Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Is Ceylon Cinnamon Bad For You?

Also Known As: True cinnamon, Cinnamomum verum



Short answer

Ceylon cinnamon, while offering health benefits particularly due to its antioxidant content, is generally safe for consumption. Cassia cinnamon, however, contains higher levels of coumarin, which can be harmful in high doses. Ceylon is recommended for regular or high consumption, but it should still be eaten in moderation. Careful sourcing and attention to consumption levels can help avoid health risks, including liver damage and potential allergies or sensitivities.



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Long answer

Ceylon vs. Cassia Cinnamon: Identifying the Differences

Many of us reach for that bottle of cinnamon without considering its origin or type, but not all cinnamon is created equal. Understanding the differences between Ceylon and Cassia cinnamon can significantly impact both your health and the quality of your culinary endeavors.

Botanical Origins

Ceylon cinnamon, also known as "true cinnamon," originates from the Cinnamomum verum tree native to Sri Lanka and parts of India. On the other hand, Cassia cinnamon comes from the bark of the Cinnamomum cassia tree, which grows in China and Indonesia.

Appearance and Taste

The appearance of these two types of cinnamon provides a visual clue for differentiation. Ceylon cinnamon sticks have a thinner, more papery texture with multiple layers of soft bark, whereas Cassia cinnamon sticks are harder and typically formed from a single thick layer of bark. Taste-wise, Ceylon cinnamon is milder, sweeter, and has a more complex array of flavors, while Cassia is stronger and tends to have a spicier edge.

Coumarin Content

Potentially the most crucial health distinction between Ceylon and Cassia cinnamon lies in their coumarin content. Coumarin is a naturally occurring compound that can have harmful effects, such as liver damage, when consumed in high doses. According to studies, including one published in "Food Chemistry," Cassia cinnamon contains a significantly higher amount of coumarin compared to Ceylon cinnamon. Therefore, Ceylon is safer for regular or high consumption, as it contains coumarin in trace amounts that are generally not considered harmful.

Availability and Price

Ceylon cinnamon is less common and more expensive than Cassia cinnamon, largely due to its lower production volume and the fact that it's considered the more premium variety. In contrast, Cassia cinnamon is widely available and more affordable, causing it to be more prevalent in grocery stores and kitchens around the world.


Labeling can sometimes cause confusion, as many ground cinnamon products and sticks in grocery stores do not specify which type they are. When in doubt, it’s best to source cinnamon from reputable spice merchants who label their cinnamon types clearly.

Health Considerations

When making a choice between Ceylon and Cassia for health reasons, considering the coumarin content is crucial. Experts advise that those who consume cinnamon frequently or in large quantities opt for Ceylon cinnamon due to its low coumarin levels, to minimize any potential health risks. For example, the European Food Safety Authority has established a tolerable daily intake for coumarin, and consuming large amounts of Cassia cinnamon could easily exceed this limit.

In conclusion, distinguishing between Ceylon and Cassia cinnamon involves an awareness of their botanical origin, physical characteristics, flavor profiles, coumarin contents, and availability. Each type has its place in the kitchen, but mindful selection based on these differences can ensure safer, healthier cinnamon consumption.

Coumarin Content: Potential for Liver Toxicity

When discussing the safety of cinnamon, we must differentiate between the common varieties found on the market. Ceylon cinnamon, also known as "true cinnamon," originates from Sri Lanka and is considered to be more premium compared to the more widely available Cassia cinnamon. One of the pivotal factors distinguishing Ceylon from Cassia cinnamon is the coumarin content. Coumarin is a naturally occurring compound found in several plant species, and it has become a point of concern for its potential toxic effects on the liver when consumed in large amounts.

Scientific evidence suggests that Cassia cinnamon typically contains significantly higher levels of coumarin compared to Ceylon cinnamon. For instance, a study published in Food Chemistry revealed that Ceylon cinnamon contains approximately 0.004% coumarin content, whereas Cassia varieties can contain anywhere from 0.31% to 6.97%. This poses an important question regarding the threshold of safe consumption, especially for individuals who frequently consume cinnamon.

Research indicates that ingesting high amounts of coumarin can lead to liver toxicity and damage. One such study featured in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry highlights that long-term consumption of Cassia cinnamon, rich in coumarin, may be harmful to individuals with preexisting liver conditions or who are at risk of liver disease. Conversely, Ceylon cinnamon with its low coumarin levels, is considered to have a minimal risk in this context. However, it is critical to understand that "minimal risk" does not equate to "no risk".

