Of the hundreds of cinnamon types from the genus Cinnamonum, there are four used for commercial purposes – Ceylon (true) and Cassia, which includes Chinese, Saigon and Korintje. The spice in all cases is the scraped inner bark of tropical trees that when dried, curls into quills.
Tastewise, Ceylon cinnamon is prized for its subtly sweet and warm nature and often used in desserts. It never takes centre stage in recipes but adds a sophisticated refined flavour. In contrast, Cassia-type cinnamons are more spicy, rougher and more astringent, and the quills are harder and more difficult to crush. They are used more commonly in savoury dishes. Cassia cinnamons are generally considered inferior to its Ceylon cousin, and thus has earned an unenviable byname bastard cinnamon.
The pharmacological nature of both Ceylon and Cassia cinnamon is similar – strongly antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, astringent and hypoglycemic. Cinnamon is used in the treatment of digestive problems as it tightens, tones and heal gut damage, eases diarrhoea, well as stimulates the appetite and relieves nausea. It is also useful for heart health as it lowers blood sugar levels, cholesterol and improves insulin sensitivity. Its sweet flavour can stand in for sugar in some recipes.
A caution with Cassia-type cinnamons is that they should not be taken in large amounts as they contain high amounts of coumarin, a liver toxic compound. Ceylon cinnamon is low in coumarins. If you like to take cinnamon on a daily basis, Ceylon cinnamon should be your preferred choice.
When using cinnamon in teas and tinctures, the whole quills are preferred over powder, as the latter gets gloopy in water over time.« Back to Glossary Index