Will the REAL Cinnamon Please Stand Up?

real cinnamon vs fake cinnamon

Cinnamon rolls, gingerbread cookies, pumpkin pies, and spiced tea.

As soon as I feel that hint of autumn crispness in the air, I shove the cinnamon and nutmeg to the front of my spice drawer and prepare myself for a season of warm, spicy treats.

I especially adore cinnamon since it’s a great way to add an extra touch of sweetness to a recipe without having to add any additional sugar. The Prairie Kids love it on their homemade applesauce, and I always make cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning.

But the cinnamon I’ve been using in my DIY Pumpkin Pie Spice and cinnamon rolls? It’s not what I thought it was…

I’ve been using an impostor for years. And I didn’t have a clue.

It’s pretty easy to trust labels, huh?

As a real foodie, I’m pretty obsessive about label-reading when I’m buying something at the store. I don’t care much about calories or fat content, but I always check the ingredient list for names I can’t pronounce, or the big “no-nos” like MSG or hydrogenated oils.

And when I buy a baggie of ground cinnamon, or cinnamon sticks, then by golly–I assume I’m buying honest-to-goodness cinnamon. And why wouldn’t I?

I was tricked.

Not too long ago, a reader commented on my Honey Cinnamon Peaches post and said the cinnamon sticks in my photo weren’t really true cinnamon sticks.

Say what?

Of course they were cinnamon! They looked like cinnamon and smelled like cinnamon, so what else could they be?

Well, come to find out, my dear readers, I was wrong.

real cinnamon

What’s the difference?

There are lots of different cinnamon varieties, but the two most common are:

  • Cinnamomum zeylanicum or Cinnamomum Verum--commonly known as Ceylon cinnamonIt comes from Sri Lanka and is harvested from the inner bark of the tree. It is considered to be “true” cinnamon. If you live in Great Britain, it’s likely that you are already enjoying this variety which is said to have a sweeter and more subtle taste.
  • Cinnamomum cassia or Chinese cinnamon or Cassia cinnamon. Cassia is a relative to Cinnamomum zeylanicum–BUT–they do not come from the same plant. Cassia has a less delicate flavor than Ceylon cinnamon, and is far cheaper to purchase. So if you wanted to get technical, I guess you could say cassia is still cinnamon since it is still in the same family of trees. But a culinary master will be the first to tell you that Ceylon cinnamon is the “real stuff,” and cassia is the less-expensive counterfeit.

And guess which one Americans are using?

Ding-ding-ding! If you said cassia, you win the prize!

That’s right, the FDA says it’s OK for cassia cinnamon to be labeled exactly the same as Ceylon cinnamon. (2)(3) Therefore, most of the cinnamon sold in the US is actually cassia. Who woulda thought?

So what? I don’t mind using cassia.

Obviously, I’ve grow up with cassia (even though I didn’t know it), so initially I wasn’t too broken-hearted to learn I’d been duped. I planned on continuing to use cassia cinnamon–especially since it’s way cheaper.

But there’s this thing called coumarin…

Coumarin is a sweet-smelling chemical that is naturally found in cassia. It’s even been used as an additive to perfumes and pipe tobaccos to improve the smell. However, this report from the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment in Germany caught my eye.:

“From use of coumarin as pharmaceutical, it is known that even relatively small doses can lead to liver damage in sensitive persons. The value of the Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) was established on the basis of the pure substance, i.e. of isolated coumarin. By conducting studies on the bioavailability of coumarin in the human organism, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has demonstrated that coumarin contained in the plant matrix of cinnamon is absorbed by the body to a similar degree as isolated coumarin. The TDI therefore also applies to coumarin in cinnamon. “

So basically, that’s saying that consuming large amounts of coumarin, even in the form of cinnamon, could result in liver damage.


How much is too much?

Eh… good question.

One study conducted in Norway suggests that the Total Daily Intake (TDI) of coumarin not exceed 0.07 mg/kg bw/day:

“Based on analyses of coumarin in Norwegian foods, intake calculations for children and adults were conducted, and a risk assessment of coumarin in the Norwegian population was performed. Intake estimates of coumarin show that small children eating oatmeal porridge several times a week sprinkled with cinnamon could have a coumarin intake of 1.63 mg/kg bw/day and may exceeding the TDI with several folds. Adults drinking cinnamon-based tea and consuming cinnamon supplements also can exceed TDI. The coumarin intake could exceed the TDI by 7- to 20-fold in some intake scenarios. Such large daily exceedances of TDI, even for a limited time period of 1–2 weeks, cause concern of adverse health effects.” (5)

So technically, dumping a generous helping of cinnamon on my kids’ oatmeal every single morning might not be such a good idea. Of course, there are a lot of variables happening here… Body weight, type of cinnamon, and exactly how much coumarin that particular batch contains. But still… I’m not sure if I really want to play around with it–especially on a long-term basis.

