Pure Ceylon Cinnamon from Sri Lanka

cinnamon baleCinnamon is known as one of the first traded and most popular spices from the ancient world. It belongs to the family Lauraceae and there are more than 250 species and sub species.

Cinnamon is obtained from the bark of trees belongs to the genus Cinnamomum. The dried inner bark of the tree comes to the market as a range of spices under the title of ‘Cinnamon’.

Cinnamon contains more than 80 chemical components. Cinnamaldehyde is the essential component of the cinnamon bark and eugenol is the main component found in the cinnamon leaf oil.

This valuable spice has been noted as the most beneficial among the rest in the spice industry. Besides being a spice in nature, it was used as medicine, perfume production as well as soft drinks. Currently, cinnamon is widely used in pharmaceutical industries, bakeries and cosmetic industries throughout the world.

Types of cinnamon

According to the physical location and chemical characteristics of cinnamon, it was divided into few main categories. There are significant physical and scientific different among them. But, all of these different varieties are usually available in the global market as ‘Cinnamon’.

Two major types of cinnamon

  1. Ceylon cinnamon (True cinnamon/ Pure cinnamon) – Cinnamomum zeylanicum syn. Cinnamomum verum, Cinnamomum zeylanicum blume
  2. Cassia cinnamon
    • Chinese cassia (Chinese cinnamon) – Cinnamomum cassia syn. C. aromaticum
    • Vietnamese cassia (Saigon cinnamon/ Vietnamese cinnamon) – Cinnamomum loureiroi
    • Indonesian cassia (Korintje Cinnamon) – Cinnamomum burmannii

Ceylon cinnamon and Cassia cinnamon are the main species that are traded in the international market under the term of ‘Cinnamon’. Both are belonging to the family Lauraceae. Cassia cinnamon, (mostly known as Cassia) contains different sub varieties come from different countries. Chinese cassia, Vietnamese cassia and Indonesian cassia are major spices belongs to the term of ‘Cassia’ or Cassia cinnamon.

Ceylon Cinnamon

This is the expensive, rare, safe and recommended cinnamon variety over all other cinnamon varieties including cassia. Ceylon true cinnamon is graded as the fourth most expensive spice in the world. 80%-90% of world’s production of Ceylon cinnamon belongs to a small Asian country, named Sri Lanka.

Chinese cassia

Chinese cassia (Chinese cinnamon)

China (Kwangsi and Kwangtung Provinces) is the main producer and exporter of Chinese cassia. This is the commonly available cinnamon type in the international market.

Vietnamese cassia

Vietnamese cassia (Saigon cinnamon/ Vietnamese cinnamon)

Before the Vietnam War, this product came from area around the southern city of Saigon in Vietnam. Now it comes from central regions of central Vietnam. Saigon cinnamon contains strong spicy taste, high levels of oil content and more coumarin level (one study shows it as 7 g/kg) than other three varieties.

Indonesian cassiaIndonesian cassia (Korintje Cinnamon)

Korintje Cinnamon is cultivated in West Sumatra and western Jambi province in Indonesia. This is the most common and cheapest type of cinnamon available in the US market. The leaf oil of this type of cinnamon does not contain eugenol.

You can refer more details of cinnamon types here.

What is Ceylon Cinnamon?

This is the cinnamon comes from Ceylon. The source is Cinnamomum verum tree under the family Lauraceae.  Naturally dried inner bark of the tree come to the market through a hand crafted process. The final product available as a valuable spice that contains sweet taste and confirmed health advantages.

Due to its unique aroma, quality, health benefits and ultra-low coumarin value, “true cinnamon” has obtained a wide reputation in the global market. Cinnamon quills are specially prepared in a way that is unique to Sri Lanka. Over centuries this skill has been transferred from generation to generation.

True Cinnamon is exported all over the world but the USA and Mexico are the main markets. A significant amount of Sri Lankan products is used in Europe, Spain, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, Bolivia and Chile.

Cinnamomum zeylanicum & Cinnamomum verum

Cinnamomum verum is the botanical identification of Ceylon cinnamon (or true cinnamon) tree belongs to the family Lauraceae. The old botanical name (Latin name) Cinnamomum zeylanicum is also used. Both of these botanical names are used to identify same tree, simply known as ‘Ceylon cinnamon tree’.