When evaluating the safe intake of coumarin, it's essential to refer to the guidelines set by health organizations. The European Food Safety Authority recommends a daily intake of no more than 0.1 milligrams of coumarin per kilogram of body weight. Overstepping this limit might potentially expose an individual to the risk of liver toxicity. Given the lower coumarin levels in Ceylon cinnamon, achieving this threshold through normal dietary consumption of this particular spice is considerably less likely than with Cassia cinnamon.

It's important to recognize that susceptibility to coumarin's effects might vary among individuals. Genetic factors, overall diet, alcohol consumption, and use of certain medications can all influence how one's liver metabolizes coumarin. Those with liver disease or reduced liver function should be particularly cautious. Consulting with a healthcare provider for personalized advice is advised before making significant dietary changes, especially regarding supplement use or high-intake scenarios.

In conclusion, while Ceylon cinnamon's lower coumarin content reduces the concern for liver toxicity, it is essential for consumers to be mindful of their total dietary intake of cinnamon and other coumarin sources. Coumarin toxicity is dose-dependent, and the threshold for safety can be individual-specific. Therefore, moderation remains key even when consuming the, seemingly safer, Ceylon variety of cinnamon.

Consumers should also note that the risk of liver toxicity from coumarin is primarily associated with dietary supplements or concentrated forms of cinnamon, rather than the amounts typically used in cooking. Thus, prudent use of cinnamon in culinary practices is unlikely to lead to coumarin intake at a toxic level. Nonetheless, vigilance and knowledge of spice sources remain crucial for health-conscious individuals and those with existing health concerns.

Antioxidant Properties of Ceylon Cinnamon and Health Benefits

Ceylon cinnamon, often referred to as "true cinnamon," is a highly prized spice, originally native to Sri Lanka. Its health benefits are immense, particularly due to its potent antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are crucial in our diet as they combat oxidative stress and can reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

Cinnamaldehyde, cinnamic acid, and cinnamate are the primary compounds that endow Ceylon cinnamon with its powerful antioxidant abilities. These compounds help in neutralizing harmful free radicals, thereby preventing cellular damage and inflammation. The antioxidant efficacy of Ceylon cinnamon has been explored extensively in scientific research.

  • A study published in the "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry" found that Ceylon cinnamon has a high total phenolic content and antioxidant activity, which support its traditional use in herbal medicine and its potential role in disease prevention (Jayaprakasha, Chidambara Murthy & Patil, 2006).
  • Another study featured in "Food Chemistry" highlighted that out of 26 spices, Ceylon cinnamon had the highest antioxidant activity, suggesting that it could be a valuable dietary antioxidant source (Shan, Cai, Brooks & Corke, 2009).

Incorporating Ceylon cinnamon into one's diet may contribute to various health benefits:

  • Supporting Cardiovascular Health: The antioxidants in Ceylon cinnamon may improve heart health by reducing high blood pressure and bolstering circulation.
  • Enhancing Brain Function: Research indicates that the antioxidant properties of cinnamon could help in the treatment of neurological disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.
  • Anti-Diabetic Effect: It has been noted to help lower blood sugar levels, partly through the actions of antioxidants which improve insulin sensitivity.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Impact: The anti-inflammatory agents can alleviate pain and stiffness in muscles and joints, including during conditions like arthritis.
  • Defending Against Infections: Due to its antibacterial and antifungal properties, Ceylon cinnamon can also offer protection against various pathogens.

Contrasted with Cassia cinnamon, the common type found in most grocery stores, Ceylon cinnamon not only boasts a superior antioxidant profile but also a lower coumarin content, which in large amounts could potentially cause liver damage. Hence, selecting Ceylon cinnamon can be a safer and more beneficial choice.

All these potential health benefits underscore the value of Ceylon cinnamon in the diet. However, it's important to consume it in moderation, as excessive intake can lead to adverse effects. Consulting with healthcare professionals before making significant changes to your dietary regimen, especially if you have health conditions, is always advisable.

Cinnamon's Effect on Blood Sugar Regulation

Cinnamon, particularly the Ceylon variety, has been widely studied for its potential benefits in blood sugar regulation. Its active components, including cinnamaldehyde, cinnamic acid, and cinnamate, are believed to have insulin-like properties that may help in managing blood glucose levels. Let's delve deeper into what research tells us about this aromatic spice and its impact on blood sugar control:

  • Improving Insulin Sensitivity: Insulin sensitivity is crucial for efficient glucose uptake by the cells. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested that the intake of cinnamon can increase insulin sensitivity immediately after consumption and might last for up to 12 hours.
  • Slowing Down Carb Digestion: Cinnamon may help in slowing the rate at which the stomach empties after meals, thus reducing the rise in blood sugar following eating. This is highlighted by a research paper in the journal Agriculture and Biology Journal of North America, showing that cinnamon can lower the glycemic index (GI) of a meal by about 10-29%.
  • Acting as an Insulin Substitute: Components in cinnamon have been found to perform insulin-like activities, as mentioned in a study in the Journal of Diabetic Medicine. They act on cells to facilitate glucose uptake, albeit less potent than insulin itself.
  • Increasing Glycogen Synthesis: Glycogen is the storage form of glucose in the body. Research indicates that cinnamon can increase the activation of glycogen synthase, an enzyme responsible for converting glucose into glycogen, as seen in research papers from the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

While the evidence is promising, it's essential to highlight that cinnamon should not be used as a replacement for blood sugar medication but as a complementary approach under the guidance of a healthcare professional. It's also important to consider the right dosage and the type of cinnamon used. For instance, Ceylon cinnamon, known as "true cinnamon," is preferred over Cassia cinnamon, which is commonly found in stores but contains higher levels of coumarin, a compound that could cause health problems if consumed in large amounts.

The dosage that has shown efficacy ranges from 1 to 6 grams of cinnamon per day according to various studies. However, not all studies find cinnamon has a beneficial effect on blood sugar regulation, indicating that more research is needed, and individual responses may vary.

People with liver damage should be particularly cautious with cinnamon consumption due to the presence of coumarin in larger quantities in the Cassia variety. Ceylon cinnamon has much lower levels of coumarin, making it a safer option, especially for those who wish to consume cinnamon in large amounts or on a regular basis. Furthermore, pregnant women and those taking medication for diabetes or anticoagulant drugs should consult with their healthcare provider before adding large amounts of cinnamon to their diet.

Overall, incorporating a moderate amount of Ceylon cinnamon into one's diet could potentially aid in the maintenance of healthy blood sugar levels as part of a balanced diet and lifestyle, though one should always do so with awareness and potentially under supervision from a medical professional.

Possible Allergic Reactions and Sensitivity Concerns

When it comes to consuming Ceylon cinnamon, or 'true cinnamon', most individuals can enjoy it safely in moderate amounts. However, as with any food product, there is the potential for allergic reactions or sensitivities that can pose unique health challenges for certain individuals. Understanding the possible reactions to Ceylon cinnamon is crucial for identifying and avoiding adverse effects.

Signs of Allergic Reactions: A true food allergy to cinnamon is quite rare, but when it does occur, the symptoms can range from mild to severe and include:

  • Itching or hives
  • Swelling of the lips, face, and tongue
  • Respiratory difficulties
  • Stomach pain or indigestion
  • Anaphylaxis (though extremely rare)

It's important to note that an allergic reaction to Ceylon cinnamon could be due to other compounds commonly found in cinnamon products, such as cinnamaldehyde, which is known to cause contact dermatitis. A study published in "Contact Dermatitis" indicated that cinnamaldehyde is a frequent allergen and can cause skin irritation when handled or ingested in some sensitive individuals.

Distinguishing Allergy from Sensitivity: Sensitivity to cinnamon is more common than an outright allergy. Individuals with cinnamon sensitivity might experience symptoms similar to an allergic reaction, such as gastrointestinal distress or skin irritation, but these do not involve the immune system and are usually less severe. Here, avoidance of cinnamon or limiting its consumption is often the best course of action to mitigate unwanted symptoms.

Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS): Some individuals may experience Oral Allergy Syndrome, a type of food allergy characterized by a cluster of allergic reactions in the mouth and throat. This occurs in some people who are allergic to birch pollen, due to the similarity between certain pollen proteins and those in cinnamon. The common symptoms include itching or tingling in the mouth area soon after consuming the spice.

Risk of Cross-Reactivity: There is also a concern regarding cross-reactivity with other foods and spices. For example, if an individual is allergic to Ceylon cinnamon, they may also react to cassia cinnamon or even other tree barks and related spices due to similar allergenic compounds.

Consulting Healthcare Providers: If you suspect you have an allergy or sensitivity to Ceylon cinnamon, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare provider or allergist. They may recommend an elimination diet or conduct allergy tests to determine the cause of your symptoms. Skin prick tests or specific IgE blood tests can help identify whether it's an allergy to cinnamon or another trigger.

For those with a confirmed cinnamon allergy or sensitivity, reading product labels becomes paramount, as cinnamon is commonly used in many food products, fragrances, and dental hygiene products. Reporting any adverse reactions to healthcare professionals can help manage symptoms and prevent severe complications.

In conclusion, while Ceylon cinnamon is generally considered safe and beneficial due to its low coumarin content as compared to cassia cinnamon, individuals should remain vigilant to the possibility of allergies or sensitivities. Moderation and awareness of personal reactions are key in safely incorporating this spice into your diet.