But–there’s good news.

Ceylon cinnamon contains very low amounts of coumarin. It’s cassia cinnamon that is the main offender here. One study showed that, on average, cassia cinnamon powder had 63 times more coumarin than Ceylon cinnamon powder. (4)

How do I tell them apart?

Sadly, it’s not easy for the average person to tell the difference between Ceylon and cassia. Now maybe if you have a palate like Chef Gordon Ramsey, it’s totally obvious… But I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t know cassia cinnamon powder from Ceylon cinnamon powder if it hit me in the face.

Your best bet is to purchase your ground cinnamon from a reputable dealer who clearly labels their packages.

Thankfully, it IS fairly easy to tell the difference between Ceylon and cassia sticks.

realcinnaonTrue Ceylon cinnamon sticks will be composed of many layers, and almost remind me of a cigar. They are slightly lighter in color, and can easily be ground or crushed in your coffee or spice grinder.

fakecinnaomnCassia sticks are much harder and are a single layer. More than likely, these are what you think of when someone mentions cinnamon sticks. They are usually darker brown, and you’ll have a tough time grinding these babies at home.

I found lots of options for real Ceylon cinnamon on Amazon–everything from ground powder to sticks or “quills.”

(These are affiliate links, just FYI)

Am I losing sleep over this?

No, not at all. However, since I do use cinnamon liberally in my home, and I like “real” stuff anyway, I will be replacing all of my “fake” cinnamon with genuine Ceylon cinnamon.

If someone offers me a cinnamon roll made with cassia cinnamon? I’ll still eat it–no problem. It’s not something I’m going to spend a lot of time worrying about–although I do think it’s good to be aware of it.

If you are using a lot of home remedies that call for hefty amounts of cinnamon (like this incredible-looking Cinnamon-Coconut Oil-Honey Elixir), or using cinnamon as a daily supplement, I’d definitely seek out the real thing–just to be safe.

I hope you didn’t mind the detour from barnyard tips and homestead recipes today– but who would have thought cinnamon could be so interesting? Or maybe I’m just a kitchen geek. 😉

P.S. I wrote the word cinnamon so many times in this post, it’s starting to look funny and I can’t tell if I spelled it right…


(1) http://scientopia.org/blogs/thirtyseven/2012/12/18/tis-the-season-for-cinnamon-or-is-it-cassia/

(2) http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/ComplianceManuals/CompliancePolicyGuidanceManual/ucm074468.htm

(3) http://scientopia.org/blogs/thirtyseven/2012/12/18/tis-the-season-for-cinnamon-or-is-it-cassia/

(4) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101103135352.htm

(5) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691511006703


Can't Get Enough Homesteading Goodness?

Join over 67,000 others who get the weekly Homestead Toolbox delivered fresh to their inbox. It's packed full of recipes, ideas, and homesteading tips you can actually use (no fluff), plus a copy of my very popular mulch gardening how-to guide.

Let's go!


  1. says

    Jill, as usual, you’ve opened my mind up to something incredibly new and interesting. I had no idea!! Thanks for this very informative article. I’ll share it!

  2. says

    I did a post last year about the benefits of cinnamon when my readers set me straight. I recently took the plunge and bought the REAL stuff – and man alive. No comparison. And I won’t look back! It takes coffee to a whole new level. :-)

  3. Penny says

    I loved this article. No worries on a detour, it’s all related to our health. What a fascinating thing to know. I will definitely be sharing this!

  4. Heather Winch says

    Once again the FDA is failing us…sorry getting political is yucky. But seriously! Is anything REAL anymore? THANK YOU JILL! I will be sharing this with my friends and family. I’ve been promoting Cinnamon as a good flavoring and envigoration for the senses.
    If you ever need help in team investigation of food ingredients I’d love to be part of it!
    Kind Regards, Heather

      • AJ says

        always trust your own intuition…. and do your own research … its a world of money and money is what this world is about, until people figure out that money does not heal cancer and allergies and all the other stuff what comes with eating certain so called “foods” … it teaches everyone to trust only yourself and to seek truth in nature, because thats the only thing we can 100% trust.

  5. Valerie Blackketter= says

    Ugh! I’m so disappointed. I’ve encouraged people for years to get more cinnamon into their systems. I use a fair amount of cinnamon and I’m not sure buying the real stuff is an option. Boo. BOO!!!