Mexican cinnamon (Canela)

Mexicans never cultivate or produce cinnamon in their country. But, Mexico is a major buyer for true cinnamon. Due to the wide usage and exchange in Mexico, true cinnamon is sometimes referred as Mexican cinnamon (Canela) in the market. Actually, Canela is the same Ceylon Cinnamon sticks imported from Sri Lanka.

Real cinnamon/ True cinnamon

All types of cinnamon come from trees belong to the family Lauraceae and genus Cinnamomum. Accordingly, there isn’t a fake cinnamon. However, ‘Ceylon Cinnamon’ also called ‘true cinnamon’, ‘pure cinnamon’ or ‘sweet cinnamon’ due to its superior qualities over Cassia.

True cinnamon is usually labeled “Ceylon cinnamon”. If you are a cinnamon consumer lives in Europe or America, the cinnamon product in your cupboard is probably not true cinnamon, but a cassia variety that labeled as ‘cinnamon’.

Ceylon cinnamon vs. Cassia cinnamon

Ceylon Cinnamon (layers like cigar)

Ceylon Cinnamon (~0.004% coumarin)

Cassia cinnamon (mostly single layer)

Cassia cinnamon (~ 5% of coumarin)

Ceylon cinnamon and Cassia are totally different spices. The major difference is coumarin content of each spice. True cinnamon contains ultra-low coumarin content compare to cassia and its varieties. In 2006, Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has warned against regular usage of cassia cinnamon, due to its higher coumarin content.

Ceylon Cinnamon (CZ)Cassia Cinnamom(CC)
Very expensive and rare to find out from original country.Common and cheap spice
Contains ultra low Coumarin content which is healthy (~0.004%)Coumain level is 1200 times more which occur kidney and liver issues (~5%).
Recommended for daily use by doctors.Not recommended for daily use as it cause health problems.
Colour is tan brown.Colour is reddish dark brown.
Very light paper thickness of bark which forms multiple layers rolled up as coil.Uneven thickness and forms only few layers (mostly single) when rolled up.
Fragile, easily broken.Hard and difficult to grind.
Delicate and sweet. Create an excellent flavor and aroma.Pungent and full bodied taste. Recommended for Chinese foods.
Not available in ChinaNot available in Sri Lanka.

Table 01: Major differences between pure cinnamon and Cassia.

Ceylon Cinnamon tree

Ceylon cinnamon bush

A Ceylon cinnamon bush (After one month from the crop)

Cinnamomum zeylanicum/ Cinnamomum verum tree is native to Sri Lanka. The first ever Ceylon cinnamon tree is said to be found by the Portuguese, in the early of the 16th century during their regime in the Ceylon (Sri Lanka). After the Portuguese, cinnamon trade as well as the plantation of the Ceylon Cinnamon trees has been continued by the Dutch and the British who ruled the country before the sovereignty was achieved.

Ceylon cinnamon tree is freely grows many places in Sri Lanka including home gardens, bare lands, etc. Cultivation that owned by small farmers to large producers are exist separately. Small farmers usually sell the whole sticks (without peeling) to buyers after agreed for a fixed price. Medium to large scale growers sell the final product prepared by hired cinnamon peelers.

growing areas of cinnamon Sri Lanka

Major growing areas of cinnamon in Sri Lanka

Commercially cultivated cinnamon bushes maintained as a four-five slender shoots growing up two- three meters. After the plant grows about three years from the planting, the major plants grow up to 1.5-2 meters with 5-10 cm in diameter, and are then ready for harvesting. The main shoot is copped or cut back to a height of about 5 cm from ground level. Two to three crops are taken annually depending on the rainfall and growing efficiency. After harvesting, the leaves and small twigs are separated and stems are moved to peel the bark. The separated parts will use for by-products.

The ideal rainfall for growing cinnamon is in the range of 1250–2500 mm. Temperature should be between 20 °C and 30 °C. It grows well as a forest tree at 300–350 m above sea level under the direct sunlight. The best quality cinnamon is produced on south parts of the country, including Galle and Matara districts.

Cinnamon from Sri Lanka

Baling Ceylon cinnamon

Baling Ceylon cinnamon (Sri Lanka; Late 1800s)

The name ‘Ceylon Cinnamon’ comes according to the former name of a Asian country, Sri Lanka. The Sri Lanka was known as ‘Ceylon’ until 1972. Cinnamon grown in Ceylon is known as’ Ceylon cinnamon’ and regarded as an important spice from the ancient market.

