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Cinnamon: Ceylon vs Cassia


Back in the day, when somebody said, "sakitnya gigi sampai tak boleh tidur", people would usually reply by applying cinnamon powder mixed with honey to reduce the pain. Those in pain and desperate to feel better would follow the suggestion and find out that their teeth no longer feel like it's killing them and the condition is improving. The benefits of cinnamon are not shocking as cinnamon usage could be dated back in the days to reduce pain. Additionally, cinnamon has historically been used to cure toothaches, dental issues, and foul breath (1).


Medieval physicians have known to use cinnamon in the treatment process back in the day as cinnamon does contain phenols. This compound is very useful since it can inhibit bacteria responsible for spoilage. The strong aroma of cinnamon also helps to mask the bad smell that comes from the ageing process of meat. Many would find cinnamon being used to treat sore throats. Cinnamon is also a valuable trade item as 350 grams of cinnamon were valued the same as 5kgs of silver (2).


Cinnamon is one of the most important spices to put in curry in Malaysia. When cinnamon is included in the dish, it will produce a very aromatic smell that will make your mouth water by smelling it. However, there is one interesting fact about cinnamon that many do not know. Did you know that there are two types of cinnamon, one of which is called 'true cinnamon? So, does this make the other cinnamon a fake one? How can you differentiate between these two types of cinnamon? Continue reading to find out more.



Ceylon Cinnamon "The True Cinnamon"


Ceylon Cinnamon or 'Cinnamomum verum' is called True Cinnamon because it originates from Sri Lanka (4) The trade and spice industries have traditionally valued Ceylon cinnamon from Sri Lanka as a valuable commodity. This valuable spice comes from the large trees that strive in the tropical climate, which could grow up to 10-14 m in their natural habitat. Harvesting the bark usually occurs after 2.-3 years of plantation, which results in the light brown colour of Ceylon cinnamon (5).


In Sri Lanka, the processing of Ceylon cinnamon is done traditionally by hand, thus making the production of Ceylon Cinnamon a time-consuming task. The dried inner bark of the stems is used to make the Ceylon cinnamon quills rolled to a thickness of less than 0.08 mm. It has one spiral curl filled with just one or two little pieces of bark. (6).


True cinnamon has a flavour different from cassia, slightly sweeter and less bitter than others. (7)The mild flavour of Ceylon comes from the lower concentration of essential oil cinnamaldehyde, which is about 50–63%. (8). When ground into a powder, Ceylon cinnamon has a more fine texture than other types of cinnamon.


Other than that, Ceylon Cinnamon usually has a higher price compared to cassia cinnamon due to its chemical composition. Its component has been proven to increase the health benefits of consumption other than having ultra-low levels of the toxic chemical compound. The toxic compound coumarin is present only at a trace level in Ceylon Cassia which is about 0.004%. Thus, this shows that the presence is almost none in Ceylon Cinnamon (9)


Cassia Cinnamon "The Regular Cinnamon"


Cassia Cinnamon or 'Cinnamomum cassia' is called Regular Cinnamon since it comes from southern China and is extensively grown there and throughout South and Southeast Asia, such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia. This type of cinnamon is what we, as Malaysians use in our household as it is easily available in the Malaysian market. Cassia cinnamon is made from slender trees growing up to 20 m in height. It has a reddish-brown colour (10).


During the production process, Cassia cinnamon is rolled to the centre resembling scrolls and has a thickness of 1.5mm. Cassia cinnamon is slightly thicker, up to 1.42mm more than Ceylon cinnamon. Double curls will be formed while having a straight bark when the cassia cinnamon is dried  (11).


Cassia cinnamon has a strong and spicy flavour compared to Ceylon cinnamon, other than having an extremely bitter and burning aftertaste. This might be due to the high concentration of cinnamaldehyde of 72%, which explains the strong and overwhelming taste (12)


Cassia cinnamon also has a lower price compared to Ceylon cinnamon probably to lesser health benefit in this regular cinnamon. A study found cassia cinnamon has a high content of toxic compound name coumarin, up to 1%. That amount is 250 more than coumarin in Ceylon Cinnamon! 


What is coumarin?


Coumarin is a natural flavouring and fragrant substance in plants such as cinnamon. The administration of coumarin for a few weeks has revealed that even relatively low doses can cause liver damage, especially in sensitive individuals. Besides, it causes liver inflammation, which can show up as jaundice. It is unknown what exact mechanism causes these symptoms. The effects may typically be reversed, though. Contrarily, to date, no such instances of liver injury brought on by cinnamon use have been documented in the scientific literature (13).


Thus, you must understand that no matter what food you have taken, it is best to take it in moderation. However, choosing a food made from high-quality ingredients will help reduce the risk of getting any unwanted side effects from consuming these foods. In Love Earth, our cinnamon powder is made from Ceylon Cinnamon which is packed with lots of benefits and is also an organic product! If you are interested in trying a high-quality Ceylon cinnamon, do click here to purchase Love Earth Organic Ceylon Cinnamon Powder. 


Written by: Alia Adrina Asri

BSc (Hons) Nutrition

Love Earth Nutritionist