Ceylon cinnamon is gaining popularity as an ingredient with really attractive health benefits, like regulating insulin, preventing Alzheimer’s, and even reducing cancer risks. It’s showing up more in Google search trends, and health content creators are debating about its effects on TikTok. But with so many diet fads and medicinal claims out there, it makes it really hard to believe that something so small as a spice can have healing effects like this. Breaking down the science and research behind the claims can see if Ceylon cinnamon is something we should really be spending our money on and going out of our way for.

What is Ceylon cinnamon?

If you’re like me, you didn’t even know there was more than one kind of cinnamon to begin with. There are actually multiple, but the most common one that we see labeled as just “cinnamon” in the grocery store is called cassia cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon comes from an evergreen tree that originated in China, but is now grown all over the world. Ceylon cinnamon, also called “true cinnamon," comes from Sri Lanka and has a few key differences from cassia cinnamon. It’s lighter in color, physically softer with more layers, and on the sweeter side, whereas cassia is spicier. However, the main difference is that cassia cinnamon contains 5% of a compound called coumarin, which is found in many plants, and can cause kidney, lung, and liver damage in high quantities and concentrations. Ceylon cinnamon, on the other hand, only contains .04% coumarin.

Debunking the health claims

Claiming that a spice can prevent cancer and Alzheimer’s is a huge statement — one that we’d love to be true, but are also skeptical of. In reality, figuring out that these are misleading claims takes very little work (which I have done for you).

Putting Ceylon cinnamon on your morning chai latte will not protect you from getting cancer. This claim comes from the fact that Ceylon cinnamon has anti-inflammatory effects and contains a property that enhances antioxidant enzymes. It’s true that these things are good for your body, but plenty of other foods do this too — berries, potatoes, broccoli, and even dark chocolate.

Unfortunately, Ceylon cinnamon cannot save you from Alzheimer’s either. This statement comes from the fact that Ceylon cinnamon has properties that help regulate high blood glucose in the brain, which could slow down mental decline. Again, it’s a good thing, but to someone who is genetically at risk for Alzheimer’s, it’s misleading.

But going back to the glucose point, this is a feature that might have some merit. A study done by Pharmacognosy Research showed that Ceylon cinnamon does regulate high blood glucose levels more than cassia cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon has a quality that mitigates insulin resistance, according to the study, but “true cinnamon” doesn’t have that quality. Of course, cinnamon is not a pill or a drug that you can take daily, but the trial showed that taking at least 120 mg of cinnamon per day for four months did lower glucose levels.

So should I buy it?

In short: sure! Switching from cassia to Ceylon cinnamon will have no negative effects on your body –— plus it could have positive effects — and the two are priced about the same. However, they have yet to be compared in official research. But go ahead and throw some on top of your oatmeal or your cappuccino, and you can say you’re having “true cinnamon.”