It’s widely known in the world of natural health that cinnamon can be effective at regulating blood sugar, making it a natural and healthy option for the millions of diabetics in the US and abroad. In fact, cinnamon for diabetes treatment is often viewed as one of the most simple, effective solutions. But not all ‘cinnamons’ are created equal. The kind you find in your local grocery store may be able to reduce your blood sugar, but a more expensive variety could be even better.
Cassia cinnamon is the kind of cinnamon you likely have in your kitchen right now. It’s more abundant and is the type sold in most grocery stores. Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum or Cinnamomum zeylanicum ), however, is a milder cousin to Cassia, and may be safer to take in higher doses.
Ceylon comes from a small tree native to Sri Lanka, whereas Cassia cinnamon can come from China, Indonesia, and a handful of other countries. Cassia has a stronger, “hotter” flavor and is darker in color. Ana Sortun, executive chef of Oleana restaurant in Cambridge, Mass. says Ceylon has “lighter, brighter citrus tones.”
One meta analysis on cinnamon published earlier this year in the journal Annals of Family Medicine found that cinnamon can lower blood sugar and cholesterol in humans significantly, but the type of cinnamon studied was ceylon, as opposed to the ‘safer’ cassia. The analysis included 10 studies and a total of 543 patients. Doses in the studies ranged from 120 milligrams a day to six grams.
Most of the research on the benefits of cinnamon has been conducted on the more common variety, Cassia. These studies have indicated the spice’s ability to reduce blood sugar moderately—about 3 to 5%. The only problem with this, some say, is in heavy doses Cassia cinnamon can be toxic to the liver in people who are sensitive.
Cassia cinnamon has high levels of something called courmarin. In a small group of sensitive people, this naturally occurring component has been known to cause reversible liver toxicity.
“So the warning is, for cinnamon lovers, is to be aware of excessive intake of cassia,” says Angela Ginn, a diabetes educator.
But, how much is “excessive”? The European Food Safety Authority recommends no more than one teaspoon a day for sensitive adults. But most people never consume that much. However, if you are seeking the medical benefits and want to be on the safe side, Ceylon offers an alternative.