(NaturalHealth365) Cassia cinnamon, the most commonly used cinnamon in the United States, contains coumarin – a known toxin. According to a study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, this substance is toxic to the liver, kidneys and causes cancer in rodents and tumors in humans.
How toxic is coumarin? Perhaps surprising – this chemical compound has been banned, as a food additive, in the U.S. and Western Europe. There is research, since the mid-1800s, on the toxic effects of coumarin on animals. In 1875 and 1877, it was found coumarin caused liver deterioration and blood vessel dilation in a variety of warm and cold blooded animals.
More recent studies have continued to verify that coumarin is very toxic to the liver and could cause severe damage to this organ. Other research showed it to not only cause liver damage but also kidney damage.
Researchers from the University of Mississippi and King Saud University in Saudi Arabia, reported in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry that people sensitive to coumarin – who consume cinnamon-flavored foods, drinks and food supplementation – may have a real risk of liver damage.
’Natural’ doesn’t always make it safe
Cinnamon is one of the most important flavoring agents in food and drinks and is the second most common spice used in the United States and Europe – behind black pepper. Research reveals that coumarin is present, in substantial amounts, in cinnamon flavored foods.
The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment has established a tolerable daily intake of 0.1 mg coumarin per kg body weight. Since, it is used in sticky buns, cinnamon toast, cinnamon flavored coffee, egg nog, instant oatmeal, breakfast cereals, raisin breads, and liberally sprinkled on apple sauce, fruit pie fillings, stewed fruit, rice pudding and supplements – it’s easy to go over the limit – especially in children.
The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment in Berlin, Germany has recommended that large amounts of the cassia cinnamon be avoided. For thousands of years, small amounts of cinnamon have been used on an occasional basis – but, these days, it’s being used too much.
The ‘highly prized’, and most used, cinnamon is called Saigon cinnamon – which tends to impart the most intense flavor. But, it also contains the highest level of coumarin.
A teaspoon of cassia cinnamon powder contains 5.8 to 12.1 mg of coumarin and, according to the European Food Safety Authority; a daily teaspoon might exceed the limit for smaller individuals. Since cassia cinnamon is not labeled with the amount of coumarin it contains, it is impossible to tell the amount anyone is really getting.
Coumarin is the parent compound of warfarin (known by its trademarked name, Coumadin), a medication used to keep blood from clotting. For this reason alone, it is advisable not to go over the recommended amounts.
Good news – there is a better (safer) cinnamon
Ceylon cinnamon, known as the ‘true’ cinnamon, contains only trace amounts of coumarin. As far as science is concerned – this is the only real cinnamon. One of the alternative scientific names for Ceylon cinnamon is Cinnamomum Verum, which translates to “true cinnamon.”
A 2010 German study found that on average, Cassia cinnamon powder had up to 63 times more coumarin compared to Ceylon cinnamon powder, while Cassia cinnamon sticks contained 18 times more than Ceylon cinnamon sticks.
How can you tell the difference between Ceylon cinnamon and Cassia cinnamon?
Ceylon cinnamon is more expensive than cassia versions and is associated with same health benefits without the risks. In addition, there are some tried and true ways to tell which cinnamon you are buying.
In the case of sticks, the feature to look for to determine whether you are buying true cinnamon is to see if it’s a one-piece thick rolled bark. Ceylon cinnamon bark is thinner and you can see multiple layers – if you look down the middle of the roll.
The surface of Cassia is rough and uneven, whereas real Ceylon cinnamon bark is smooth. Also, Ceylon Cinnamon sticks are soft and you can see bristles on the outside of the stick.
The cassia sticks are hard and have a darker reddish brown color. Ceylon sticks can be ground in an electric grinder, coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle. The Ceylon cinnamon can be chewed on. But, the cassia cinnamon sticks can burn the grinder and are too hard to chew.
It is more difficult to tell powdered Ceylon from cassia, but it’s not impossible to do. Real cinnamon has a sweet and delicate taste where Cassia cinnamon flavor is strong to peppery. When cinnamon powder is exposed to a few drops of iodine – pure (good quality) cinnamon will not be affected. But, Cassia cinnamon turns a bluish tint and the intensity of the color depends on the proportion of coumarin in the product.
While cassia cinnamon may be safe in small amounts, there seems to be no way to tell the amount you consume in a day. It is best to use organic Ceylon cinnamon. Premium herb companies such as Frontier Herb carry this cinnamon. If you love cinnamon – real cinnamon is worth the investment.
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About the author: Jonathan Landsman is the host of NaturalHealth365.com, the NaturalNews Talk Hour – a free, weekly health show and the NaturalNews Inner Circle – a monthly subscription to the brightest minds in natural health and healing.
Reaching hundreds of thousands of people, worldwide, as a personal health consultant, writer and radio talk show host – Jonathan has been educating the public on the health benefits of an organic (non-GMO) diet along with high-quality supplementation and healthy lifestyle habits including exercise and meditation.
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