Cinnamon is very popular and is among the spices that are widely used across cultures. Spices are commonly used for culinary purposes and to add flavor on foods, among other things. Cinnamon was in use since 2800 BC.
Other than being used for cooking purposes, cinnamon has also been found to be useful for medicinal purposes. It has been “used in Japanese herbal medicines (Kampo medicines) especially for the treatment of fever and hot flushes”
According to research there are different types of cinnamon but ceylon and cassia are the main types of cinnamon that are in commercial use.
Cassia is very common and can be easily found in supermarkets worldwide. Conversely, Ceylon is not commonly found and is said to be expensive compared to cassia.
Cinnamon is said to have essential oils and compounds like cinnamaldehyde among others. It has been found to exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, antimicrobial, cardio-protective, and lipid-lowering effects.
Cinnamon can be used for a variety of things, even in stews. It can also be added to smoothies especially beet smoothie (click here to learn about the benefits of beetroot.)
I’ve recently sprinkled cinnamon over cooked pumpkin, I tell you, it tasted so heavenly.
Without further ado, let’s dive in and unpack the science behind cinnamon in more detail.
Why is Ceylon Cinnamon a Better Option over Cassia and What Makes them Different?
Cinnamon is a bark of the cinnamomum tree and belongs to the family of Lauraceae.
It comes in different varieties, cassia, and Ceylon and has been in use for many years, mainly for cooking, flavoring additive, and medicinal purposes. The bark is dried and then curls into thin strips or quills.
Cassia is native to China and Indonesia. This spice is widely used and is botanically known as cinnamomum aromaticum.
Cassia is reddish dark brown and has a strong flavor compared to ceylon. Its sticks or quills are rough and thick in texture and forms in few layers when rolled up.
Ceylon is native to Sri Lanka and is referred to as true cinnamon or cinnamomum zeylanicum.
It is tan brownish and has a slightly sweet taste. In contrast to cassia, ceylon is thin in texture and forms in multiple layers when rolled up.
Coumarin, a compound occuring naturally in plants, has been found to be harmful.
This has been tested in rodents when they were fed coumarin and it was found that coumarin can damage the liver.
Coumarin was banned in the US by FDA in 1954 due to the hepatotoxicity outcome of the study on rats.
Cassia has been found to be rich in coumarin while ceylon is said to have only small amount. Does this mean that cassia is harmful for consumption?
It’s believed that high doses of cassia can be harmful if ingested in excess and over time.
The tolerable daily intake (TDI) value of 0.1mg/kg has been established by German Federal Institute For Risk Assessment to protect against the risk of hepatotoxicity. Thus, it helps to pay attention to how much cassia we ingest in foods.
What’s the verdict, ceylon, or cassia? Although its believed that cassia is not harmful when eaten in small amounts but ceylon is not linked to any health risks given the fact that it contains only trace amounts of coumarin.
Sri Lanka Export Development Board says, “according to Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, an average adults consuming more that 2 grams of cassia cinnamon a day is at risk of side effects, it’s much safer to consume ceylon cinnamon”
Does Cinnamon Benefit People with Type 2 Diabetes?
According to the study that was performed on 60 participants with type 2 diabetes which involved 30 men and 30 women. The participants were subdivided into six groups.
The first three groups were given different doses (1,3,6 g ) of cinnamon daily and the last three groups were given placebo capsules with the same doses as the ones with cinnamon, for 40 days.
After 40 days those who were on cinnamon supplementation, all different levels that is, experienced positive results.
A reduced abnormal glucose levels and cholesterol levels (LDL) and total cholesterol were observed, but there was no significant change in the HDL cholesterol, research says.
Does Cinnamon Show The Potential to Boost Memory and Learning Abilities?
It’s everyone’s desire to perform tasks efficiently and successfully and meet their deadlines. This is also the case for students, to have an excellent memory, learn fast and achieve higher academic grades.
Well, cinnamon seemed to show positive results when it was tested on mice according to Neurological scientist at Rush University Medical Center which was conducted in July 2016.
The objective was to investigate whether cinnamon has a positive impact on the brain activity.
Researchers observed as they fed the mice with limited learning abilities, cinnamon. Its not indicated how much cinnamon the mice were fed.
It turned out that the mice learning ability was improved. This is what Kalipad Pahad, PhD, the lead researcher of the study and Floyd A Davis Professor of Neurology at Rush University say, “This would be one of the safest and easiest approaches to convert poor learners to good learners”
Apparently when mice were fed cinnamon it was subsequently metabolized into sodium benzoate. “Sodium benzoate is a drug used to treat brain damage.
“Sodium benzoate “increased the CREB (a protein involved in memory and learning) and decreased GABBRA 5 (the protein that generates tonic inhibitory conductance in the brain) in poor learners by stimulating the hippocampal neuron’s plasticity (the ability to change) which improved learning and memory among the mice” according to research.
Experts report that there were no significant improvement that was observed in good performing learners.
“Individual difference in learning and educational performance is a global issue, we need to further test this approach in poor learners.
If these results are replicated in poor learning students, it would be a remarkable advance”, says Pahan.
That being said, human clinical trials are still required for the progression of the study.
Another Potential Health Benefits Of Cinnamon
One study reveals that cinnamon has the potential to benefit the heart due to the cardio-protective effects exhibited by cinnamaldehyde, along with its essential oils.
Research further indicates that cinnamon may prevent the progression of Parkinson’s disease. “Parkisan is the second major widespread neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s disease with a prevalence of 2% in people 65 years and older”
“The study found that after oral feeding, ground cinnamon is metabolized into sodium benzoate which enters into the brain, stops the loss of Parkin and DJ-1, protects neurons, normalizes neurotransmitter levels and improves motor functions in mice with PD”
The study experimented on laboratory mice and clinical trials are required to further investigate the effectiveness of cinnamon on patients with Parkinson’s disease, according to research.
Here Are Foods That Taste Good With Cinnamon
What is food without a good spice? Spices or herbs make food taste delicious. Cinnamon is one of those aromatic spices which gives food a nice kick and a delicious taste.
It is usually sprinkled over baking food items and desserts or is used as an ingredient for smoothies.
Some of these foods include:
- Desserts (Pudding, Milk tart, etc)
- Butternut squash and/or pumpkin mash
- Oats meal and/or porridge
- Smoothie, especially beetroot smoothie
- Hot vanilla
A Take Home Message
Cinnamon is one of the best spices after black pepper and has been in use for many years across the globe.
While there are different types of cinnamon, the only two versions of this bark are used commercially. These include cassia and Ceylon.
Ceylon is referred to as true cinnamon while cassia is known as Chinese cinnamon. Ceylon is native to Sri Lanka whereas cassia originates in China and Indonesia.
The spices are both healthy except that cassia contains too much coumarin, the compound occurring naturally in most plants, whereas Ceylon only contains a small amount of this compound.
Coumarin is thought to have harmful effects on the liver and kidney when ingested in large doses, hence it is recommended to consume cassia in small amounts and not regularly if anything you can opt for Ceylon instead.
Ceylon is termed pure cinnamon as this suggests that Ceylon is a better option over cassia.
It doesn’t come cheap though when compared to cassia in terms of pricing. On the flip side, Ceylon is not commonly found in supermarkets compared to cassia.
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Disclaimer: This site’s intent is to provide information and create awareness. The content is not designed to provide medical advice. Thus, if you have any medical condition consult a health care practitioner.