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Cinnamon comes in two varieties.
- Cinnamomum zeylanicum (CZ): Also known as Ceylon cinnamon or “true cinnamon.” This is the version we will be exploring in this post.
- Cinnamomum aromaticum (CC): Also known as Cinnamon cassia, or “Chinese cinnamon.”
Ceylon cinnamon is a spice is made from the bark of the tropical evergreen tree Cinnamomum verum. This tree is indigenous to southern India, Madagascar and Sri Lanka with eighty percent of the world’s supply being provided by the latter 1
Almost every part of this tree including the leaves, bark, flowers, roots and fruit has some use either as an ingredient in cooking or a medicinal agent.
Ceylon cinnamon has a lower coumarin content than Chinese cinnamon.2
This is an important difference because coumarins are known to be strong anticoagulants, are carcinogenic and toxic to the liver. Consuming large quantities of CC over a long period of time could pose health risks whereas CZ does not carry these risks.3
Many studies have been performed demonstrating the benefits of Ceylon cinnamon. Some of these will be summarized below.
Ceylon Cinnamon in Diabetes and Hyperlipidemia
A systemic review and meta-analysis on the use of cinnamon in type 2 diabetes was published in 2013. This review included ten randomized controlled trials involving 543 patients. Cinnamon doses ranged from 120 mg per day to 6 grams per day for four to eighteen weeks.
This review found the consumption of cinnamon to be associated with a statistically significant decrease in:
- Fasting plasma glucose
- Total cholesterol
- Triglyceride levels
An increase in HDL-C levels was also significant. There was not a significant effect on hemoglobin A1c found. The researchers concluded that “The high degree of heterogeneity may limit the ability to apply these results to patient care, because the preferred dose and duration of therapy are unclear.”4
The fact that cinnamon had a positive effect on five out of six diabetes and blood lipid parameters in this review suggests it may be a positive supplement to add for patients who have hypertriglyceridemia or suffer from type 2 diabetes.
Other studies have shown no improvement in fasting blood glucose with Ceylon cinnamon compared to placebo or a control group.5
In animal models, the following benefits of cinnamon on diabetes and hyperlipidemia were shown in a study published in Diabetic Medicine in 2012:
- Attenuation of diabetes associated weight loss
- Reduction of fasting blood glucose (FBG)
- Reduction in LDL (bad fat)
- Increase in HDL (good fat)
- Reduction in HbA1c
- Increased circulating insulin levels
- Beneficial effects against diabetic neuropathy and nephropathy
Ceylon Cinnamon and Hypertension
Acute intravenous administration of Ceylon cinnamon extract administered to hypertensive rats resulted in a long-lasting decrease in blood pressure. This study also resulted in a significant decrease in plasma triglycerides (-38.1%), total cholesterol (-32.1%) and LDL-cholesterol (-75.3%). HDL-cholesterol in this study showed a 58.4% increase.9
Ceylon Cinnamon Antioxidant Properties
Ceylon cinnamon possesses strong antioxidant properties. This spice is rich in polyphenols.10
A study published in 2005 quantified the antioxidant capacity (TEAC) and phenolic content of 26 common spice extracts from twelve botanical families. This is important because prior to this study, many different assay methods were used to determine antioxidant capacity. This study showed a mean TEAC value of 31.7 mmol/100g. The strongest antioxidant based on radical scavenging activity was clove at 168.7 mmol/100g.
Cinnamomum zeylanicum had the second highest radical scavenging activity at 107.69 mmol/100g. This study confirmed the high antioxidant activity of Ceylon cinnamon.14
Antioxidant effects are important because they may reduce the risk of developing many diseases including heart disease and some cancers. This is accomplished by preventing or limiting the damage caused to cells from free radicals.
Antimicrobial Effects of Ceylon Cinnamon
Ceylon cinnamon has shown antimicrobial activity against many bacterial strains. CZ oil was beneficial in protecting mice against cryptosporidiosis.15
Another study showed chewing gum containing cinnamic aldehyde and natural flavors from CZ led to significant reductions in salivary anaerobes twenty minutes after gum was chewed.16
There are many more studies and outcomes listed referring to the antimicrobial effects of CZ in the research article “Medicinal properties of ‘true’ cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum): a systemic review.”