Guidelines for Safe Consumption of Ceylon Cinnamon

Ceylon cinnamon, also known as "true cinnamon," is deemed a safer choice when it comes to incorporating cinnamon into your diet due to its lower coumarin content compared to Cassia cinnamon. However, even this spice should be consumed within recommended limits to avoid potential health risks. Below are guidelines to ensure safe consumption of Ceylon cinnamon:

  • Know the Daily Intake: The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) suggests a daily intake limit of 0.1 milligrams of coumarin per kilogram of body weight. For Ceylon cinnamon, this translates to a few teaspoons per day for an average adult, as it contains far less coumarin than Cassia cinnamon.
  • Choose Quality Sources: Opt for organic Ceylon cinnamon from reputable brands and sources to ensure you are getting a pure product without additives or contaminants.
  • Incorporate, Don’t Concentrate: Use Ceylon cinnamon as a part of diverse recipes rather than consuming it in concentrated forms, such as supplements or essential oils, without medical supervision.
  • Consider Your Health Status: If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a health condition, particularly liver problems, consult with a healthcare provider before increasing your cinnamon intake.
  • Watch for Allergic Reactions: While rare, some individuals may be allergic to cinnamon. If you experience symptoms like hives, swelling, or difficulty breathing, seek medical attention promptly.
  • Be Mindful with Children: Children should consume less cinnamon than adults due to their smaller body size. Stick to minimal amounts used in food preparation to flavor dishes.
  • Moderation is Key: Even though Ceylon cinnamon is considered safer, a balanced approach to consumption is crucial. Enjoy the spice in moderation to enhance the flavor of your meals without exceeding the recommended daily intake.

It's also important to consider potential interactions with medications. Ceylon cinnamon has the potential to interact with diabetes medications, blood thinners, and heart medications due to its ability to affect blood sugar and clotting. Always consult with a healthcare provider if you are on any prescription drugs to avoid adverse effects.

Keep in mind that while the guidelines provided are aimed at promoting safe consumption, individual tolerance levels can vary. It is important to listen to your body and adjust your intake accordingly. Moreover, when considering the addition of any new dietary supplement or concentrated form of a spice like Ceylon cinnamon, it's advisable to discuss this with a healthcare professional who understands your personal health history and can provide individual guidance.

Frequently asked questions

Ceylon cinnamon is considered safer due to its low coumarin content compared to Cassia cinnamon, which can be harmful in large amounts. However, excessive consumption can still lead to health issues such as liver damage, particularly for individuals with liver disease. It's also important to be aware of potential cinnamon allergies or sensitivities. Always consume Ceylon cinnamon in moderation and consult with a healthcare provider for personalized advice.

Yes, Ceylon cinnamon has antioxidant properties that may enhance brain function. Studies suggest its compounds like cinnamaldehyde could be beneficial in treating neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases by preventing cellular damage and inflammation in the brain. However, while the research is promising, it is not conclusive, and cinnamon should not replace standard medical treatments.

To ensure you're purchasing Ceylon cinnamon, look for labels that specifically mention 'Ceylon cinnamon' or 'Cinnamomum verum.' It's often prudent to buy from reputable spice merchants or health stores that provide clear labeling. Also, Ceylon cinnamon sticks are thinner and have multiple layers, compared to the single thicker layer of Cassia cinnamon sticks. If in doubt, ask the vendor for verification of the cinnamon type.

Ceylon cinnamon may help manage blood sugar levels due to its insulin-like properties. While numerous studies indicate it can improve insulin sensitivity and lower the glycemic index of meals, it is essential to use it as a complementary approach rather than a standalone treatment. Diabetics should always consult with a healthcare professional before using cinnamon as a supplement to ensure it is safe and effective for their individual health needs.

Ask a question about Ceylon Cinnamon and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • mild allergic reactions
  • contact dermatitis
  • gastrointestinal distress

Possible long-term side effects

  • liver toxicity
  • liver damage
  • potential additive effect with medications

Ingredients to be aware of

  • coumarin
  • cinnamaldehyde


  • rich in antioxidants
  • supports cardiovascular health
  • enhances brain function
  • anti-diabetic effect
  • anti-inflammatory impact
  • defends against infections
  • aids blood sugar regulation
  • may improve insulin sensitivity

Healthier alternatives

  • ceylon cinnamon (for lower coumarin content)

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Anthony's Ceylon Cinnamon

  • Organic quality
  • Gluten-free
  • Non-GMO
  • Non-irradiated
  • Keto-friendly
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-15-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-15-2024

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