In this article we will talk about the marvels of cinnamon and how to use cinnamon for better health and glucose uptake. Cinnamon is fantastic for controlling insulin however the coumarin content in cassia cinnamon has recently given this wonderful herb a bad name.
I will try to clear its reputation as I show you the difference between its many different species and how to use it effectively and safely.
CAUTION: Medical Disclaimer
Table of Contents
- 1 Herbal Name and Characteristics:
- 2 About this Herb:
- 3 What is Cinnamon?
- 4 Coumarin Content & Cinnamon Types
- 5 Benefits and properties of Cinnamon:
- 6 When and how to take it?
- 7 Safety and side effects
- 8 Cycling
- 9 Dosage
- 10 Closing thoughts
Herbal Name and Characteristics:
- Name: True Cinnamon
- Pin Yin: Guì zhī (cassia),
- Latin: Cinnamomum zeylanicum or Cinnamomum verum and Cinnamon aromaticum
- Taste: slightly hot with a hint of sweetness
- Color: brown.
About this Herb:
Cinnamon has always been a favorite. I grew up in a house where it was used pretty much everywhere: in sweets, in coffees, liqueurs and even in foods such as meat stews.
Cinnamon is known for its health benefits. While this herb boasts many different varieties, the 2 most famous kinds on the market today, happen to be very different:
- True Cinnamon a.k.a Cinnamomum zeylanicum
- Cassia Cinnamon or Cinnamomum aromaticum.
In the last years, there has been a bit of panic, blaming cinnamon for liver toxicity and that its health benefits (especially for diabetics) do not outweigh its risks.
I have personally used both and in this article, I will help you understand the benefits as well as the differences of this amazing herb species.
What is Cinnamon?
Cinnamon is a very aromatic herb and comes from the bark of an evergreen tree that is native to Sri Lanka (hence its name – Ceylon, coming from Keylan of Sri Lanka). It has been used in both European and Asian continents for centuries.
Historically speaking, ancient Greek historian Herodotus mentioned that both species were grown by Arabs while the Greek used cassia to make wine along with absinth wormwood as far as the 5th century B.C.
At this point we need to make this important distinction:
- The one used in TCM is Cassia Cinnamon or Cinnamomum aromaticum or Gui Zhi.
- The one used in European cuisine and medicine is True Cinnamon or Cinnamomum zeylanicum.
Both species share the same properties however, their difference lies in their coumarin content since Cassia has 10 times more coumarin than True Cinnamon.
Coumarin is toxic when used in high doses (more precisely it is hepatotoxic and carcinogenic) and this explains the panic and undermining the use of cinnamon. I also did not understand the trend of the cinnamon challenge which went viral on the internet where people on Youtube tried to eat illogical amounts of it. To me it equals something like eating a bag of dirt or drinking a liter of gasoline and shows disrespect to a strong herb.
Coumarin Content & Cinnamon Types
Because of the toxicity attributed to coumarin, the European Food Safety Authority recommends a daily intake of 0.1mg/kg of bodyweight for Cinnamon. However, the following table will help you establish how much coumarin each of the different species contains so that you can make the safest choice.
|Type of Cinnamon||Latin name||Coumarin Content||Country of Origin|
|Saigon cinnamon, Vietnamese Cassia, Vietnamese Cinnamon||Cinnamomum loureiroi||6.97 g/kg||Vietnam|
|Indonesian Cinnamon, Padang Cassia||Cinnamomum burmanni||2.15 g/kg||Indonesia|
|Cassia Cinnamon or Chinese Cinnamon||Cinnamomum|
|True Cinnamon, Ceylon Cinnamon, Mexican Cinnamon||Cinnamomum zeylanicum,|
|0.017 g/kg||Sri Lanka, India, Madagascar, Brazil and the Caribbean|
Cinnamon sticks are produced in a similar way regardless of their species. The inner bark of the tree is peeled. When dried, it tends to curl into quills which explains the stick form.
Another good way to distinguish between Cassia and true Cinnamon is to bear the following in mind:
- Cassia sticks are hard to break, are usually thicker and have a really strong aroma and a dark- reddish color.
- True Cinnamon on the other hand, is more fragile and can break easier, has thinner layers and a lighter brown color.
In all species, the characteristic aroma is attributed to the Cinnamaldehydes it contains and its taste is attributed to coumarin.
Other active ingredients are:
- MethylHydroxyChalcone polymers (MHCPs – responsible for the insulin regulating properties),
- Glycosides and
Benefits and properties of Cinnamon:
Summarizing the many benefits of Cinnamon:
- It can regulate blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity (by reducing blood glucose levels). For this reason, it is used by diabetic patients to improve their condition as well as by healthy individuals to maintain optimal insulin and leptin health.
