Ah! Cinnamon - Part II

The Cornucopia of Health Benefits

(Concluding) Part-II

Having learnt, in Part-I of the write-up, about the one downside to using cinnamon in excess….

The question naturally arises as to what constitutes ‘excess’ in terms of consuming cinnamon? Well, if you are primarily considering using cinnamon sticks for culinary purpose, a stick or two of any type of cinnamon cooked in a family’s meal will certainly do no harm. You may even go ahead and use a cinnamon stick to stir your favourite hot beverage, in place of a spoon, to lend the drink that distinct divine aroma.

But, when it comes to consuming the stuff for its medicinal benefits, it becomes slightly complicated. Given the very high concentration level of coumarin in most widely marketed cinnamon (cassia, actually), the tolerable daily intake for an average adult would be a meagre 0.5 gm. (conservatively calculated, assuming that the stuff you have been saddled with is the worst kind of coumarin-loaded cassia). Sadly, this measly quantity seems too insufficient for your body to fully imbibe the health benefits of the cinnamon to a meaningful degree. Moreover, the scientific community has typically administered powdered cinnamon ranging from 2 to ten grams a day, in single or divided doses, in order to study the impact of cinnamon’s overall health benefits on subjects.

That leaves one with the difficult, but only, option of choosing the much costlier, but the ‘true’ cinnamon. In other words, the ‘authentic’ Sri Lanka cinnamon is the only guarantee that you stay safe from the harms of the dreaded toxin, coumarin. Technically, you can enjoy consuming almost ‘unlimited’ amounts of it; illustratively speaking, up to 300 gm. of the stuff on daily basis, calculated on the exact same model discussed above for cassia. However, nobody in their sane mind will, or should, go over the board like that (remember the old adage: Excess of anything is bad!). But, isn’t that such a relief to know that you can continue to have your daily 2 cups of tea/coffee infused with some choicest cinnamon, and an occasional French toast or freshly baked pies and cookies all dusted with cinnamon powder, to enjoy that blissful aroma! It sure is.

Lastly, and most importantly, where to source the ‘real’ Sri Lanka cinnamon from, when it is such a rare commodity? The best course, of course, is to look for genuine cinnamon in good gourmet stores. The cinnamon quills (of the Sri Lankan pedigree) are easily distinguished from sticks of the cassia cinnamon. ‘Ceylon’ (there is romance to using the old name of the island country!) cinnamon sticks are soft and crumbly and rolled much like cigars with a multitude of thin bark layers; as opposed to cassia sticks that are hard, woody in texture with just one thick curled layer.

Further, the colour of the real cinnamon may be a mid-brown to light red-brown, whereas that of cassia is dark reddish brown. And while the taste of Ceylon cinnamon is distinctly mild sweet, and the aroma a light delicate one, the cassia exhibits notes of bitter spiciness and peppery pungency with a stronger, harsher aroma.

Once you’ve learnt to tell one from the other, things will get easier. And when you chance to lay your hands on the real cinnamon, grind the darned thing in your home grinder to turn it into powder and use it as your taste-buds, please!

As for store-shelf cinnamon powder, most, if not all, of it comes from fake cinnamon (or cassia), and therefore, must be avoided. Maybe, there are a handful of ethical companies that claim to market the real cinnamon and then deliver also on the claim. I myself know of one such exception since I have been using that brand’s stuff for quite some time, and have come to regard the company as ethical and trustworthy since they also proclaim right across the product’s label the legend ‘Sri Lankan’. Alas, this may not be proper to divulge more on it at this platform for propriety reasons. The product is, however, available to the discerning on the shelves of some high-end gourmet stores.

Happy Hunting! 🙂

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