What we commonly refer to as "cinnamon" (and what is sold in the vast majority of grocery stores in the United States as cinnamon), is actually cassia bark. Cassia is a tree native primarily to China, Bangladesh, and India. It is distinguishable from "true" cinnamon by having a thicker, coarser texture and a stronger, sweeter flavor. Because it is more common in the Asian countries, it is a much less expensive alternative to true cinnamon. Cinnamon powder, sticks and chips are typically cassia bark.
Cassia bark has been tested in aiding in the regulation of blood sugar levels in type two diabetes patients. The results are still inconclusive. In many countries, cassia cinnamon is now issued with a warning, due to its high levels of coumarin. Coumarin has been proven to be toxic to the liver and kidneys in high dosages. For most people, 1 teaspoon per day exceeds the "safe" limit, if consumed habitually.
Ceylon cinnamon (also referred to as "True Cinnamon" or "Vietnamese Cinnamon") is primarily grown and exported from Sri Lanka (approximately 90% of all Ceylon cinnamon). True cinnamon has a much thinner, more fragile bark, is very fragrant, and has a much more delicate flavor. Because of this, it is preferred for sweeter dishes.
Ceylon cinnamon has no coumarin (and is therefore not toxic). It is naturally a strong antioxidant and helps with digestion problems- Ceylon cinnamon tea is very popular for these reasons. Ceylon cinnamon has also been mildy tested for regulating blood sugar levels of type two diabetes patients and insulin resistance. Testing is still in progress, but the preliminary results are very promising.
Quick Guide for Purchasing the Cinnamons in:
Cassia bark has a very strong scent and the texture is coarser. It will likely be labeled "cinnamon".
True Cinnamon has a sweet, more fragrant scent and a fine, powdery texture. It will be labeled "true cinnamon", "Vietnamese cinnamon" or "Ceylon cinnamon".
Cassia bark has a single curl on each side (almost resembling a heart) and is very hard.
True cinnamon has multiple curls (from one side), similar to a swiss roll, and is soft.Food for Thought carries true cinnamon in the bulk herb room as "Vietnamese Cinnamon". The cinnamon chips, sticks and powder are Cassia cinnamon. If you have any questions, ask a Food for Thought employee!