  6. Tita Sokoloff says

    I liberally use organic cinnamon. Just ran a checked the label…..fake! UGH! I try to be so thorough, but the cinnamon scam slipped right by me.
    Thanks for this article,Jill.

  7. says

    Well, you have convinced me to splurge for the Ceylon now… But, here’s my big concern: As a user — as are you, I know — I use Cassia EOs regularly– most notably through all the OnGuard products. Is Cassia essential oil something we should be concerned with using?

    • Deana says

      I’ve been enjoying one drop of cassis EO in my coffee each morning. I hope you find encouraging news about this!

  8. deb c. says

    Thanks so much for the post…I just want you to know that when I learn something from you, it has “ripples”…I always tell my mom & my daughter and I’m sure that they, then, pass it on as well. As for this post…I, too, LOVE cinnamon & will be replacing my stores with the REAL stuff as it dwindles down. Thanks again! I enjoy your blog!

  9. Tanja says

    Interesting read and good information. My sister pointed out these two different varieties of cinnamon to me just this spring. I do think you should refer to them as ‘Ceylon’ and ‘Cassia’ instead of ‘real’ and ‘fake’ because they are in fact both ‘real’ cinnamon, one just has healthier properties than the other.

    • says

      Yes, I prefer the Ceylon and Cassia labels as well– but online a lot of folks refer to them as real and fake too. So it’s good to know either way. :)

  10. Larissa says

    It’s funny that you bring this subject up. My daughter has been really sick this week & as I was looking up home remedies I came across giving her 1 tsp of organic honey with 1/4 tsp cinnamon. In the comments a reader mentioned the difference between real cinnamon. I had no idea, I’m working on my real foods journey and I just feel so disgusted. Is any of our food in the grocery store real anymore? So frustrating!

  11. Terri says

    YIKES! I’ve seen an “expert” on on a talk show (I forget which one), say to use up to 2 TBS of cinnamon a day to boost your metabolism! While she did mention the possible liver damage if you use more than that, she did NOT mention anything about using Ceylon versus Cassia. Maybe she also was unaware of the difference? Guess who’s been adding 1-2 TBS a day in their coffee…yep….me! Going to read my cinnamon label. Thank you a hundred times for your post…you may have saved my liver!!

    • lucy lu says

      Thank you for the information. I have been using cinnamon since I was a little girl. I use it in mostly everything I can. With this new information about cinnamon, I am making sure that I get the real stuff from now on.

  12. Mare says

    I think your doing a great job on try to keep us up to date on things. Because I believe the world is no longer looking out for us. Everyone seems to be more and more on their own these days. I really try hard on growing our own food more and more. I just order the dvd on canning. Can’t wait to get it. We have a garden, livestock, and I buy very little at the store. I know there is a lot of stuff I still need to buy. But it’s nice to know that maybe one day I could do without a lot of the box and package stuff. Everyday it’s something new around here. And it get’s me closer to living off of what we grow in our back yard. And it sure is nice to have this group to read about what is really happening out in the food chain. So with that 2 cents I’m going to check my cinnamon????? Hope everyone has a great day!!!!!! Mare

  13. Cara says

    A really great site for REAL cinnamon, all kinds is Penzey’s Spices. They have the most amazing fresh spices, but be warned, you may never go back to store bought spices again. The Vietnamese Cinnamon is out of this world, and they have not only education on the types, but Chinese Cinnamon as well as Ceylon. I would imagine that perhaps the vietnamese cinnamon has the “bad” oil in it, but wow oh wow is it ever the best!!http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzeys/p-penzeyscinnamon.html

    • Amy says

      Penzeys does have great spices but as a company they ACTIVELY promote alternative lifestyles. For that reason I no longer support them.

      • Cara says

        Wow, didn’t know that…. Thanks for sharing. Where did you find that info?? Just curious as that is not something I want to support either.

        • Amy says

          Because I have ordered from them by mail, I receive their catalog. Last year, in several issues, the opening letter made some comments about embracing all people and it sounded a little suspicious. When I began reading through the catalog, they had featured alternative lifestyle couples right alongside traditional couples. I think this was a mothers day issue. And they Have done this several times. This week I received an email about the anniversary of Gettysburg and the owner was encouraging everyone to go back and read Lincolns Gettysburg address and to pay close attention to what Lincoln said about the equality of all our citizens. After several issues of theiu catalog, I have no doubt that he isnt referring to race. It is too bad. They have a lot ofgreat products. I have gone round and round about continuin to buy from them.