Spices are associated with the life of Sri Lankans. Cinnamon is come to the top of those spices. The topical climate, rich soil and abundant rain in south cost of the country provide the ideal habitat for the growth of cinnamon.

Where is Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka (Ceylon)

Sri Lanka holds the monopoly of international market belongs to true cinnamon products. The 80%-90% of world production of true cinnamon originates from Sri Lanka. Rest of production comes from Seychelles, Madagascar and few other countries.   which is also cultivated on a commercial scale in the Seychelles and Madagascar.

How to identify Ceylon cinnamon

High quality Ceylon cinnamon comes only from Sri Lanka. If you are buying Cinnamon quills, differentiation is even easier as the form of pure Cinnamon quills are native to Sri-Lanka. You will find several folds of light brown clour layers, filling the cavity like a cigar in Ceylon Cinnamon quills. Cassia Cinnamon quills will have inward folded thick and dark brown layers (mostly single) of Cinnamon that creating a hollow in the middle. Additionally, above Table-01 is mentioning all major differences between true cinnamon and Chinese cinnamon.

Ceylon cinnamon products

Ceylon cinnamon sticks

Cinnamon quills
Full tubes, typically 42 inches long sticks that prepared using scrapped inner bark of the plant on joined together by small overlaps. The hollow has been filled with small pieces of the peel and thereafter dried under air curing.

Quillings
Broken tubes (broken cinnamon quills), pieces and splits of varying sizes of all grades of cinnamon.

Featherings
Pieces of inner bark obtained by peeling and/or scraping the bark of small twigs and stalks of plantation cinnamon shoots which may include a quantity of chips (unpeelable bark) as specified.

Chips
Dried unpeelable bark of cinnamon inclusive of the outer bark which has been obtained by beating or scraping the remaining shoots in the plantation after harvest.

Ground cinnamon

The powder form of cinnamon bark known as ground cinnamon. Be careful when you are buying ground cinnamon because the producer may use low quality cinnamon parts to prepare ground cinnamon products. It is difficulty identify the quality of product in powder form.

Ceylon cinnamon oil

Ceylon cinnamon generates two types of essential oil as cinnamon leaf oil and cinnamon bark oil. Pure cinnamon bark oil (known as liquid cinnamon) contains cinnamaldehyde while eugenol is the major constituent in leaf oils.

Cinnamon oil distillation in Sri Lanka would have probably commenced during the Dutch regime. Sri Lanka has been the traditional producer and exporter of cinnamon and its value added products include bark oil and leaf oil.

Cinnamon leaf oil

The Ceylon cinnamon leaf oil obtains through steam distillation on collected cinnamon leaf and twigs that remains on the cultivation after harvesting of cinnamon. Leaf oil contains higher amount of eugenol (68 – 87%) and less amount of cinnamaldehyde (0.5 – 1%).

Cinnamon leaves are obtained as a by-product of the cinnamon industry. The leaf oil is cheaper than bark oil and internal consumption not recommended.

Cinnamon bark oil
The other form of Ceylon cinnamon essential oil, cinnamon bark oil is the result of steam distillation on  bark of the Sri Lankan cinnamon. This contains mostly cinnamaldehyde (63 – 75%) and eugenol (2 – 13%).

Cinnamon bark oil is one of the expensive essential oils in the market. The quality of bark oils depend on the material used to distill the oil. Cinnamon quills are always recommended to obtain high quality bark oil, but it is not always used for the distillation.

Cassia oil
Unlike the two categories of Sri Lanka cinnamon oil, only one category of essential oil exists in cassia (C. cassia) oils. This is because Cassia oil is distilled from a mixture of many parts of the tree. So, there is only one type of cassia oil exists.

Ceylon cinnamon tea

Pure cinnamon which is also known as ‘sweet cinnamon’ has a history that runs back to the early 16th century. Ceylon tea is a world renowned brand and is appreciated for its quality and mild and refreshing flavour. Most of the products in the market offering Ceylon Cinnamon tea combine Ceylon tea leaves mixed with tiny pieces true Cinnamon bark in a tea bag. To add a variety, the type of the tea used in the combination might change to black tea, green tea or other. Instead of cinnamon bark, some products use cinnamon bark oil with tea leaves.

Ceylon Cinnamon complements the Ceylon tea perfectly with a spicy finish. Ceylon Cinnamon tea users identified it as an enlivening, refreshing and a delicious beverage which makes a great evening or an after dinner companion.

