Cinnamon: Important Facts, Health Benefits, and Recipes

Cinnamon is a popular spice known for its sweet and warm flavor profile, and it is often used in both sweet and savory dishes around the world.

What is Cinnamon?

Cinnamon is a fragrant spice that comes from the inner bark of a tree.  Cinnamon is made by cutting the stems of cinnamon trees (Cinnamomum verum). The inner bark is removed and saved and the outer woody parts discarded. The inner bark forms strips that curl into rolls when it is dried, forming cinnamon sticks that we are familiar with. Cinnamon sticks can be used whole or ground into a powder.

Is Cinnamon Good For You?

Yes! There is research showing that cinnamon does have some health benefits (antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and antimicrobial properties), depending on the variety and quality used.

6 Health Benefits Of Cinnamon

1. Cinnamon has antioxidants.

  • Cinnamaldehyde, a polyphenol compound, in cinnamon has been found to have antioxidant properties.
  • Antioxidants are substances that may protect our cells from free radicals. Free radicals (found in our environment and our food) may contribute to conditions such as heart disease and cancer.

2. Cinnamon may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

3. Cinnamon may help with Type 2 Diabetes.

  • Some studies show that it could help with insulin resistance and to help lower blood sugar

4. Cinnamon may reduce cholesterol levels (total cholesterol and LDL, aka the ‘bad’ cholesterol).

5. Cinnamon may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

6. Cinnamon can be an antimicrobial (antibacterial).

    • Historically cinnamon was used to preserve meats when refrigeration was not available



History, Background, and General Facts About Cinnamon

  • Cinnamon is native to Asia: Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon), the coast of India, and Myanmar (Burma) and is now cultivated in South America and the West Indies.
  • Cinnamon has been consumed by humans for thousands of years (dating back as early as 2,000 B.C.).
  • Cinnamon was used in Egypt for embalming and religious practices. 
  • Cinnamon was used as a preservative for meats during the winter thousands of years ago.
  • Doctors used cinnamon to treat conditions like coughing, arthritis, and sore throats in medieval times.

What Are The Cuisines That Regularly Include Cinnamon?

  • Ethiopian: berbere spice blend
  • Vietnamese: pho broth
  • Moroccan: tajines
  • Middle Eastern: baharat spice blend
  • Indian: garam masala
  • Chinese: Chinese 5-spice blend
  • Mexican: Mexican chocolate 
  • American: coffeecake, apple pie, and chili

What Is The Best Way To Store Cinnamon?

The best way to store cinnamon is in a cool, dry place away from heat and sunlight, such as a pantry.

What Are The Different Types Of Cinnamon?

There are two main types of commercial cinnamon: Ceylon Cinnamon and Cassia Cinnamon

  • Ceylon cinnamon
    • Mostly produced in Sri Lanka
    • Some people call it ‘true cinnamon’
    • The more expensive cinnamon and has more health benefits
    • Has a milder, sweeter flavor, best for baking and hot drinks such as hot chocolate
    • If you buy supplements, they will likely be Ceylon if it is a good quality supplement
  • Cassia cinnamon originates from Southern China and is mostly produced in Indonesia and has the stronger smell and flavor of the two varieties. 
    • This cheaper variety is what we typically find in the spice aisle at the grocery store and what is in products containing cinnamon
  • Other types: 
    • Chinese cassia (Cinnamomum cassia)
    • Vietnamese or Saigon cinnamon (C. loureiroi)
    • Indonesian cinnamon (C. burmannii)
    • Malabar cinnamon (C. citriodorum)

Toxicity and Side Effects Of Cinnamon

  • With limited research on cinnamon supplementation, children, pregnant women, and women who are breastfeeding should avoid cinnamon as a treatment or talk to their doctor. Cinnamon may affect blood sugar, so if you have diabetes talk to your doctor before beginning supplements.
  • If you regularly take any medications, talk to your doctor before you start using cinnamon supplements. They could affect the way antibiotics, diabetes drugs, blood thinners, heart medicines, and others work.

What Is The Best Substitute For Cinnamon If I Don't Have Any?

If you don't have cinnamon available or need a substitute for it in a recipe, there are a few alternatives you can consider depending on the flavor profile you're trying to achieve. Here are some options:

  1. Allspice: Allspice is a spice that comes from dried berries and has a warm, sweet, and slightly peppery flavor. It can be used as a substitute for cinnamon in baked goods, desserts, and spice blends. However, keep in mind that allspice has a distinct taste, so the flavor of the final dish may differ.

  2. Nutmeg: Nutmeg has a warm and slightly sweet flavor with hints of nuttiness. While it doesn't have the same level of sweetness as cinnamon, it can provide a similar warmth and depth of flavor. Nutmeg can be used as a substitute in baking, hot beverages, and savory dishes.

  3. Cardamom: Cardamom has a strong, aromatic, and slightly sweet flavor. It can be used as a substitute for cinnamon, especially in recipes where a warm and spicy flavor is desired. Cardamom works well in baked goods, coffee, and certain savory dishes.

  4. Ginger: Ground ginger can be used as a substitute for cinnamon, particularly when you want a spicy and slightly tangy flavor. It pairs well with sweets, baked goods, and warm beverages. However, note that ginger has a more pronounced heat compared to cinnamon.

  5. Cloves: Cloves have a strong, pungent, and slightly sweet flavor. While they have a distinct taste, they can be used as a substitute for cinnamon in certain recipes, particularly when you want a warm and aromatic profile. Use cloves sparingly, as they have a potent flavor.

Nutritional Facts
1 tsp
Amount per serving
2.1 g
0 g
0.1 g
Saturated Fat
0 g
0.3 mg
1.4 g
0.1 g

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