          • Don says

            Wow Amy and Cara. Thank you!! Thank you so much for alerting me to the horrible agenda of Penzey’s Spices. God forbid we should embrace all people. I shudder at the thoughts. Also, thank you for helping me recognize that “embracing all people” now constitutes “Actively promoting” however they choose to lead their life in our free country. Your are so wise to recognize that this is anti-American, and probably horribly contrary to your faith. I’m sure you would hate where I worship, where we worship Jesus Christ and are so misguided as to be thankful that Jesus, embraced all and included everyone. Lincoln must have been an idiot talking about the “equality of all our citizens.” Oh, unless he meant “equality of all our citizens who live the way Amy and Cara want them to live.” In that case he was brilliant.

            ps. I hope you find a place to buy the kind of cinnamon that won’t ruin your liver.

      • Perrine Anderson says

        Really? Penzy’s promotes ” alternative lifestyles” ? SWEET; I’m headed to the site right now :)

        • Halaluani Aulani says

          I’m right behind you, Perrine. Jesus has been misrepresented from the beginning. . It takes willingness, sincerity, and an open heart to know the heart of Jesus. When we embrace this we can walk our own unique path in life powered by love the way Jesus walked his.

      • Sandy R says

        So you have a problem with alternate lifestyles? As an older gay person, I take offense. Where do you get off passing judgement on others?

        • Tina says

          It is not Judgement when we are called to hold others accountable…per the bible. Accountable to Gods rights and wrongs, not ours. If it is about what “I” want and “My” way, it is judging. If I am referring to what God says is wrong or right it is holding ourselves and others accountable to Gods truths and ways. Judging has become the poster child “word” to excuse ourselves and others of doing what is wrong by Gods words not mine. We still have the right in this country to support what we know to be truth, per the bible, in what we buy, use and sell.

          • Sany R says

            It’s sadly amusing how you conveniently justify being judgmental by “holding others accountable per the bible”. Clever. Not.

      • steve says

        Thanks Amy for pointing out their moral stance.
        Along with you I will also not contribute to that company for the same reason.
        Interesting how those “tolerant” ones start throwing the knives the moment that we dont agree with their values, yet they attempt to legislate their values upon us!
        I really dont care what people choose to do, I just choose not to support them financially if I disagree with their position. No different than not buying a product that contains HFCS and going to another product,..am I intolerant to monsanto for not supporting their cause?? I think not.

  14. Carla says

    Two other sources are Mountain Rose Herbs, (all organic, although they’re frequently out of the true stuff!) and The Spice and Tea Exchange. We had a local franchise in town for a while: don’t know how organic their products are for sure but they have been wonderful to work with! Here’s their description of the ‘good stuff’:
    Originating from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Southern India, “true cinnamon” is different from the “cassia” that is commonly but incorrectly considered cinnamon. True cinnamon has a smooth and slightly citrus flavor, as well as a much softer texture than cassia. It is mainly used for baking and desserts. (http://www.spiceandtea.com/cinnamon-ceylon-true-cinnamon-p-618.html)

  15. says

    Thank you so much for writing this. I’ve had a vague notion for a while now that there was “real” cinnamon and “fake” cinnamon. You know, one of those things that you know you’ve heard before when it’s mentioned and then promptly forget about? Anyway, I’ve never done much research or understood most of what little I did do. This article was very informative and easy to understand and I’m going to make the effort to get the “real” stuff from now on. The old bottle is going to be put to use being simmered in water with orange peels to make the house smell good :)

  16. says

    Thanks for sharing all this info! I love cinnamon (and have even eaten a whole spoonful of it as part of a college dare…), and am looking for ways to incorporate more organic options into my daily lifestyle. Much to study on.


  17. Joyce Randall says

    So, is it safe to say the Cinnamomum cassia available in the United States is likely sourced from China ?

  18. says

    Wow! Awhile back I learned about the different species of cinnamon from an episode of Good Eats, but was not aware of the coumarin factor. I purposely add cinnamon (cassia) to my foods as a health benefit, but now I’m thinking I need to switch to ceylon. Thanks for this info!

