Friday, January 27, 2012
Some facts about my favorite spice--cinnamon.
I love this spice!
It's scent, it's flavor, in cooking or in candles and in essential oils, it calms me, stimulates my digestion, and brings sweet thoughts to my mind.
One day, I began to research my favorite sweet bark and I will summerize what I have found to be important facts for all of us, cooks and cinnamon lovers to know.
My search for info began when my husband, Mr. Goodwrench was given a bottle of Pharmacy brand, Cinnamon Oil capsules 1000mg. to try for high bloodpressure. I simply got online and found that the oil in the capsules was not true cinnamon oil, but cassia oil. There are four types of Cinnamon.
Of the four Cinnamonum species: 
Cinnamonum verum (true cinnamon or Sri Lanki or Ceylon cinnamon)
Cinnamonum burmannii (Korintje or Indonesian Cinnamon)
Cinnamonum loureiroi (Saigon or Vietnamese)
Cinnamonum aromaticum (Cassia or Chinese)
The Ceylon cinnamon, verum, is the one to use, it is the true cinnamon. The Ceylon cinnamon is lighter in color, the curled bark sticks are thinner and will crush easier. The flavor of Ceylon cinnamon is sweeter and as cinnamon goes, Ceylon is the highest prized. Europe and Mexico is the greatest importer of Ceylon cinnamon and in America the primary import is the Chinese Cassia aromaticum, more marketable due to the availability, darker color and stronger scent and flavor.
An ingredient in all Cinnamonum plants is "Coumarin".  Coumarin is found in highest concentration in the Cinnamonum aromticum, or Cassia bark. This Cassia is the cinnamon oil contained in the Parmacy brand capsules of cinnamon oil given to my husband. I am glad he didn't use the capsules because in high concentrations Coumarin can damage the liver. Coumarin, as you research, you see has many pharmacutical uses, Coumadin is developed from it, and Coumadin is a commonly prescribed blood thinner. "European health agencies have warned against consuming high amounts of cassia bark, one of the four species of cinnamon, because of its coumarin content." 
Coumarin is found in much lower amounts in the three other species of cinnamon.
Now I am looking for the botanical name (source) of any cinnamon on it's product labels. McCormick brand, Saigon Cinnamon is found on most spice shelves in groceries. I called McCormick Spice at 1-800-632-5847, for the botanical name of the Saigon Cinnamon because it is nowhere to be found on the bottle. The customer service department told me McCormick Saigon Cinnamon is Cinnamonum Laureiroi Nees, which is Saigon or Vietnamese cinnamon.
Since I frequently use cinnamon in cooking, I am choosing to avoid Chinese Cinnamon, or Cassia and stick to using the real cinnamons--verum, burmannii, and loureiroi. Read the labels, ask questions, most cinnamon spice for sale in stores is Cassia.
Hope this helps!
1. Wikipedia article, "Cinnamon"
2. New World Encyclopedia article, "Cinnamon"
3. Wikipedia article, "Coumarin"
4. Wikipedia article, "Coumarin