The popularity of the sweet spice of cinnamon is hard to overlook. Food advertisers often display images of it sprinkled over their delicious treats, beverages, or yummy meals to entice customers. Yet, cinnamon’s prevalence in baked goods and as a topper to favorite drinks is not just well-deserved based upon its taste, but also because of its effects on the body.
There are several varieties of cinnamon and one can easily get confused between the many choices. Previously, I mentioned two of the main species in my discussion on cinnamon bark oil; however, my focus was mostly on Ceylon cinnamon. The second most popular is Cassia cinnamon, which I will explore in this post.
I think you will agree by the end of this article, that regardless of the variety, cinnamon deserves a spot in your essential oils and kitchen cabinets!
Introducing the Cinnamons
The National Institute for Complementary Medicine summarizes some of the main aspects of the spice cinnamon as follows:
- There are many types of cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum), grown primarily in Sri Lanka, is known as “true” cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum aromaticum), grown in southeastern Asia, is the most common type sold in North America.
- Used as a spice for thousands of years, cinnamon comes from the bark of various species of cinnamon trees. The leaves, flowers, fruits, and roots of cinnamon trees have also been used in cooking and for medicinal purposes. There are differences in the chemical composition of cinnamon products produced from different species or parts of cinnamon trees.
- Cinnamon has a long history of use in traditional medicine in various parts of the world, including China, India, and Persia (Iran).
- Today, cinnamon is promoted as a dietary supplement for diabetes or for irritable bowel syndrome or other gastrointestinal problems, as well as other conditions. Cassia cinnamon is promoted for topical use (application to the skin) as an insect repellent.
Blood Sugar and Metabolic Effects of Cinnamon
Both Ceylon and Cassia cinnamon have been shown to assist with blood sugar balancing. According to Healthline:
A review of 16 previous studies on diabetes treatment found promising results for Ceylon powder that was used as a supplement. (source)
Unfortunately, there aren’t any human studies to determine the effectiveness or optimal dosage of Ceylon cinnamon supplements.
On the other hand, cassia has been used in several studies of humans with and without type 2 diabetes. Most of these observed significant reductions in fasting blood sugar levels within several months of use. (source, source, source)
The standard dose of cassia was between 1–6 grams per day. It had minimal side effects, or none at all.
Cinnamon also has been demonstrated to have several other metabolic benefits along with modulating glucose levels. In a recent meta-analysis of 35 studies on cinnamon’s effect in patients with metabolic disease, it was found to have favorable effects on several cardiovascular markers including blood sugar, insulin, lipid levels (Total, LDL, and HDL cholesterol and triglycerides), and blood pressure. All studies used cinnamon as the sole intervention and effects were seen generally within 2 weeks at 1.5g or less. (source)
Cinnamon Spice and Immune Balance
Besides its established antimicrobial actions, another common benefit from both types of cinnamon is that they may be helpful in balancing the immune response. This is based on a common, active component.
A 2020 article in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Immunology explored potential mechanisms of cinnamon for autoimmunity. The authors indicate that the active component of cinnamaldehyde, which metabolizes to sodium benozate, may be the key to the immune modulating properties.
Cinnamon, a brown inner bark of a cinnamon plant, has been being widely used to treat cough and sore throat since medieval times. It also has a popular history as a commonly used spice and flavoring material for desserts, candies, chocolate, etc. Chinese cinnamon (Cinnamonum cassia) and original Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamonum verum or Cinnamonum zeylanicum) are two major types of cinnamon that are available in the US. It has been found that Cinnamonum cassia, but not Cinnamonum verum, contains small amount of toxic 1-benzopyran-2-one or coumarin . However, cinnamaldehyde that is ultimately metabolized to sodium benzoate, the active component and an FDA-approved drug, is present as the major peak in both Cinnamonum cassia and Cinnamonum verum . Recently, several studies from cell cultures to animal models to treatment of patients indicate anti-autoimmune properties of cinnamon and its components or metabolites [12–15], suggesting that cinnamon may be considered as a natural supplement to control autoimmune disorders.
Although this study is mechanistic, it is interesting to note cinnamaldehyde is present in both the spice and essential oil. Regarding the coumarin content of cassia, that will be discussed more in part two.
Cinnamon Bark Oil vs. Cassia Oil
Variety is the spice of life, how about for cinnamon oil?
In my blog regarding cinnamon bark oil, I discussed the differences:
An article in Evidence Based Review in Complementary Medicine particularly caught my eye. It was on the spice cinnamon, specifically the species of cinnamon bark oil (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) and Cassia oil (Cinnamon cassia).
As I read the article, I paid attention to the specifics on the essential oil. I was pleased to find this table that validated how different parts of the plant varied in their chemical composition of essential oils. Cinnamaldehyde is one of the highest components in the bark oil, whereas; eugenol content is highest in the leaves. (Eugenol is also found in high concentrations in clove oil.)