It is thought that CZ’s antimicrobial action is due to cinnamaldehyde.18
Anti-Inflammatory Actions of Ceylon Cinnamon
Extracts of cinnamon are known to increase Tristetrapolin mRNA and protein levels. These have anti-inflammatory effects. This may be why anti-inflammatory actions have been observed with the use of CZ.19
This effect can help the body fight infection and repair tissue damage. Studies have shown that Ceylon cinnamon has potent anti-inflammatory properties. If therapeutic concentrations reach the tissues, this substance may be used in the treatment of age-related inflammatory conditions.20
A study published in 2012 determined “cinnamic aldehyde may be used in the prevention or treatment of disease where free radical formation is a pathological factor.”21
Ceylon Cinnamon Side Effects
This spice is generally well tolerated and adverse effects are uncommon. Some side effects reported areHeartburn
Cinnamon oil can cause burning and contact dermatitis when it comes into contact with the skin. There has also been a case report of a 7 year-old child developing signs of toxicity (vomiting, dizziness, sedation and loss of consciousness) after ingesting 60 ml of cinnamon oil.23
Ceylon Cinnamon Drug Interactions
Antidiabetic agents: Ceylon cinnamon can decrease blood sugar so combining it with antidiabetic agents may lead to hypoglycemia. Frequent monitoring of blood sugars is recommended if combining Ceylon cinnamon with these agents.
Antihypertensives: Some research has shown Ceylon cinnamon can decrease blood pressure in rat models. Blood pressure should be monitored when combining Ceylon cinnamon with antihypertensive agents to prevent hypotension.
Cinnamon comes in two different varieties. Ceylon cinnamon is the preferred type to use for medicinal purposes. This spice may be useful for several indications. Cinnamon can lower blood sugar, improve blood lipid levels and reduce blood pressure. It has also been shown to be effective in preventing and fighting several types of bacterial infections.
Cinnamon has strong antioxidant properties that may help prevent heart disease and some types of cancer. It may also be useful in several inflammatory conditions related to the ageing process.
Ceylon cinnamon is well tolerated when consumed at recommended dosages. It is important to consume the correct form of cinnamon. The cinnamon used in cooking (Chinese cinnamon) is not the same as Ceylon cinnamon. It has many of the same effects but contains high levels of coumarin compounds which may lead to bleeding. Coumarins are also carcinogenic and toxic to the liver. Consuming small amounts of Chinese cinnamon in food is safe but you wouldn’t want to consume large quantities for its health benefits.
Sunshine Nutraceuticals has a Ceylon cinnamon supplement available for purchase. Please let us know if you have any questions regarding this product or any item we offer for sale. We are always happy to answer any questions regarding happy, healthy living as well.
Have a great week and be safe! Remember to follow all guidelines regarding COVID-19. We need to get through this!
Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP
Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.
Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.
- Paranagama PA, Wimalasena S, Jayatilake GS, et al. A comparison of essential oil constituents of bark, leaf root and fruit of cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum Blum), grown in Sri Lanka. J Nat Sci Foundation 2010; 29: 147-53.
- Archer A. Determination of cinnamaldehyde, coumarin and cinnamyl alcohol in cinnamon and cassia by highperformance liquid chromatography. J Chromatogr 1988; 447: 272-6.
- Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung: High daily intakes of cinnamon: Health risk cannot be ruled out. In: BfR Health Assessment No 044/2006. Edited by Federal Institute for Risk Assessment. Germany; 2006.
- Allen RW, Schwartzman E, Baker WL, Coleman CI, Phung OJ. Cinnamon use in type 2 diabetes: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Fam Med. 2013;11(5):452–459. doi:10.1370/afm.1517.
- Azimi P, Ghiasvand R Feizi A, Hariri M, Abbasi B. Effects of cinnamon, cardamom, saffron, and ginger consumption on markers of glycemic control, lipid profile, oxidative stress, and inflammation in type 2 diabetes. Rev Diabet Stud. 2014 Fall-Winter;11(3-4):258-66.
- Mirfeizi M, Mehdizadeh Tourzani Z, Mirfeizi SZ, et al. Controlling type 2 diabetes mellitus with herbal medicines: a triple-blind randomized clinical trial of efficacy and safety. J Diabetes. 2016 Sep;8(5):647-56.