  19. Kimberly says

    Thank you for this tidbit of information – I sure didn’t know! (And one of these days I’ll stop being surprised to find out info like this!) We are currently using Spice Islands cinnamon, so I looked on their website to see which kind they use. Yep! Cassia, and they lead you to think it is the better kind! From their site: “With its rich hue and warm aroma, cinnamon brings spicy sweetness to all kinds of baked goods. But all cinnamon is not the same. There are two main varieties of cinnamon, Ceylon and cassia. While their flavors are similar, cassia tends to have a richer, sweeter taste and Ceylon a milder taste. We source our Spice Islands® cinnamon from the forests of Vietnam, known for its premium cassia. High in volatile oils, the Vietnamese cassia trees produce a deep, reddish-brown cinnamon with an intense fragrance and sweet, red-hot-candy-like flavor.” Hmph…

  20. Cocomama says

    Based on the pictures, my mom has always purchased the ugly “real” cinnamon sticks from the Mexican markets growing up here in SoCal. The sticks were actually cheaper than the prettier “fake” single layer ones. I imagined that when I was grown I would only buy the pretty single layer sticks that come 3 to a spice jar at the American stores and not the ugly multi layer sticks from the Mexican market.

    Mom’s right again. Go figure.

  21. says

    Thanks so much for this info. I had no idea there was such a difference. It is especially important to me because my family is prone to liver disease, and we are also quite liberal cinnamon users (I just made cinnamon oatmeal cookies for my kids’ snack about an hour ago…).

    Oh, and it’s not just the FDA: here in Europe we’re getting duped with the fake stuff, too.

  22. Nancy Cole says

    thank you for this formation. Being I have lived with bad liver since birth, and I am encouraging others in the family about their food stuff, your information/research Is truly appreciated. Don’t ever think it off course from homesteading. Aren’t we trying to live closer ‘to the land’? :-)

  23. Nancy Cole says

    big ooopppss!!! after it left, noticed wrong email it is nac217cole@gmail, left out the 1. Really, need a new key board, this one does not print every key I choose. -)

  24. says

    I accidentally stumbled on Ceylon cinnamon last year when I ordered some spices from http://www.myspicesage.com and they included a couple ounces of it for free. IT was phenomenal! I could definitely tell the difference – much fresher, more vibrant and strong smelling. I also ended up using a lot less because it tastes so strong. And yeah I sound like a commercial for the stuff but it was GOOD! So I’d recommend buying it there – I haven’t looked at the Amazon prices but I like MSS since they always send freebies with orders. And I haven’t ordered a spice yet that wasn’t fresh and fantastic from them. Once I had some Ceylon I knew I wouldn’t go back to cheap cinnamon ever again.

  25. susan says

    penzeys spices has about 4 or 5 types of cinnamon and they all have very different
    scents and tastes
    i knew we were eating the cheaper type here in the us but didnt know about
    coumarin. as a person that can only take acetaminaphen for pain, this is good to know
    thank you so much

  26. says

    Liver damage aside there is another good reason to switch to Ceylon cinnamon–it helps regulate blood sugar. Diabetics are often told by their doctors to take cinnamon (most doctors don’t know the difference either) and they go to their local grocery store and buy…cassia. Since cassia does not regulate blood sugar the way cinnamon does, these folks think they are helping their diabetes when in fact, because they take large amounts, they are just causing possible harm to their livers. Same goes for essential oils–cinnamon oil regulates blood sugar not cassia oil and that is why cinnamon is one of the ingredients in Slim & Sassy. BTW most Americans have at least borderline high blood sugar because of all the added sugar we eat in all our processed food. Switch to Ceylon cinnamon (or cinnamon EO) and it’s a win-win for your health.

  27. Vivian says

    I use the Vietnamese or Saigon cinnamon all the time. Sprinkled on my sprouted grain bread with coconut oil, almond butter and a little cinnamon on top. Also use it to make my own chai blend. Does this variety have the higher amounts of the coumarin in it? I hope not I really love it!

    • Megan K says

      This doesn’t specifically answer the question about coumarin, but…
      Wiki says “Despite its name, it [Saigon cinnamon] is more closely related to cassia (C. cassia) than to cinnamon (C. verum, “true cinnamon”, Ceylon cinnamon), though in the same genus as both. Saigon cinnamon has 1-5% essential oil in content and 25% cinnamaldehyde in essential oil, which is the highest of all the cinnamon species. Consequently, out of the three species, it commands the highest price.”

  28. says

    I have just begun eating cinnamon everyday, one of “ten foods you must eat daily” for excellent health, so I really appreciate this information. I’m sending it on to my nutritionist — and telling her to subscribe to your blog.

  29. says

    This is so interesting, informative and eye-opening. Thank you so much for doing the homework for us and telling us about this. I am definitely putting the Ceylon cinnamon on my to-buy list.

  30. Elizabeth Hardwick says

    That explains the difference in some of my recipes from when I made them in Enfland and now living in Canada for the last 14 years. Going to look for real cinnamon.

    • Megan K says

      Here is what I found —
      “Saigon Cinnamon is another Cinnamon which has gained in popularity recently. It tends to be even more spicy and strong and sweet at the same time. It’s a little more expensive than Cassia Cinnamon but has the highest levels of Coumarin.

