The Cinnamon sold in the USA is actually Cassia. Cassia has relatively high levels of coumarin which could be toxic. Ceylon Cinnamon on the other hand has 1250 times less coumarin than Cassia. So the next time you buy Cinnamon make sure it is real Cinnamon and not Cassia a substitute for real Cinnamon.
Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) states that Coumarin is a flavouring which is found in higher oncentrations in the types of cinnamon grouped together under the name “cassia cinnamon”. Relatively small amounts of coumarin can damage the liver of particularly sensitive individuals.
What is coumarin and where does it occur?
Coumarin is a natural flavouring and perfume that is found in many plants. It occurs in higher concentrations in the types of cinnamon grouped together under the name “cassia cinnamon”, for instance woodruff, tonka beans and melilot.
How much coumarin does cinnamon contain?
A rough distinction can be made between two types of cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon only contains low levels of coumarin which are safe from the Institute’s risk assessment perspective. By contrast, cassia cinnamon contains high levels of coumarin and large amounts of this cinnamon should not, therefore, be eaten.
How can consumers distinguish between Ceylon cinnamon and cassia cinnamon?
It is almost impossible for consumers to distinguish between Ceylon cinnamon and cassia cinnamon in cinnamon powder. The situation is different in the case of cinnamon sticks. Whereas in the case of cassia cinnamon a relatively thick layer of the bark has been rolled into a stick, the cross-section of a Ceylon cinnamon stick looks more like a cigarette - several thin layers of bark have been rolled up into a cinnamon stick resulting in a comparatively compact cross-section. The origin of the cinnamon is not normally declared on the packaging; sometimes false information has been supplied in the past.
Have maximum levels been set for coumarin in cinnamon and who is responsible for monitoring compliance?
No maximum level has been established for coumarin as yet. Consumer safety is, however, ensured by the general food law provisions which prohibit the marketing of "unsafe foods”. Furthermore, BfR believes it would be prudent to establish maximum coumarin levels for cinnamon. BfR will prepare the scientific basis for this. If coumarin-containing plant parts like cinnamon are used for flavouring, then the amount of coumarin is limited to 2 milligrams per kilogram food according to the Flavourings Ordinance.
Food manufacturers and importers are responsible for ensuring compliance with maximum levels. They may not place harmful foods on the market.
Here are some of the health benefits of cinnamon as found by a large number of research studies from around the world:
- As little as just 1/2 teaspoon of Cinnamon per day can lower LDL cholesterol.
- In a study published by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Maryland, Cinnamon reduced the proliferation of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells.
- Has an anti-clotting effect on the blood (natural blood-thinner).
- Cinnamon is a natural food preservative: Added to food, it inhibits bacterial growth and food spoilage.
- Excellent source of manganese, fiber, iron, calcium and other minerals.