Better Off Well


What I've learned about cinnamon that you should know, too


I've sprinkled many oatmeal bowls and cups of tea with cinnamon over the years, and never once have I questioned its origins. Until now.

For the past few weeks I've been assigned to teach little ones about the rainforests. Like how important they are to our climate, to our health, and to our history and how we need to protect them from being destroyed.

So back to cinnamon. Did you know this bark grows in rainforests? Points if you did, and more if you know those rainforests are mostly in Indonesia and Asia (with others in parts of Africa, Central America, and the largest in South America's Amazon).

But I'm guessing you didn't know that it takes cinnamon 10-15 years before it can be harvested. And that farmers often grow other crops and keep the cinnamon fields as "saving plans" for a time when they really need some dough, like say when a daughter is married.

Water buffalo carry the harvest from farm to village and endangered animals like the Sumatran tiger are being saved by sustainable co-ops and rainforest alliance-certified groups by teaching farmers to set up their farms in ways that protect habitats.

I expect minds are thoroughly blown by now, but here's the piece I learned that I think we need to take notice of. NOT to freak out about, but simply to be aware and to make changes accordingly.

There are two kinds of cinnamon, Cassia and Ceylon. The former is more common and therefore less expensive so it's the type of cinnamon in almost every cinnamon bottle and the kind used in those gooey cinnamon rolls that call to you from the mall food courts.

Why does this matter?

Because Cassia cinnamon contains a natural compound called coumarin. In high doses - set at a teaspoon per day for adults by the European Food Safety Authority - coumarin can be toxic to the liver. Studies have found that cassia cinnamon has "substantial" amounts of coumarin, while Ceylon, also known as true cinnamon, has only traces.

Again, I'm not sharing this news to freak anyone out. If you're already in good health and you only consume cinnamon now and then, this shouldn't be a big deal. Let the focus continue to be on eating real foods and don't stress about cinnamon. Cinnamon is a good source of minerals like manganese (which helps to build collagen and control blood sugar) and helps to promote healthy blood circulation and reduce inflammation.

If, however, you are consuming cinnamon every day, or you have a history of liver ailments or alcoholism, or you're taking cinnamon supplements, I would suggest you switch to the Ceylon. Remember that livers are hard workers in our bodies, and the more we can do to make them stronger, the better they can perform the many jobs they've been assigned.


Choosing the Right Cinnamon, Dr. Joel Fuhrman

When is Cinnamon Spice Not So Nice?

Cinnamon, Ground- the World's Healthiest Foods

Food Additives & Contaminants- abstract from a study