Cinnamon Warning

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Since the insulin-like properties of cinnamon were discovered, many people have been taking it as a treatment or a prophylactic for insulin resistance and diabetes. In one of the videos on her Website, Nina Simonds recommends adding a whole teaspoon of cinnamon to your morning latte. (She is the author of A Spoonful of Ginger and Spices of Life, which emphasize the healthful properties of spices.) While one-half teaspoonful of cinnamon a day was the dosage that was recommended by the researchers who found it’s beneficial effect, many people assume that if a little is good, more is better. But there is a potential danger in taking too much or the wrong kind.

Cinnamon contains coumarin, an anti-coagulant and possibly carcinogenic substance that can cause liver inflammation. One source said that as little as three cinnamon cookies could contain enough of the toxin to harm a small child.

There are two kinds of cinnamon, but product labels do not usually identify the type. Ceylon or true cinnamon is a pale tan color; it is milder, sweeter, and more expensive than cassia. Cassia, or common cinnamon, is redder, stronger in flavor, and cheaper. Ceylon cinnamon sticks are tight rolls of thin layers; cassia sticks are hollow tubes of thicker, rougher, bark. Cassia cinnamon contains .5% coumarin, while Ceylon contains only .0004%.

An additional source for coumarin is vanilla. An extract of tonka beans, the seed of the Dipteryx odorata tree from Brazil, is often used as a substitute for vanilla, and some brands, especially ones from Mexico, may be contaminated with large amounts of the toxin. It has been illegal to sell products containing tonka bean extract in the US since 1954.

The European Food Safety Authority concluded that the TDI (tolerable daily intake) for coumarin is .0002 ounces per day, an amount easily exceeded during the Christmas season. There is no threat if the amount is exceeded for a short time only. (http://www.bfr.bund.de/cd/8487) The damage is reversible in a few weeks, but taking supplements made from powdered cassia bark regularly may not be such a good idea.

However, since coumarin is not water soluble, a water extract of cinnamon will not contain any of the hazardous compounds. I have gone back to adding a stick of cinnamon to the water I use for making tea while I am looking for a cinnamon supplement that states unequivocally that it is a water extract. I don’t know how to tell how much extract I am getting this way, especially since I reuse the sticks, but at least I can’t over-dose on it.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

© 2008, Judy Barnes Baker

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  1. Good information. If you find a water soluble cinnamon supplement, please post it. I’ve been using cinnamon to control blood sugar, but am suspecting that it is causing other problems. Thank you for the information.

  2. I was never able to find one that contained only a water extract at my local stores, although I did find several that were a combination of powdered bark and water extract. Many of the brands don't give any information about what kind of cinnamon they contain or how it is processed.

    Dr. Anderson, the researcher who discovered the beneficial effect of cinnamon for diabetics, has continued his investigations. Here are two bits of advice from Dr. Anderson that were on the Eureka Alert! Website operated by AAAS, the science society: “…Eating great quantities of cinnamon straight from the can is not a good idea. Table cinnamon is not water soluble, meaning it can build up in the body with unknown consequences. Second, the powered cinnamon has another limitation. Dr. Anderson's personal 60-point decline in total cholesterol occurred only after he switched from sprinkling cinnamon on his breakfast cereal to taking it in a capsule. Saliva contains a chemical harmful to cinnamon." Read the article here: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-04/foas-cci032206.php.

    I found a couple of brands that are water extracts online: CinnaBetic II, is made by Wonder Labs. Read about it here:
    http://www.wonderlabs.com/itemleft.php?itemnum=HE20&ad=goochoccibcinnwater&gclid=CK_diIir4ZQCFQgWiQodPnb_SQ

    It can be ordered here:
    http://www.outletnutrition.com/ciiicipfexof.html

    Here's another one: Pure Liquid(TM) Cinnamon Extract by
    NuNaturals. The Web address is http://www.nunaturals.com/products/cinnamon.html.

  3. Just for the record here, making hot tea from cinnamon sticks (not powdered cinnamon) would exactly be a water extraction …

  4. Has anyone tried Cinnamon Tea.

  5. Hi
    My sugar level are little hay wired. I tried cinnamon and it works but iam worried about coumarin. If powder the stick myself and boil it in water and filter. will that be a safe option because i need atleast 2 teaspoon a day to control my blood sugar. kindly advice.
    regards
    Jayanthi

  6. Natures Way Cinnamon:
    It's a water based product.

    Description
    Premium Extract
    Vegetarian Vcaps
    Glucose Metabolism
    8% Flavonoids
    Dietary Supplement
    Health & longevity through the healing power of nature—that's what it means to Trust the Leaf.
    Cinnamon Extract (Cinnamomum cassia) is standardized to 8% flavonoids. Clinical studies using Cinnamon show positive effects promoting healthy glucose metabolism.
    Our Cinnamon is carefully tested and produced to certified quality standards.
    Did you Know? Recent clinical studies have also used a water-extracted material.
    Suggested Use
    Take 1 capsule twice daily.
    Supplement Facts
    Supplement Facts
    Serving Size: 1 Capsule
    Servings Per Container: 60
    Amount Per Serving % DV
    Cinnamon (bark) 350 mg **
    Cinnamon, water-extract (bark) 8% flavonoids 150 mg **
    ** Daily Value (DV) not established.

  7. Some cinnamon contains carcinogenic coumarin.

    Since coumarin is not water soluble—what would happen if you made tea with cinnamon in it–and then poured off the tea—leaving any residual (coumarin) on the bottom of the cup.

    It seems to me that the coumarin would not get into the tea water—since the coumarin is not water soluble. What think ye?

  8. Bob,
    I suppose that would be the same as using stick cinnamon and removing the stick as long as you were careful not to swallow any of the powder.

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