- Vafa M, Mohammadi F, Shidfar F, Sormaghi MS, Heidari I, Golestan B, Armiri F. Effects of cinnamon consumption on glycemic status, lipid profile and body composition in type 2 diabetic patients. Int J Prev Med. 2012 Aug;3(8):531-6.
- Ranasinghe P, Jayawardana R, Galappaththy P, et al. Efficacy and safety of ‘true’ cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) as a pharmaceutical agent in diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetic Medicine 2012; 29: 1480-92.
- Nyadjeu P, Nguelefack-Mbuyo EP, Atsamo AD, Nguelefack TB, Dongmo AB, Kamanyi A. Acute and chronic antihypertensive effects of Cinnamomum zeylanicum stem bark methanol extract in L-NAME-induced hypertensive rats. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2013;13:27. Published 2013 Jan 31. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-13-27.
- Rao, Pasupuleti Visweswara, and Siew Hua Gan. “Cinnamon: a multifaceted medicinal plant.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine: eCAM vol. 2014 (2014): 642942.
- Dhuley JN. Anti-oxidant effects of cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) bark and greater cardamom (Amomum subulatum) seeds in rats fed high fat diet. Indian J Exp Biol. 1999;37(3):238–242.
- Kumar S, Vasudeva N, Sharma S. GC-MS analysis and screening of antidiabetic, antioxidant and hypolipidemic potential of Cinnamomum tamala oil in streptozotocin induced diabetes mellitus in rats. Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2012;11:95. Published 2012 Aug 10. doi:10.1186/1475-2840-11-95.
- Shan B, Cai YZ, Sun M, Corke H. Antioxidant capacity of 26 spice extracts and characterization of their phenolic constituents. J Agric Food Chem. 2005;53(20):7749–7759. doi:10.1021/jf051513y.
The volatile oils of CZ has shown 55.9% and 66.9% antioxidant activity at concentrations of 100 and 200 ppm, respectively.13Jayaprakasha GK, Jagan Mohan Rao L, Sakariah KK: Volatile constituents from cinnamomum zeylanicum fruit stalks and their antioxidant activities. J Agric Food Chem 2003, 51:4344–4348.
- Abu El Ezz NMT, Khalil FAM, Shaapan RM: Therapeutic effect of onion (allium cepa) and cinnamon (cinnamomum zeylanicum) oils on cryptosporidiosis in experimentally infected mice. Global Vet 2011, 7:179–183.
- Zhu M, Carvalho R, Scher A, Wu CD: Short-term germ-killing effect of sugar-sweetened cinnamon chewing gum on salivary anaerobes associated with halitosis. J Clin Dent 2011, 22:23–26.
- Ranasinghe P, Pigera S, Premakumara GA, Galappaththy P, Constantine GR, Katulanda P. Medicinal properties of 'true' cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum): a systematic review. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2013;13:275. Published 2013 Oct 22. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-13-275.
- Rana IS, Singh A, Gwal R: In vitro study of antibacterial activity of aromatic and medicinal plants essential oils with special reference to cinnamon oil. Int J Pharm Pharm Sci 2011, 3:376–380.
- Cao H, Urban JF Jr, Anderson RA: Cinnamon polyphenol extract affects immune responses by regulating anti- and proinflammatory and glucose transporter gene expression in mouse macrophages. J Nutr 2008, 138:833–840.
- Gunawardena D, Karunaweera N, Lee S, et al. Anti-inflammatory activity of cinnamon (C. zeylanicum and C. cassia) extracts - identification of E-cinnamaldehyde and o-methoxy cinnamaldehyde as the most potent bioactive compounds. Food Funct. 2015;6(3):910–919.
- Liao, Jung-Chun et al. “Anti Inflammatory Activities of Cinnamomum cassia Constituents In Vitro and In Vivo.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine: eCAM vol. 2012 (2012): 429320.
- Ranasinghe P, Jayawardena R, Pigera S, et al. Evaluation of pharmacodynamic properties and safety of Cinnamomum zeylanicum (Ceylon cinnamon) in healthy adults: a phase I clinical trial. BMC Complement Altern Med 2017;17(1):550.
- Pilapil VR. Toxic manifestations of cinnamon oil ingestion in a child. Clin Pediatr (Phila) 1989;28:276.