I do, as it adds such a great flavour to so many dishes. Cinnamon tastes delicious, and adds a gently spicy aroma to enhance many dishes. So I thought I should look into the health benefits and possible health issues of cinnamon.
First you have to make sure that you are not actually buying cassia cinnamon that is often sold in stores as cinnamon. There is an important difference between cassia cinnamon and true "Ceylon" cinnamon (cinnamomum verum). True "Ceylon" cinnamon is more closely associated with health benefits, and less with potential risks than cassia cinnamon. True cinnamon has a more subtle taste than cassia cinnamon, and is widely used in Indian, Far Eastern and South American dishes, including Mexico.
The image above shows true "Ceylon" cinnamon (cinnamomum verum) that I bought in my local market.
They both share many characteristics, but an important factor that they do not have in common is the coumarin content, with cassia cinnamon having much higher amounts of coumarin. Coumarins can have strong anti-coagulant properties and so people about to have surgery, or who are already taking blood-thinning medication should avoid taking large amounts of cassia cinnamon.
How to tell the difference between true "Ceylon" cinnamon and cassia cinnamon? In the case of powdered cinnamon, read the label carefully, and choose a brand where the manufacturer identifies the source of the cinnamon.
When choosing stick cinnamon, look for the texture and structure of the sticks. Look down the centre of the roll of cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon sticks have one thick sheet that curls inward, whereas true cinnamon has many fine sheets of bark rolling into itself, looking like a cigar. True cinnamon is a light tan brown, and thin and soft, and is easily broken or crushed, whereas cassia cinnamon is reddish brown to dark brown, thick and hard. The surface of cassia cinnamon is rough and uneven, while real cinnamon bark is smooth. True cinnamon has a delicate aroma, whereas cassia cinnamon is strong and peppery.
Cinnamon sticks can be ground in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar to produce cinnamon powder. The difference between the two types of cinnamon when used occasionally in the diet should not pose a health problem, however, if you are an avid cinnamon consumer, then it is recommended that you make sure you find true "Ceylon" cinnamon.
Health benefits of cinnamon:
Arthritis relief - half a teaspoonful of cinnamon powder together with a tablespoonful of honey every day before breakfast gives a significant relief for arthritis pain.
Lower cholesterol - half a teaspoonful of cinnamon per day can lower LDL cholesterol. Yeast infections - cinnamon has the ability to cure yeast infections that have been resistant to medication. Natural anti-bacterial properties - inhibits bacterial growth and food spoilage, making it a natural food preservative.
Memory - cinnamon boosts cognitive function and brain health. Nutrient source - has manganese, calcium and iron properties.
Possible side effects of cinnamon:
Blood thinning - cinnamon has anti-coagulant properties, and could cause problems of over-thinning the blood if you are already taking blood-thinning medication. Large amounts of cinnamon should be avoided in any situation where heavy bleeding could occur.
Kidney and liver problems - the high coumarin content especially in cassia cinnamon, is known to be toxic to the liver and kidneys when taken in high doses.
Blood sugar - those on medication to regulate blood sugar should consult their doctor, as the combination of cinnamon and the medication could lower the blood sugar too much.
Antibiotic - cinnamon has antibiotic properties, so if you are taking prescription antibiotics it could change the way they act on your body.
Stomach and skin irritation - never apply cinnamon directly to the skin, as it can cause burning and irritation. Some problems with the digestive system, such as irritable bowel syndrome could be exacerbated by irritation of the lining of the stomach.
Cinnamon tastes delicious, and adds a gently spicy touch to enhance many dishes. For health reasons, if at all possible try to find true "Ceylon" cinnamon rather than cassia cinnamon, and whichever cinnamon you use, only add small amounts to your daily intake, so you can enjoy all the health benefits while avoiding the possible risks.