There are many different types of cinnamon, so consumers are often curious about what the difference is and which type is the healthiest.
In this article we’ll compare the health benefits of Ceylon cinnamon (botanical name Cinnamomum Verum) and Saigon cinnamon (Cinnamomum Loureiroi) based on published medical research to determine which of these two types is healthier.
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 published medical research.
Ceylon has been proven to be helpful for diabetes management. The linked meta-study reviews 16 clinical trials on Ceylon cinnamon and concludes 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 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 such as 500 milligrams (mg) per day.
There is also a significant anti-inflammatory effect associated with Ceylon cinnamon supplementation. A clinical trial published in the Food & Function journal showed it 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 cinnamon supplements on the market to be standardized based on medical research.
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 transiently useful for healthy people in certain circumstances.
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, consuming it after consuming a cheat meal like a pizza may be healthier than consuming a pizza alone, because the antioxidants in the cinnamon can minimize the inflammatory response to the processed food meal.
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 than on Ceylon 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 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. 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 or supplementation.