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The Real Deal with Cinnamon

There has been a push to distinguish between "true" or "real" Cinnamon and other varieties in recent years. As a company that emphasizes a commitment to purity as well as transparency, we welcome the opportunity to share more information about the Cinnamon used in Gaia products.

Etymologically speaking, there is a "real" Cinnamon - Cinnamomum verum - which translates from Latin to "true Cinnamon." This species, also called Cinnamomum zeylanicum, is Ceylon Cinnamon. This type of Cinnamon is sourced from Sri Lanka, which was called Ceylon during British Colonialism. However, this does not mean that other types of Cinnamon are any less real.

Within the Cinnamomum family, several other species have been used in the kitchen and in traditional medicine. Collectively known as Cassia Cinnamon, they are commonly named for their origins.

Ceylon Cinnamon has a lighter, sweeter taste than other varieties. It is also more expensive, and, in the US, less commonly available. To Cinnamon connoisseurs, Cassia varieties are better suited for heartier or savory dishes, while Ceylon is preferred for desserts and sweets. However, the difference in taste is slight, and the choice for most consumers comes down to how much they prefer to pay for Cinnamon.

Though all "stick" Cinnamon is the rolled-up bark of one species or another, Ceylon, when compared with other varieties, is lighter in color and softer. It rolls into multiple layers, while the others form one harder, hollow layer.

The distinction between Cinnamons really matters when the herb is taken as a supplement versus used as a culinary ingredient. When taken to support the body in some way, choosing the "right" or "true" Cinnamon becomes more nuanced and also more important.

Cinnamon has traditionally been used to support carbohydrate metabolism, circulation function and heart health.*1, 2 In addition, the different types of Cinnamon contain varying amounts of an active component called coumarin. It can impact the liver in high doses, and it has been used to support a healthy weight, due to its ability to maintain normal hunger levels.* Ceylon Cinnamon naturally does not contain much coumarin, but other varieties do. (Cinnamomum aromaticum, or Chinese Cinnamon, contains especially high amounts.)

In products such as Certified Organic Cinnamon Bark liquid extract, Adrenal Health® Nightly Restore and Cinnamon Bark Liquid Phyto-Caps®, Gaia primarily uses Cinnamomum burmannii, which has, in studies, been shown to have a positive effect on blood sugar already within normal ranges.3 We also use Cinnamomum verum and zeylanicum, which sometimes are shown in the Supplement Facts box as spp., meaning species in Latin.

While Cinnamomum burmannii is among the species that contain coumarin, Gaia tests every batch to ensure it falls within our acceptable ranges. We reject any batch that contains more than 1% coumarins, which is far below the safe daily exposure limit determined by the American Botanical Council, the nonprofit dedicated to the responsible use of herbs and medicinal plants. Every batch of Cinnamon is tested against a DNA-validated reference standard to ensure that it is the correct genus and species.

Beyond coumarin, Cinnamon contains the active constituent Cinnamaldehyde, which is the phytochemical that gives Cinnamon its signature fragrance. Found in the bark, which in our preferred species contains up to 10% volatile oil content, Cinnamaldehyde provides antioxidant support and promotes cholesterol levels in a normal range.*

Gaia uses dual extraction technology to deliver a broad spectrum of Cinnamon's herbal constituents. Solvent-free supercritical extraction yields fat-soluble plant compounds, including Cinnamaldehyde. Water and alcohol extraction captures water-soluble phenolic compounds. As with all of our products, you can view the results of our tests for purity, integrity and potency on every batch of Cinnamon at MeetYourHerbs.com.

This post published with contributions from the Gaia Science and Education Team.

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Selected Sources
  1. Verspohl EJ, Bauer K, Neddermann E. Phytother Res. 2005 Mar;19(3):203-6.
  2. Pallavi Kawatra and Rathai Rajagopalan. Pharmacognosy Res. 2015 Jun
  3. Cao H, Polansky MM, Anderson RA. Arch Biochem Biophys. 2007;459:214-22.