Medicinal Properties of Sri Lanka Cinnamon

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Medicinal properties of ‘true’ cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum): a systematic review

Ranasinghe P, Pigera S, Premakumara GA, Galappaththy P, Constantine GR, Katulanda P
BMC Complement Altern Med. 2013 Oct 22;13:275
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3854496

Priyanga Ranasinghe of the University of Colombo (Sri Lanka) and colleagues at the University of Colombo and the Industrial Technology Institute conducted a comprehensive systematic review of the scientific literature to provide a comprehensive summary of the potential medicinal benefits of Sri Lanka cinnamon Cinnamomum zeylanicum (C. verum).

The authors begin by making an important distinction between two main varieties of cinnamon, C. zeylanicum and C. cassia, based on the coumarin content of the two:

Sri Lanka cinnamon (C. verum/C. zeylanicum)
Sri Lanka cinnamon (C. verum/C. zeylanicum) [Source: USDA photo, Wikimedia Commons]

“Cinnamon is a common spice used by different cultures around the world for several centuries. It is obtained from the inner bark of trees from the genus Cinnamomum, a tropical evergreen plant that has two main varieties; [C. zeylanicum] and [C. cassia] (also known as Cinnamomum aromaticum/Chinese cinnamon)…. [C. zeylanicum], also known as Ceylon cinnamon (the source of its Latin name, zeylanicum) or ‘true cinnamon’ is indigenous to Sri Lanka and southern parts of India…. One important difference between [C. cassia] and [C. zeylanicum] is their coumarin (1,2-benzopyrone) content. The levels of coumarins in [C. cassia] appear to be very high and pose health risks if consumed regularly in higher quantities. According to the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), 1 kg of [C. cassia] powder contains approximately 2.1-4.4 g of coumarin, which means 1 teaspoon of [C. cassia] powder would contain around 5.8-12.1 mg of coumarin. This is above the Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) for coumarin of 0.1mg/kg body weight/day recommended by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The BfR in its report specifically states that [C. zeylanicum] contains ‘hardly any’ coumarin. Coumarins are secondary phyto-chemicals with strong anticoagulant, carcinogenic and hepato-toxic properties… The EFSA advocates against the regular, long term use of [C. cassia] as a supplement due to its coumarin content. In addition, according to currently available evidence coumarin does not seem to play a direct role in the observed biological effects of [C. cassia]. Hence, although [C. cassia] has also shown many beneficial medicinal properties, [its] coumarin content is likely to be an obstacle against regular use as a pharmaceutical agent, unlike in the case of [C. zeylanicum].”

Reviewing the literature, the authors found that available in-vitro and in-vivo evidence suggests that C. zeylanicum has anti-microbial, anti-parasitic, anti-oxidant and free radical scavenging properties, and that it lowers blood glucose, serum cholesterol and blood pressure. They caution, however, that because of the paucity of studies in humans, and other limitations of the current evidence, further randomized double-blinded placebo-controlled clinical trials will be required to establish therapeutic safety and efficacy of C. zeylanicum as a pharmaceutical agent.

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.