Cinnamon supplements

Cinnamon as a supplement
Cinnamon supplements are commonly available as liquid cinnamon and capsules that contain cinnamon powder. Recent studies show that consuming as little as one gram of cinnamon daily may reduce blood sugar, cholesterol and provide natural health benefits for maintains a healthy life. Hence, cinnamon supplements came to the market as an easy option to intake daily dosage.

Cinnamon does not need to be purchased specifically as a supplement, it is easy to use with daily food as natural way. Supplements may contain additional chemical components other than natural cinnamon ingredients. Hence, generally recognized and recommended as safe when used as food.

True cinnamon is always a better supplemental option than cassia cinnamon due to the lower coumarin content.

Ceylon cinnamon capsules
Ceylon cinnamon capsules are available in the market to intake cinnamon easily. According to the results of pure cinnamon related studies, pure cinnamon did not considered as a harmful spice, even if it use regularly. But, cover of Cinnamon capsules contains chemicals including Silicon Dioxide that creates side effects in longer use.

Cinnamon supplement dosage
According to the document published by US Department of health in October 2011, the recommended cinnamon supplements taken by mouth in amounts up to 6 grams daily for 6 weeks or less. Due to concerns about the possible effects of coumarin, cassia cinnamon does not recommend for daily usage.

Honey and cinnamon

Honey and cinnamon are two substances and perfect combination for steady and quality life. Scientific studies confirmed ground cinnamon and honey paste is good for boosting the immune system, eliminating chronic fatigue and energizing your body. It can also be used for treating colds and influenza. This is partially due to the antioxidants found in both honey and cinnamon which can combine to combat the free radicals in the body’s organ systems.

Both Cinnamon and Honey are considered as nutritious food items rich with vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin B6, niacin and riboflavin and minerals benefits of honey and cinnamon combination is recognized to bring numerous health advantages.

Benefits of cinnamon

Nutritional value of cinnamon

As rich in magnesium, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus; true cinnamon strongly carries good nutritional facts. The safer and healthier spice has much more magical values as the presence of sodium, manganese and iron already make it stronger than other spices. A small quantity of copper, zinc and selenium is also found in the true cinnamon.

Is cinnamon good for you?

Cinnamon was crowned as “The spice of life” by ancient people due to its unique aroma and versatility in medical properties. Over the centuries it was traded all over the world for the benefit of humans. Most medical research has confirmed that Ceylon cinnamon is beneficial for a healthy life.

It’s important to consume the right kind of cinnamon as it contains coumarin, which can damage your liver and kidneys if taken at high levels. Use it as natural spice instead of supplements. Unless you have allergic, it should not be a problem for you to enjoy cinnamon as a spice in your daily food or drinks.

Benefits of true cinnamon

Cinnamon has a long history of use as a folk or traditional medicine. It aids to maintain a healthy life as a natural spice. Studies shows cinnamon reduces risk of heart disease, control LDL cholesterol levels as well as a natural treatment for type-2 diabetics and high blood pressure.

Cinnamon for diabetes

Scientists have found that Cinnamon helps for people to control blood sugar levels. According to a recent study completed in 2012 by few US health organizations have confirmed, the consumption of cinnamon is associated with a statistically significant decrease in levels of fasting plasma glucose, total cholesterol, LDL-C, and triglyceride levels, and an increase in HDL-C levels.

Cinnamon for high blood pressure

Due to the presence of chemical components of cinnamon which has positive effects on the circulatory system, cinnamon lowers blood pressure. A research conducted by Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto (2013) has conformed use of cinnamon is associated with a notable reduction in Systolic Blood Pressure (SBP) and Diastolic Blood Pressure (DBP).

The results of the study recommend cinnamon for blood pressure control. According to the results, short term intake of cinnamon dropped SBP and DBP blood pressure by 5.39 mm Hg and 2.6 mm Hg, respectively.

Does cinnamon lower cholesterol?

There’s evidence that cinnamon can lower cholesterol levels. The cholesterol-lowering effects of cinnamon have been confirmed through animal studies. Several human studies have carried out to confirm the effect of cinnamon on blood cholesterol.

A study conducted by NWFP Agricultural University, Pakistan, shows cinnamon reduce the mean fasting serum glucose by 18-29%, triglyceride by 23-30%, LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) by 7-27%, and total cholesterol by 12-26%. There was no noticeable change on HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) levels.