      Ceylon Cinnamon has one advantage over all other types of Cinnamon. It has ultra low coumarin levels. Coumarin in high doses causes liver failure, so for people who take Cinnamon on a daily basis,Ceylon Cinnamon is the preferred choice. Click here to read the research on Cassia Cinnamon and Coumarin.” (http://www.cinnamonvogue.com/Types_of_Cinnamon_1.html)

  31. Sheri says

    I buy cinnamon in bulk, but now I’m going to go for the healthier one. Like someone else said, it’s good for blood sugars! I used to add so much to my food. In my cinnamon rolls I dump lots of it on top of the honey.

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention!

  32. Jaimn says

    hmm, I’d better check the label on my cinnamon pills – I usually pop 8-10 when I’m feeling bad (like a bladder infection or something). Yikes!

    I tried to buy some sticks at a “natural” non-gmo store, and my child pointed out that there was mold on one… I told the sales girl that and she said, “Yeah, the sticks do that”. Yuck!

    Thanks for posting this information – it’s something everyone can use, and not really off-topic. :)

    For colds, I like to cook honey, cinnamon, and lemon slices into a “tea”, which I will then add to my favorite tea bag (or just hot water) and drink down. Yummm!

  33. says

    Types of cinnamon have distinct medicinal properties and which one you choose will depend on why you’re using it. Cassia Cinnamon isn’t fake, it’s just a different species of cinnamon bark from a different tree. Just as there are different types of mint. Ceylon isn’t more real than Cassia and the term “real cinnamon” is always in quotes when people recommend it as such, because it’s their personal opinion. How you use the cinnamon (powder, stick, or essential oil) will determine what you get out of it (both good and harmful in high quantities). It also depends on your personal health. Some health conditions would be benefited from one cinnamon over the other. It’s really all going to depend on why you’re using it.

  34. Ann Marie Forbes Jones says

    I wonder where this leaves we diabetics that are paying top dollar for cinnamon capsules from behind the pharmacists counter because we were told this would control blood sugar spikes?

  35. says

    I recently finished chemo for breast cancer. When I found this out I researched like crazy on natural remedies. I found an article but cannot put my finger on it now about this very post by Prairie Homestead has shared. Real cinnamon is for you. Not the mislabeled crap. Our governments allow this sneaky stuff here in North America and probably around the rest of the world too. As most of us know it is all about the money. My dad thought he was doing the right thing and bought an ancient grain bread for me….it looked like whole wheat. I showed him the label. There was very little whole wheat in it it. The first ingredient was white flour. The ancient grains were flakes here and there. It had a lot of words that most people don’t understand and the best bluff of all is the molasses they add to make it the brown colour. They found a way to label their bread without telling the whole truth. How misleading. I will not mention the company for fear of being sued. Lesson here is to check your labels. All about the money. Sorry people but I could go on about this for a very long time. Until we start calling all these companies on and demanding better policies from our governments we will continue to be sicker nations. Support the small companies that are being honest. They may be a bit pricier but I would pay anything not to have had cancer.
    Fantastic article Pioneer Woman…write some more.

    • kim says


  36. Ellie says

    This was a really interesting read, I live in England and confess at school we were taught in our cookery lessons that there was what were called “fake cinnamon” but what made this interesting is how the USA has again been “misled” in their food labelling. I read an article yesterday on 10 foods that are common in the US that have actually been banned in Europe on medical grounds. It is really sad and i honestly can say i do feel for you over there trying to give the very best to your families and not having clear labelling to rely on. Ellie.

  37. says

    So, if I did the math right, I shouldn’t exceed 5.39 mg of coumarin a day. But how much is in cassia cinnamon? I was taking 1000 mg of cinnamon a day. Pretty sure I was ODing. LOL

  38. Michelle says

    The cinnamon I have always used is “korintje” cinnamon. Do you know anything about this kind?

  39. christianmotherof5 says

    Hello. I found this out the hard way. I was placing an order for my monthly coop and typed in cinnamon and three different ones came up. I was shocked. There was one called Saigon Cinnamon. Is this what you are referring to when you say Chinese cinnamon? Thanks for the post. I think more people should know about these kinds of things. Kind of like the whole salt issue. People have the right to know.

  40. KatieAnn says

    Thanks so much! Curious, anyone know which most likely my “Kirkland signature, ground Saigon cinnamon” is says from tropical highlands off Vietnam?

    • Anne says

      I was wondering the same thing. We sprinkle it on our coffee grounds before brewing each morning, Since we are in our mid-50’s and early 60’s it is important to know. Anyone?

