You may have noticed when purchasing cinnamon that there are two commonly-sold types: Ceylon and Cassia. Ceylon is the version that is considered “true” cinnamon (also called “Cinnamomum zeylanicum” or “Cinnamomum verum”). Cassia (“Cinnamomum cassia” or “Cinnamomum aromaticum”) is very similar to Ceylon cinnamon; it has a similar look and taste, as well as mostly the same health benefits. Both types contain coumarin, which is a naturally occurring compound found in many plant species. Coumarin may potentially be toxic to the liver, lungs, or kidneys at high doses, and Cassia contains significantly higher levels of coumarin than Ceylon. Yet considering most of us use cinnamon in moderate amounts, this is not of great concern. However, if you’re taking them in larger amounts (such as in supplement form, or as a very frequent and intense contributor to food) it’s probably safest to stick to Ceylon.
Unfortunately many brands don’t label which one they are using. Cassia is much more common in the United States and Canada (and less so in Europe in Asia), so if the label doesn’t specifically say Ceylon then it’s probably safe to assume that it’s Cassia. While the flavor profiles are similar, Cassia tends to be more spicy or peppery, while Ceylon tends to be more mild and sweet. If purchasing cinnamon sticks, rather than ground cinnamon, you can usually tell them apart. Cassia sticks are generally a darker red, and the rolls are thick and bark-like. Ceylon sticks are a lighter brown, and made of multiple fragile layers that can be more easily broken into smaller pieces.
Sarah is a Certified Nutrition Specialist (“CNS”), a national credential awarded by the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists (https://nutritionspecialists.org ) and a Licensed Dietician/Nutritionist in the state of Florida. She can be found at https://sarahgehawellness.com