The methylhydroxychalcone polymer (MHCP) it contains can act as an insulin mimetic on adipocytes and can therefore have an effect on glucose uptake and glycogen.
- For the same reasons, it is used by athletes to optimize glucose uptake (which means eating more carbohydrates without gaining fat).
- It can lower LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels. Also, it can reduce blood pressure. All of the above contribute to reducing risk of cardiovascular disease and promoting heart health.
- It has strong antioxidant and anti-fungal properties due to its high polyphenol content and can help fight bacterial and fungal infections. It can also fight tooth decay and help with bad breath.
- It also has great anti-inflammatory properties and can protect against diseases and infections.
- It has shown great promise in the battle against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson due to its epicatechin content.
- It also has protective properties against cancer due to its high antioxidant content as shown in several studies as it has the ability to stop human tumor growth.
- Has been used traditionally to relieve digestive and gas problems as it can soothe the stomach and relieve stomach pains.
- It can help with urinary tract infections due to its anti-fungal action.
- It is used in TCM for people with Yang Deficiencies due to its strong Yang Content.
When and how to take it?
Cinnamon Sticks: This is the best way to ensure freshness, quality and also to make sure you are getting the right kind of cinnamon.
You can use it whole by adding the stick(s) to your cooking or grind it down and use it as powder.
Powder: This is the most commonly used type of cinnamon found today in stores. As mentioned before, you may run the risk of buying the cassia instead of true cinnamon which is why I only recommend buying powder if you have a reputable seller.
Another problem with powder is that the product is more potent the moment it is grinded rather than having it already in powder form.
For some people, this form is better and more convenient (faster) as you don’t need to grind every time you need to use it. You can add it to your shakes, foods or sprinkle it over your breakfast.
Tea: You can also add it to your tea and drink it.
This is the safest way to use cassia cinnamon since the extra coumarin will sit in the bottom and you can benefit from its health properties without the toxicity.
The best times to take it would be:
- Before eating a lot of carbs,
- On the onset of a cold or flu,
- Any time you want to add more flavor to your foods or drinks.
Safety and side effects
As I mentioned several times already, Cinnamon contains coumarin, which is known to cause liver damage and cancer when its accumulation rises above a specific amount in the body.
Historically, the initial allowance of coumarin was 2gr/kg and then dropped down rapidly to 0.1mg/kg that is today.
There are no other reported side effects of cinnamon other than skin problems (skin rash) when used topically.
Last but not least, cinnamon can lower blood pressure so avoid taking it if you already have low blood pressure.
You should not take cinnamon if you:
- Have low blood pressure or diabetes as there is a high risk of hypoglycemia.
- Are scheduled for an operation as cinnamon can lower blood sugar levels which can cause problems during and after the surgery. Stop using cinnamon at least 2 weeks before the surgery.
- Have any liver related problems as large amounts of cinnamon are toxic for the liver and can cause liver damage or augment existing liver problems.
- Have allergies to this specific herb or any of its ingredients.
The best thing you can do before taking any herb supplement is to test it. If you want to be safe while using herbs I strongly urge you to read my other article on how to test an herb for allergies and intolerances.
Contraindications or interactions with other medication/substances:
Avoid using this herb/spice if you have any medical condition or take any kind of medication without consulting your doctor first.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Since there are not enough studies performed to determine the full safety of this product, pregnant women or breastfeeding women should avoid using cinnamon.
Cinnamon is only intended for use on an as-needed-basis. You should not use it in high doses and for extended periods of time as it is unsafe and can cause adverse effects.
Take a small break if you tend to use it on a daily basis, even in small amounts in order to protect the body from accumulation of other toxins unrelated to the herb itself.
Over the past 20 years I have experimented with literally hundreds of herbs, supplements (and other natural products) and was finally able to discover the right doses for amazing results.
If you wish to learn more about the dosages that I use with my clients for different purposes (better health, hormonal balance, stress management, testosterone boost and more) or how I combine this herb/supp with others, leave a comment below or reach out to me for a consultation through the “Hire me” link.
People are often unaware of the different species of herbs. In this case, cinnamon comes in 2 basic variations, one of which is high in coumarin which is toxic when used in high doses. With the information mentioned in this article, you will be able to distinguish the difference between the two species and to use this wonderful herb to regulate glucose uptake and optimize your health.
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Also if you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks!
by Nick Sigma
CWC, EH, E-YRT200
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