  41. Janelle says

    Well there you have it. This is something I was unaware of to and use cinnamon quite a lot in my smoothies and over my oatmeal etc. I checked my cupboard only to find that the cinnamon sticks I have are indeed cassia cinnamon sticks. Very interesting and I will definitely be looking out for Ceylon cinnamon from now on. Thank you

  42. Rob says

    Great article and I like your closing argument. Articles for raising awareness that are written with an open mind I like so much better than the ones that are clearly written with a one sided view on the matter. Brilliant. And it made me check my cinnamon sticks. I never knew there were different versions. I have the real ones but I couldn’t tell what kind my powdered cinnamon is.

  43. Amy says

    I’ve known the difference of the two for some time…wanted to add cinnamon to my diet but unsure of where to get it…..do you know of a legit company where I can purchase Ceylon?

  44. AngelaT says

    This had me in a panic, but then I did some more research and it looks like the coumarin is fat soluble, so then using the cassia sticks in hot tea does not extract the harmful coumarin. Is this true?

  45. Mark Sciscenti says

    Thank you Jill, this is a great way to spread the word. I have been using Cinnamomum zeylanicum for over 12 years now. As a pastry chef/baker and chocolatier I learned how to tell the difference between the two Cinnamomum varietals. Ceylon cinnamon has a lighter flavor with a floral bouquet without the harsh acidic burn. I use it in my drinking chocolates as well as in baked goods – a much better flavor. On another note – when you boil liquids with cassia cinnamon, the liquid takes on a mucilaginous quality. Quite gross.

  46. Rachel Greenfield says

    Cassia cinnamon is not “fake” cinnamon. It is Cassia cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon is the original culinary cinnamon but that doesn’t make Cassia a fake. You also need to realize that the amount of coumarin needed to produce hepatotoxicity is higher than what you’ll get eating normal amounts of Cassia cinnamon. In addition, coumarin is not the bad guy here, it is beneficial in the smaller amounts you would put in food. To borrow some info from a Wiki article: ” Coumarins have shown some evidence of many biological activities, but they are approved for few medical uses as pharmaceuticals. Reported coumarin activity includes anti-HIV, anti-tumor, anti-hypertension, anti-arrhythmia, anti-inflammatory, anti-osteoporosis, antiseptic, and analgesic. It is also used in the treatment of asthma and lymphedema.” It is great for people who retain water or have inflammatory conditions, and this is backed by solid medical research. Ceylon cinnamon is better for culinary use as it has a finer flavor, Cassia cinnamon is better for use in herbal medicine because of its chemical makeup, but both are safe in culinary quantities. We use more dangerous substances in cooking all the time, parsley for instance can cause spontaneous abortion and anemia, and people with kidney disease are told not to eat it because it can worsen their condition. However, it’s fine for most people to eat it. It drives me batty when people learn a few facts about a food then decide to try turning everyone against it without understanding everything about it. Having a background in biochemistry and being passionate about the chemistry of food probably makes me more aware of things like this but doing your research about something before making up your mind is never a bad thing. Please educate yourself more about Cassia cinnamon before telling people that it is fake and bad.

  47. Xamayta says

    I have recently switched to Spice Island brand cinnamon and vanilla extract. It says it is from Saigon. I did notice that the cinnamon is a lot lighter and the texture is more “powdery”. The flavor is a bit different when comparing it to the McCormick brand, which is a bit darker and grainier in texture…. so, can I trust that it is the desirable kind? I sure do hope so, for how expensive it is.

  48. Serena says

    So cool! My husband just picked up some cinnamon min for me at the Asian grocery and I noticed the picture on the front looked different from what I expected cinnamon to look like. I stuck in my finger to taste it and Wow! Really good tasting cinnamon. I now know the picture is of Ceylon cinnamon and it certainly does have a sweeter taste!

  49. Laura says

    What about Saigon Cinnamon? My mother just gifted me with two good sized containers of it and now I’m all confused and stuff. I love cinnamon and we use it often in my house. Especially since finding out the cinnamon/honey mixture does actually work to shorten cold times. :)

  50. Anne says

    Thanks for posting this. My sister wanted to use cinnamon to control her diabetes. will be sure to tell her that Ceylon is the best and most healthy. thanks.

  51. Stephanie says

    I started reading out of curiosity but then I realized how pertinent this is to me!! My daughter has a feeding tube and I blend her food. I give her amazingly healthy foods….but I add four or five shakes of cinnamon to her blend daily to make it smell good (it contains a full day of food including meat and can smell less than appetizing. I will most certainly be switching!!! Thank you for this insightful article!!!!

