Cinnamomi-cassiae or Cinnamomum zeylanicum – It shouldn’t be a challenge

By Imogen Allen Quality Assurance Specialist  BSc Hons Nutrition and Food 

Parma ham should come from Parma, Champagne from Champagne and Cornish Pasties should come from Cornwall …

Geographical Indications are important in the food industry because they communicate differences in quality between products that might otherwise go unnoticed by customers.

For example the reason Champagne is called Champagne rather than just sparkling wine is to symbolise the strict regulations that govern its production and its consequential creaminess, depth and famously small and persistent bubbles, that sparkling wine doesn’t always have .

However, unlike “Parma Ham” and “Champagne” whose GI names are widely used by retailers to communicate product origins, the geographical origin is often forgotten on the labels of supermarket own brands and is even absent on the biggest spice brands labels. As a result consumers are often left in the dark about the types available on the market and their important differences.


The two varieties

Whilst there are hundreds of species of cinnamon, the most widely known forms are derived from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum genus: a genus of tropical evergreen tree that come in two varieties; Cinnamomum zeylanicum (Ceylon Cinnamon, True Cinnamon) and Cinnamomum cassia (Cassia, C. aromaticum, Chinese Cinnamon).

Although one is from Sri Lanka (Ceylon, being the nation’s former British colony name) and the other, China as well as now other regions in Eastern and Southern Asia, they both grow in similar tropical conditions. Nevertheless, they are not created equal and it is worth bearing in mind the following differentiating factors….

1. Sensory differences

When it comes to colour, Ceylon is tan brown whereas Cassia is a reddish dark brown.

As far as the texture is concerned, Ceylon is thin and papery, and forms multiple layers when rolled up. In contrast, Cassia has a rougher thick bark which forms just a few layers when rolled.

Ceylon is also much more fragile compared to Cassia, which is fairly tough to grind.

Finally, Cassia tastes stronger and hotter, whilst Ceylon is composed of lighter, brighter and citrus tones. It is also more delicate and sweet with notes of clove that make it a perfect ingredient for dessert type recipes such as cinnamon whirls or Christmas cake. In comparison, Cassia is much more suited to braised meat recipes or other savoury sorts of dishes.

2. Contaminant Issues

Whilst both species have their benefits, each also has a content of the potentially dangerous compound, coumarin.

Although coumarin is safe in small doses, studies have demonstrated high intakes to have toxic effects on the liver, kidneys and lungs. Some evidence even suggests that it causes cancer.

Compared to Ceylon though, Cassia holds the highest content, somewhere in the region of 2000-5000 ppm. Whilst, Ceylon Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), only contains a trace.

Research suggests even taking 1 teaspoon of cassia/day can push you over the tolerable daily intake. Given how easy it is to consume a toxic level of cassia, Ceylon is therefore by far the safer option for food and supplementation – and is one of the reasons it is the gold standard.

3. Health Benefits

Despite Cassia being better studied in humans to date, both varieties have been demonstrated to have anti-diabetic effects and an ability to lower blood sugar. Both also contain an array of anti-microbials, anti-oxidants and have other bioactive compounds that appear “to block a protein called tau from accumulating in the brain”, a key characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease

As a result of the higher quality of Ceylon, it is no surprise that it is therefore sold at premium prices. A quick glance on online shows it costs between £25.98/kg to £36.33/kg for Ceylon. Cassia, by comparison, is priced at around £11.58/kg -£14.96/kg.

Due to these price differences, it is no wonder why cinnamon is dubbed as being very high risk of fraudulent adulteration. Last year, the Indian Institute of Spices Research Kozhikode (IISR) identified 7 of 10 market samples of cinnamon to be adulterated with Cassia.

Given the risks associated with cinnamon, Nutraceuticals remains alert; the provenance of all our Ceylon Cinnamon products is Sri Lankan and we have implemented routine authenticity testing to ensure this. We would advise all purchasers, especially those buying in large quantities, to take similar precautions.

Cinnamon Sticks and Powder

NIGEHER010210 Cinnamon Bark Extract 4:1 (Cinnamomi cassiae)
NIGEHER010211 Cinnamon Bark Extract 5:1 (Cinnamomi cassiae)
NIGEHER010212 Cinnamon Bark Extract 10:1 (Cinnamomi cassiae)
NIGEHER010213 Cinnamon Bark Extract 8:1 (Cinnamomi cassiae)
NIGEHER010214 Cinnamon Bark Extract 30:1 (Cinnamomi cassiae)
NIGEHER010221 Cinnulin PF – Cinnamon Bark Extract (Cinnamomum burmannii / Cinnamomum cassia)
NIGEHER010301 Cinnamon Bark Powder (Cinnamomi cassiae)
NIGEHER010301-SAORG Cinnamon Bark Powder (Cinnamomi cassiae) Organic
NIGEHER010311 Ceylon Cinnamon Bark Powder (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
NIGEHER010312 Ceylon Cinnamon Bark Powder (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) OP
NIGEHER010312-SAORG Ceylon Cinnamon Bark Powder (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) Organic
NIGEHER010321 Ceylon Cinnamon Bark Extract 5:1 (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
NIGEHER010325 Ceylon Cinnamon Bark Extract 10:1 (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
NIGEHER010328 Ceylon Cinnamon Bark Extract 20:1 (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
NIGEHER010331 Ceylon Cinnamon Bark Extract 30:1 (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)