumps in my groin (they were all ready there but seem worse now) I’m pretty frustrated as I was told in the video all cinnamon in the UK is Ceylon? Or did I misunderstand? If this is so the info should be updated :-)




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  24. I will gladly add a post to my website TheBasicsandBest concerning this along with using cinnamon + 2 other ingredients in black coffee to aid in weight loss.




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  25. Can’t figure out how Ceylon stacks up to Korintje cinnamon. REALLY don’t like taste of Ceylon; can I sub the Korintje or does it taste just as bad?? Love the Saigon taste but afraid of liver damage.




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  26. One must be aware of toxic brands and irradiated quality. Does anyone have a recommendation for a clean, organic brand of Ceylon cinnamon? I have purchased Frontier, but I have learned that the brand contains toxic chemicals. Thank you in advance.




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