Article edited for scientific accuracy by Illuminate Labs Blog Editor Taylor Graber MD
There are many types of cinnamon, and a lot of consumer confusion about what the difference is and which type is the healthiest.
In this article we’ll compare Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum Verum) and Saigon cinnamon (Cinnamomum Loureiroi) based on published medical research and determine which of these two types is healthier.
What’s the Difference?
Prior to assessing 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 also called “true cinnamon” because it tends to be purer than alternative types.
Saigon cinnamon comes from a similar plant, but is usually sourced from Vietnam, which is why it’s often referred to as “Vietnamese cinnamon”.
Saigon cinnamon is technically a species of cassia cinnamon, even though what’s commonly referred to as cassia cinnamon is a different bark with a botanical name of Cinnamomum Cassia.
We don’t want to get too into the weeds here, so if you’re interested in reading more about types of cinnamon check out our article breaking them down in further detail. For now, we’ll proceed to the analysis of health benefits.
Health Benefits of Ceylon Cinnamon
Ceylon cinnamon has more proven health benefits than Saigon cinnamon based on published medical research.
Ceylon has been proven to be helpful for diabetes management. The linked meta-study reviews 16 studies on Ceylon cinnamon and concludes that it’s a “potential therapeutic agent for diabetes. It’s important to note that all studies were conducted in vitro or on animals, but the use of animal models in clinical diabetes research is well-established and less complex than issues like mental health disorders (which don’t translate as well to animal studies).
Another health benefit of ceylon cinnamon is its ability to lower cholesterol. Ceylon cinnamon consumption has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol and improve HDL cholesterol. It’s also been found to have reduced total cholesterol in a separate study, even at relatively low doses (500 mg/day).
There is also a significant anti-inflammatory effect associated with Ceylon cinnamon supplementation. A study showed it to have some of the most potent anti-inflammatory activity among 115 foods tested.
The proposed mechanism of action is the polyphenols in cinnamon, which is why our Ceylon Cinnamon extract is one of the only cinnamon supplements on the market standardized for polyphenols.
The first two health benefits of Ceylon cinnamon involve normalizing disease states. Regular Ceylon cinnamon intake may be useful to those with diabetes, pre-diabetes or high cholesterol, but there would be no need for someone with healthy glucose levels to supplement with Ceylon for the anti-glycemic (blood glucose lowering) benefits.
However, anti-inflammatory compounds may be transiently useful for even healthy people based on circumstance. If someone were to indulge in a pro-inflammatory “cheat meal”, for example, supplementing with a potent anti-inflammatory compound could reduce the harmful impact of the unhealthy food intake.
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 significant benefit to supplementing with anti-inflammatory compounds.
Health Benefits of Saigon Cinnamon
There is significantly less medical research on Saigon cinnamon. In fact, we couldn’t find a single human study investigating the health benefits of Saigon cinnamon specifically. 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 a study independently testing Saigon.
It would be assumed that Saigon cinnamon would 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 high in a toxic compound called coumarin, while Ceylon has insignificant amounts of this compound.
A landmark study from 2013 in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry tested the coumarin content of all main types of cinnamon. They concluded that Saigon cinnamon “contained substantial amounts of coumarin” while Ceylon contained “only traces of coumarin.”
This is significant because coumarin has been proven to be harmful to humans even at dosages attainable from food and/or supplementation.
Conclusion - Which is Healthier?
Ceylon cinnamon is healthier than Saigon cinnamon because it has more medically-established health benefits, and negligible levels of a toxic compound that’s high in Saigon cinnamon.
Ceylon is called “True” cinnamon for a reason: it provides users with all of the cinnamon benefits without any of the risks.