Cinnamon and weight loss

Controlled eating plan and daily exercise greatly increase the chance of achieving your weight loss targets. In addition, cinnamon could be provide significant side support in reduce your weight. Because of weight loss and Cinnamon are connected together through insulin boosting and related abilities of cinnamon.

There was a study published by the University of Navarra, Spain, concluded cinnamon extracts as a potentially important anti-obesogenic extracts, due to its body fat-lowering effects. According to the study, cinnamon extracts prevented the increase in fat mass promoted by the high-fat-sucrose (HFS) diet in an animal model.

Cinnamon side effects

True cinnamon is a safe spice. Every traditional Sri Lankan food dishes contain true cinnamon as a flavoring agent. US department of health agency noted amount up to 6 grams daily for 6 weeks or less is safe if you intake cinnamon as a supplement.

Chinese cinnamon contains much higher concentrations of coumarin (the Ceylon cinnamon contains about 0.004% coumarin, while Cassia contains 5-8%). Level of naturally occurring coumarin in cassia is 1200 times higher and may cause significant health problems if consumed in large amounts on a regular basis and can spell trouble for the liver and kidney. You can eat true cinnamon as much as you like, because it doesn’t have negative impact on your health.

Coumarin

Coumarin is a fragrant organic chemical compound found in many natural foods. It is moderately toxic to the liver and kidneys. According to tolerable daily intake (TDI) level established by German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), regular use of over 0.1 mg coumarin per kg body weight generates health risk. European health agencies have warned against regular use of cassia cinnamon because of its high amounts of coumarin content. Based on analysis done by BfR, one table spoon of cassia powder contains 5.8 to 12.1 mg of coumarin, whis is above than TDI valve for mid-range humans.

Brands and Types of Ceylon cinnamon

Pure Ceylon Cinnamon’ is the global brand established by Sri Lanka Export Development Board (SLEDB) to the international market. There are four major classifications available as Alba, Continental, Mexican and Hamburg.

Under the title of true cinnamon, eight different types (cultivars) of cinnamon are grown in Sri Lanka. Botanical description or identification of such varieties are not available. They are known by local (Sinhalese) names as Panni Kurundu (Pat Kurundu or Mapat Kurundu), Naga Kurundu, Panni Miris Kurundu, Veli Kurundu, Sewala Kurundu (or Sevel Kurundu), Kahata Kurundu, Penirasa Kurundu and Peiris Kurundu.

Where to buy Ceylon cinnamon?

Buy Ceylon cinnamon in worldwide

Sri Lanka is the safest place you could access Pure Ceylon Cinnamon. This is simply because Sri Lanka is the sole and exclusive producer of Ceylon Cinnamon. When buying, it is also important to be able to recognize true cinnamon from other inferior brands of Cinnamon such as Cassia which is commonly available in the market. Cassia is being sold largely in the name of Cinnamon at convention stores and other physical places. Hence if you are buying Ceylon Cinnamon from somewhere else in the world, always make sure to check the producer.

It is available in spice stores and supermarkets than local grocery stores in your country. Sri Lankan cinnamon suppliers and growers usually do not maintain retails stores in other countries. But, some retailers sell Ceylon cinnamon in their stores that imported from Sri Lanka. If you can locate a Sri Lankan spice shop in your country, true cinnamon should be available there.

Tips to buy Ceylon cinnamon online

Buy Ceylon cinnamon

Buy Ceylon cinnamon from Sri Lanka

However in buying Ceylon Cinnamon, the smartest way for a buyer from another part of the world is to buy it online, from a Sri-Lankan online vendor who specifically has their own Cinnamon plantations in the country. They provide you recently harvested Ceylon cinnamon from mother land to your door-step.

Some Sri Lankan vendors have been delivering Ceylon Cinnamon worldwide for years, and their reputation is too worthy for them to risk it by selling anything less than Pure Ceylon Cinnamon to their customers.

Cassia or sub varieties are not growing in Sri Lanka. Accordingly, Cassia related spices are not available in the Sri Lankan market. Hence, cinnamon product you receive from Sri Lanka definitely be a Ceylon cinnamon product and it contains all attached health benefits, taste and aroma.

Your best bet is to purchase your cinnamon from a reputable online dealer who clearly labels their packages. They bring in fresh Ceylon cinnamon bark from Sri Lanka and would never put their reputation under hazard by selling wrong cinnamon instead of the true one. There are trustworthy sites offering customer feedback and testimonials which will be of great use to the buyer.