Spectacular 2nd Edition of the World's Healthiest Foods is now complete and ready to order at the same low price of $39.95. You will also receive 2 free gifts valued at $51.95
To order and more. . .
The George Mateljan Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation with no commercial interests or
advertising, is a new force for change to help make a healthier you and a healthier world.
What is the difference between cinnamon and cassia?

The use of these two words in the U.S. marketplace has been a source of enormous confusion. Some people talk about cinnamon and cassia as if they are the exact same thing. Other people talk about them as if they are completely different. Here is what the research says about these words and the spices that they describe:

First, all types of cinnamon belong to the same family of plants, called the Lauraceae family. In fact, there are more cinnamon species in this plant family (an estimated 2,000-2,500 total) than any other plant species. Other members of the Lauraceae family commonly enjoyed as foods include avocado and bay leaves.

Several species of cinnamon are often grouped together and referred to as either "cassia cinnamons" or just "cassia." From a U.S. marketplace perspective, the most important of these species is Cinnamomum burmannii, also referred to as either Indonesian cinnamon, Indonesian cassia, or Java cinnamon. This species is especially important because it accounts for over 90% of the cinnamon imported into the U.S. between 2008-2013. If you are consuming a cinnamon-flavored produce, it is most likely to have been flavored with this species of cinnamon. Below you will find the different scientific names for cinnamon and below each of them the common name associated with them.

  • Cinnamomum burmannii
    • Indonesian Cinnamon
    • Indonesian Cassia
    • Java Cinnamon
  • Cinnamomum cassia
    • Chinese Cinnamon
  • Cinnamomum aromaticum
    • Chinese Cassia
  • Cinnamomum loureiroi
    • Vietnamese Cinnamon
    • Vietnamese Cassia
    • Saigon Cinnamon
    • Saigon Cassia

    In a different category from the cinnamon species above which are commonly referred to as the "cassia cinnamons" is another species of cinnamon long-valued in both culinary and herbal medicine traditions and often referred to either as Ceylon cinnamon or Sri Lanka Cinnamon. (Sri Lanka is an island country in the Indian Ocean, just off the southeast tip of India, and it was formerly known as Ceylon.) The science names for Ceylon Cinnamon are Cinnamomum zeylanicum and Cinnamomum verum. The word "verum" in this species name comes from the Latin word verus for "true," and is connected with the reason that you also hear this species of cinnamon being referred to as "true cinnamon."

    There are three important differences between Ceylon cinnamon and the cassia group of cinnamon species that we would like to point out. First, as a medicinal herb, Ceylon cinnamon is better researched, especially in its extract form, than the cassia cinnamons. Researchers know more about the anti-bacterial properties of Ceylon cinnamon extracts, for example. Second, Ceylon cinnamon has been shown to contain far lower amounts of a naturally occurring substance called coumarin, which can pose toxicity risks if consumed in an excessive amount. Some studies have found one teaspoon of cassia-type cinnamon to contain between 5-12 milligrams of coumarin. Outside of the U.S., organizations like the European Food Safety Authority have recommended no more than 0.1 milligrams of daily coumarin intake from food per 2.2 pounds of body weight. For a person weighing 150 pounds, this recommendation translates into about 7 milligrams of coumarin. These numbers show how it would be possible for a person routinely consuming sizeable amounts of cassia-type cinnamon to increase his or her risk of potential toxicity problems. By contract, Ceylon cinnamon has been shown to contain only trace amounts of coumarin, greatly lowering or actually removing this coumarin-related risk. Third, individuals who report the experience of adverse reactions to cassia-type cinnamon sometimes also report the ability to tolerate Ceylon cinnamon. It is not clear, however, what role coumarin-content might or might not play in this adverse reaction context.

    As mentioned previously, since over 90% of the cinnamon imported into the U.S. between 2008-2013 was cassia-type cinnamon from the Indonesian cassia species, you are mostly purchasing a cassia-type cinnamon in the supermarket unless the package or container is specifically labeled as "Ceylon cinnamon." (Some manufacturers actually include the science names for Ceylon cinnamon—Cinnamomum zeylanicum or Cinnamomum verum—on their product.)

