Ceylon vs. Saigon Cinnamon: Which is Healthier?

Ceylon vs. Saigon Cinnamon: Which is Healthier?

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There are many different types of cinnamon, so consumers are often curious about what the difference is and which type is the healthiest.

But what makes Ceylon and Saigon cinnamon different? Which one is healthier? What are the proven health benefits of each type of cinnamon? And does Saigon cinnamon carry unique risks?

In this article we’ll answer all of these questions and more, as we compare the health benefits of Ceylon cinnamon (botanical name Cinnamomum verum) and Saigon cinnamon (botanical name Cinnamomum loureiroi) based on medical studies to determine which of these two types is healthier.

We'll explain the difference between the two, and explain why Saigon cinnamon may pose some health risks.

What’s the Difference?

Prior to comparing the health effects of these two types of cinnamon, it’s important to understand the functional distinction between them.

Ceylon cinnamon comes from the bark of a tree native to Sri Lanka, and is commonly referred to as “true cinnamon” because it tends to be purer than alternative types.

Saigon cinnamon is sourced from a similar plant, but one native to Vietnam, which is why it’s often referred to as “Vietnamese cinnamon.

Saigon cinnamon is actually a species of Cassia cinnamon, even though what’s commonly referred to as cassia cinnamon is a different tree bark with a botanical name of Cinnamomum Cassia.

We don’t want this article to get too technical, so if you’re interested in reading more about types of cinnamon check out the linked article for a more in-depth breakdown. For now, we’ll proceed to the comparative analysis of health benefits of Ceylon cinnamon and Saigon cinnamon.

Health Benefits of Ceylon Cinnamon

Ceylon cinnamon has more proven health benefits than Saigon cinnamon based on research studies we could identify.

1) Ceylon cinnamon may support healthy blood sugar levels

A meta-study published in the Diabetic Medicine journal analyzed data from 16 clinical trials on Ceylon cinnamon and concluded that it’s a “potential therapeutic agent for diabetes."

It’s important to note that all of the studies in this review were conducted in vitro (test tube studies) or on animals, but the use of animal models in clinical diabetes research is well-established and the insights are more transferrable than conditions like mental health disorders (where the insights from animal studies don't tend to translate as well to humans).

2) Ceylon cinnamon may support healthy cholesterol levels

Ceylon cinnamon consumption was shown in a 2014 clinical trial to reduce LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels and improve HDL ("good") cholesterol levels.

A 2017 clinical trial reported that Ceylon cinnamon supplementation at a dose of 500 milligrams (mg) per day or less reduced LDL cholesterol by 15% over three months.

3) Ceylon cinnamon supplement may be anti-inflammatory

A clinical trial published in the Food & Function journal showed Ceylon cinnamon to have some of the most potent anti-inflammatory activity among 115 foods tested. 

The primary chemical compounds theorized to be responsible for these health benefits are the polyphenols in cinnamon, which is why we standardized our Ceylon Cinnamon supplement to 8% flavonoids, which is a polyphenol.

This ensures a minimum potency of the product, and Illuminate Labs Ceylon Cinnamon Extract is one of the few standardized cinnamon supplements on the market.

The cholesterol-lowering and blood-sugar-lowering effects of Ceylon cinnamon may be especially useful for people with medical conditions, but the benefit of consuming anti-inflammatory compounds may be useful even for healthy individuals.

If someone were to indulge in a pro-inflammatory “cheat meal,” for example, supplementing after-the-fact with a potent anti-inflammatory compound like Ceylon cinnamon could reduce the harmful impact of the unhealthy food intake.

Because Ceylon cinnamon is rich in antioxidants, taking it after consuming a "cheat" meal like pizza may be healthier than consuming pizza alone, because the antioxidants in the cinnamon can minimize the inflammatory response to the processed food.

Similarly, someone may be undergoing a period of stress like a finals week or a challenging week at work. During these times of increased stress on the body, there may be benefit to supplementing with anti-inflammatory compounds.

Health Benefits of Saigon Cinnamon

There seems to be significantly fewer medical studies on Saigon cinnamon compared to Ceylon cinnamon.

In fact, we couldn’t find a single human study investigating the health benefits of Saigon cinnamon. This is probably because Saigon cinnamon is less abundant than Ceylon.

Nearly every Saigon cinnamon reference we came across in medical literature was in studies examining how to identify the different types of cinnamon, rather than studies independently testing the health benefits of Saigon cinnamon.

Saigon cinnamon may have similar health benefits to Ceylon, given that all types of cinnamon have health-promoting polyphenol compounds like flavonoids, but we can’t definitively say without research to prove it.

Health Risks of Saigon Cinnamon

The main health distinction between Ceylon and Saigon cinnamon is that Saigon is higher in a toxic compound called coumarin, while Ceylon has insignificant amounts of this compound.

A landmark study from 2013, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, tested the coumarin content of many different types of cinnamon.

The study authors concluded that Saigon cinnamon “contained substantial amounts of coumarin” while Ceylon contained “only traces of coumarin.”

This is significant because coumarin has been clinically shown to be harmful to humans even at doses attainable from food or supplementation.

We Tried Both Cinnamon Types

As one of the authors of this article (Calloway), I wanted to try both Ceylon and Saigon cinnamon myself to share my thoughts on the taste and health benefits.

I've been regularly using both Ceylon and Saigon cinnamon spices that I purchase at my local Whole Foods.

The Saigon cinnamon has a more aromatic scent, but Ceylon tastes better in my opinion. Due to the difference in scent, I've liked adding Saigon cinnamon to teas, and using Ceylon in food like yogurt mixes.

I plan to mostly stick to Ceylon cinnamon moving forward due to the potential for greater health benefits.

Both types of cinnamon are significantly more expensive than the cinnamon I used to buy, but both bottles provide hundreds of servings, so the per-serving cost is well under $0.05.

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion  Which is Healthier?

We believe that Ceylon cinnamon is a healthier option than Saigon cinnamon in food or supplement form, because Ceylon has more medically-established health benefits, and has negligible levels of a toxic compound that’s high in Saigon cinnamon. 

Ceylon is called “True” cinnamon for a reason: it provides consumers with all of the cinnamon benefits without any of the risks. 

It's important to note that Ceylon and Saigon cinnamon are not just branded differently; these are distinct species of the same plant genus.