As I have previously mentioned, chemotype, species, cultivation, location, growing conditions, distillation techniques, and quality control are additional factors that impact the predominant constituents found in an essential oil. This means that with any changes in these influences, the action of oil can be modulated.
As I continued my leisurely research, I found this 2013 article review on cinnamon published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. It eloquently explained the differences in constituents of cinnamon oils based on these various factors (bold emphasis mine):
The volatile oils obtained from the bark, leaf, and root barks vary significantly in chemical composition, which suggests that they might vary in their pharmacological effects as well . The different parts of the plant possess the same array of hydrocarbons in varying proportions, with primary constituents such as; cinnamaldehyde (bark), eugenol (leaf) and camphor (root) . Thus cinnamon offers an array of different oils with diverse characteristics, each of which determines its’ value to the different industries. For example the root which has camphor as the main constitute, has minimal commercial value unlike the leaf and bark . It is this chemical diversity that is likely to be the reason for the wide-variety of medicinal benefits observed with cinnamon.
CZ, also known as Ceylon cinnamon (the source of its Latin name, zeylanicum) or ‘true cinnamon’ is indigenous to Sri Lanka and southern parts of India . Three of the main components of the essential oils obtained from the bark of CZ are trans-cinnamaldehyde, eugenol, and linalool, which represent 82.5% of the total composition . Trans-cinnamaldehyde, accounts for approximately 49.9–62.8% of the total amount of bark oil [5,6]. Cinnamaldehyde and eugenol are also the major components of CZ extracts . A brief comparison of the two main varieties of cinnamon (CZ and CC) is included as a Additional file 1.
The authors also noted that Cassia essential oil is not sold as commonly on the market due to its higher coumarin content, though in most cases it is quite low in percentage. This is an important safety consideration for those on blood-thinning medication.
General: The applicable part of cassia cinnamon is the bark. Cinnamaldehyde is found in the volatile oil fraction of cassia cinnamon and gives it its odor and taste. The volatile oil from cassia cinnamon bark contains about 67% to 90% cinnamaldehyde, also known as cinnamic aldehyde, cinnamal, beta-phenylacrolein, and 3-phenylpropanal, also known as hydrocinnamaldehyde (15301,95598).
Cassia cinnamon contains coumarin in concentrations ranging from 0.004% to 1.2% (15299,15300,15301). The amount of coumarin in one kilogram of cassia cinnamon powder ranges from 2.1-4.4 grams, meaning that the coumarin content in one teaspoon of cassia cinnamon would be approximately 6-12 mg (89652). Cassia cinnamon contains higher concentrations of coumarin compared to Ceylon cinnamon. The presence of coumarin and other compounds can be used to distinguish cassia cinnamon from Ceylon cinnamon (15300).
Bottom Line on Cinnamon Cassia Oil… for now
For now, it may be wise to watch your dosage with Cassia cinnamon if you are heavy handed on the spice. Rather, you may want to use Ceylon cinnamon. However, in moderate dosages, you will most likely benefit from the blood sugar balancing and immune effects of cassia spice and oil. Unless you are drinking copious bottles of cinnamon oil and imbibing large amounts of the spice, you probably don’t have to worry your liver will be harmed, which is another touted rumor.
In Part II, I will also explore more about the cautions regarding coumarins, liver health, and additional studies on using cassia essential oil. Stay tuned!
Mental Health Resources
*If you are experiencing a mental health crisis and/or are suicidal, please seek professional mental health support:
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (U.S.) — Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Crisis Text Line — Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor
- Lifeline Crisis Chat — Chat online with a specialist who can provide emotional support, crisis intervention and suicide prevention services at www.crisischat.org
Other Helpful Links
Below are some of the highlights of the many free emotional health resources on this website:
- Four Essential Oils Blends for Supporting the Mind-Body and Easing Tension
- VIDEO: How Your Brain and Body Suffer with Too Much Stress & Naturopathic Medicine Tips for Calming the Mind and Relieving Overwhelm
- Video Recap: Essential Oils to Ease the Stress & Anxiety of Back to School
- The Importance of Fun, Music, & Play for Mental Health
- Video Recap: Essential Oils for Brain and Mental Health & Soothing Stress
- 10 Natural Ways to Relieve Stress and Calm the Mind-Body During Trying Times
- Video: A Naturopathic Doctor’s Approach to Thyroid Health Using Essential Oils: Video Recap & Additional Resources
Additional Supportive Techniques & Tools
- The Tapping Solution, A Technique to Lower Cortisol and Reduce Stress- Podcast interview by Dr. Kara Fitzgerald with Nick Ortner.
- Stress management tips and resources
Disclaimer: This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)
According to experts and the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no approved standard of care treatment, cure, or preventative for COVID-19. Supportive measures and containment are in full force as a result. Please see the CDC website and your state’s website for more information and updates. They also state when to contact your physician related to symptoms and travel history, exposures. Please read my more detailed article on this subject here.
This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
Thanks Pixabay and Canva.