    In the case of stick cinnamon there are also certain features of the sticks you might want to look for in order to determine whether your cinnamon is Ceylon cinnamon or cassia cinnamon. One of those features involves the texture of the sticks when you look downward at a stick so that you can see the end. When cinnamon sticks are rolled from the thick bark of the cassia plants, they look exactly as described—a one-piece, thick bark layer that does not show multiple layers of any kind. In the case of Ceylon cinnamon sticks, since the plant bark is thinner, you may be able to see multiple layers of a thinner bark. That thinner layering of bark is one indication that your cinnamon sticks are made from Ceylon cinnamon. Another feature is the typically darker and deeper reddish color shade of Ceylon cinnamon sticks. Finally, the thicker and harder bark of cassia-type cinnamon sticks often prevents them from having small pieces that have broken off, where Ceylon cinnamon is more fragile and easily broken.

    Research on the health benefits of cassia-type cinnamons and Ceylon cinnamon are somewhat mixed. We have found studies on both types that show benefits for blood sugar balance, for example, but we have also found studies on both types that failed to show blood sugar benefits. At this point in time, it is not possible for us to recommend Ceylon cinnamon over cassia-type cinnamons strictly on the basis of potential health benefits. However, for persons who are avid cinnamon lovers and regularly consume the equivalent of a teaspoon of ground cinnamon multiple times per week, we think it makes sense to choose Ceylon cinnamon in order to avoid risk of unwanted coumarin intake. Some persons who experience adverse reactions to cassia-type cinnamon may also be able to enjoy Ceylon cinnamon without experiencing those unwanted reactions.


    • Anderson RA. Chromium and polyphenols from cinnamon improve insulin sensitivity. Proc Nutr Soc 2008;67(1):48-53. 2008.
    • Dugoua JJ, Seely D, Perri D, et al. From type 2 diabetes to antioxidant activity: a systematic review of the safety and efficacy of common and cassia cinnamon bark. Can J Physiol Pharmacol 2007;85(9):837-47. 2007.
    • Mang B, Wolters M, Schmitt B, et al. Effects of a cinnamon extract on plasma glucose, HbA, and serum lipids in diabetes mellitus type 2. Eur J Clin Invest 2006;36(5):340-4. 2006.
    • Matan N, Rimkeeree H, Mawson AJ, et al. Antimicrobial activity of cinnamon and clove oils under modified atmosphere conditions. Int J Food Microbiol 2006;107(2):180-5. 2006.
    • Vanschoonbeek K, Thomassen BJ, Senden JM,. Cinnamon supplementation does not improve glycemic control in postmenopausal type 2 diabetes patients. J Nutr 2006;136(4):977-80. 2006.
    • Verspohl EJ, Bauer K, Neddermann E. Antidiabetic effect of Cinnamomum cassia and Cinnamomum zeylanicum in vivo and in vitro. Phytother Res 2005;19(3):203-6. 2005.

Printer friendly version

Send this page to a friend...


If you want to learn everything about how to eat and cook healthier, here's the book for you.
2nd Edition
Order this Incredible 2nd Edition at the same low price of $39.95 and also get 2 FREE gifts valued at $51.95. Read more

Newsletter SignUp

Your Email:

What You Should Know This Week

Find out what foods you should eat this week, the recipe and nutrient of the week, and the Smart Menu on our home page.

Healthy Eating
Healthy Cooking
Nutrients from Food
Website Articles
Privacy Policy and Visitor Agreement
For education only, consult a healthcare practitioner for any health problems.

We're Number 1
in the World!

35 million visitors per year.
The World's Healthiest Foods website is a leading source of information and expert on the Healthiest Way of Eating and Cooking. It's one of the most visited website on the internet when it comes to "Healthiest Foods" and "Healthiest Recipes" and comes up #1 on a Google search for these phrases.

Over 100 Quick &
Easy Recipes

Our Recipe Assistant will help you find the recipe that suits your personal needs. The majority of recipes we offer can be both prepared and cooked in 20 minutes or less from start to finish; a whole meal can be prepared in 30 minutes. A number of them can also be prepared ahead of time and enjoyed later.

World's Healthiest
is expanded

What's in our new book:
  • 180 more pages
  • Smart Menu
  • Nutrient-Rich Cooking
  • 300 New Recipes
  • New Nutrient Articles and Profiles
  • New Photos and Design
privacy policy and visitor agreement | who we are | site map | what's new
For education only, consult a healthcare practitioner for any health problems.
© 2001-2015 The George Mateljan Foundation, All Rights Reserved