  52. Christie says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am SO glad to find content on this! I heard about this years ago and never really thought much of it, but now that we are committed to natural health and healing cinnamon is pretty much a daily part of our lives in one way or another. Makes me wonder if there are ANY health benefits to the “fake” cinnamon. Now I have to share this with others because I have been promoting cinnamon as health promoter and now I feel like a charleton. :/

  53. Laurel says

    I learned about 6 years ago there was a difference, when I was trying a recipe that called for Ceylonese cinnamon. I researched the differences, luckily it is available through Penzeys Spices, right close to my discount food market, at the time.
    I didn’t know about the coumarin, which also used to make comadin, a potent blood thinner.
    Cinnamon is also very good for stabilizing blood sugars and I would like to know which cinnamon works best.

  54. says

    This is my first visit to your site. I really enjoy your homesteading theme. Being self-sufficient is something I greatly value as well. :)

    This article on Cinnamon is very interesting. I recall hearing a long time ago that a lot of “cinnamon” sold in standard grocery store is not really cinnamon at all. Like you, I was shocked to learn this. Your article really clarifies everything! Thanks!


  55. Betty Mauer says

    Thanks for the information, I’ve had both kinds in my cupboard and never really noticed the difference until reading this info. Their really is a difference the Ceylon is more pronounced in the smell and taste. I’m going to replace mine with the Ceylon. Thanks again for sharing.

  56. Cheryl says

    So what is Cinnamomum burmannii? That is the kind of cinnamon I’ve been using from “simply organics” which comes from Frontier that you linked above.

  57. says

    As with all things, moderation is key. It’s great to be informed consumers, so thank you for this article. I’d like to share a little more info about the cinnamon “sisters”, so to speak.

    As an Herbalist, I try to keep up with new clinical discoveries, so I did more research. The articles consistently stated that the potential for liver damage with Cassia were possible for a sensitive person who went beyond the recommended dose for a long period of time. This means an average adult would have to be eating almost a whole cinnamon stick a day to be over the recommended dose, and the quantity of coumarins varies between plants, soil, times of year, weather, etc. Ceylon cinnamon certainly does have less coumarins and is a good choice if you’re heavy-handed with cinnamon in your daily diet. From the data I found, a few sprinkles on your oatmeal are not going to take you over the limit. Tossing out all the Cassia in the cabinet and swearing off it for life is probably unnecessary, unless you already have liver problems.

    So the good news is that we probably didn’t cause our kids any harm by adding Cassia cinnamon to their daily oatmeal or applesauce. :)

    Cassia is a wonderful medicinal spice and has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for over 2,000 years as a circulatory tonic and diaphoretic (causes sweating). It also relieves gastric distress like nausea and gas, and enhances circulation to the arms, legs and pelvis. It is used for conditions like peripheral neuropathy, Raynaud’s syndrome, fibroids, and ovarian cysts.

    Ceylon is also used medicinally and has been shown to help inhibit allergic reactions and reduce hemoglobin A1C in type 2 diabetics.

    Both of these spices are useful in the kitchen as well as part of a medicinal protocol by a qualified herbal practitioners.

    For the person who brought up concern about the relation of coumarins to the pharmaceutical drug Coumadin (warfarin), coumarins in plants don’t thin the blood like the drug.

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention! :)

  58. Lori says

    I just checked my cupboard and I have McCormicks brand cinnamon and the only other words on the label are Canela Molida. Like you, I assumed I was buying pure cinnamon so now I’m wondering what is this stuff? Do I need to toss it?

    I have read so much about the health benefits of cinnamon that I’ve been trying to find more ways to use it over the past year. Just need to make sure I’m making a healthy choice!

  59. Cyndi Ramos says

    I have some cinnamon called Saigon cinnamon that Kirkland puts out. What would this be?

  60. zoe says

    great article with useful links…
    I’m a cinnamon/cardomon/cloves girl in my coffe with coconut milk….so will check the veracity of the cinnamon i buy as organic/powdered from health food co here…

  61. Peter Boorman says

    Very interesting. I’ve known for a while that the cinnamon I buy and cook with here in the UK, which is the real thing, gives me no problems, whereas ‘cinnamon’ on some bought/prepared foods is a migraine trigger for me. Since it seems to me to be ‘some’ prepared foods with cinnamon here, but ‘most’ prepared foods with cinnamon when I’m in the US, that cause problems maybe it’s cassia that’s the problem. I’ve heard of coumarin being a trigger for some people, so that’s something I’m definitely going to investigate further now.

    Thank you!