Cinnamon has been used in food, for medicinal purposes and as an aromatic spice for several centuries.
The spice is got from the brown bark of the tree.
Cinnamon plants grow well in South East Asia, Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, West Indies, and South America.
Cinnamomum zeylanicum is the botanical name for Cinnamon. There are many different varieties and names for cinnamon.
Cinnamomum verum or ‘true’ cinnamon refers to Ceylon Cinnamon.
The other popular variety used is Cassia Cinnamon which grows in North Vietnam and China.
This variety has a stronger flavor than Ceylon cinnamon and is used widely in North America. It is also called Chinese cinnamon or Cinnamomum aromaticum.
The other name for Cassia Cinnamon is Cannelle de Saigon (Saigon Cinnamon) or Cinnamomum loureiroi. ,
Difference Of Saigon Cinnamon From Other Types of Cinnamon
The two main types of cinnamon used for cooking and medicinal purposes are Ceylon and Saigon (Cassia) Cinnamon.
People get confused by the various names these varieties are referred to and since there is conflicting research, it is always best to consult a doctor when taking either of these varieties for medicinal purposes.
Saigon cinnamon is part of the Cassia cinnamon family.
Its flavor is slightly sweeter and it is also more fragrant compared to Indonesian Cassia cinnamon varieties.
While they all belong to the same species, the way Saigon, Chinese and Indonesian Cassia cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon are harvested and processed are different.
Another difference is that while Ceylon cinnamon is derived from the inner bark and is very thin, Saigon cinnamon is got from both the outer and inner bark.
Saigon cinnamon grows mainly in Vietnam’s Saigon district from where its name is derived. It is also found in China and Japan.
When the tree is 10-12 years old, it is harvested for its bark. Ceylon cinnamon is however got from much younger trees – just 5 years old.
According to the USFDA, Saigon cinnamon is classified as Cinnamon N.F (national formulary). This is the national pharmacopeial standard for medicines, dietary supplements, and dosages of these herbs.
Benefits and Possible Issues
Saigon cinnamon is used widely as a ground spice due to its superior odor and flavor.
Many countries like the US buy the rough bark, powder it and then use it to flavor various baked goods and processed foods.
Saigon cinnamon can also be used as an astringent and as a digestive stimulant.
While most varieties of cinnamon contain 0.5 – 2.5% essential oil, Saigon cinnamon contains 6%. This makes it a favorite as a flavoring agent and in the perfumery industry too.
Cassia cinnamon varieties offer medicinal benefits due to the presence of chemicals like cinnamaldehyde in it.
Cassia cinnamon varieties could be possibly effective in treating diabetes.
There is some research which shows that cassia cinnamon could benefit those with type-2 diabetes and the standard dosage for this treatment is 1 – 1.5g per day.
Cassia cinnamon has been used in traditional medicine for many centuries. Cassia or Saigon cinnamon has been tested for its ability to lower blood sugar levels.
It could also be effective in treating menstrual cramps, certain types of cancer, kidney problems, vomiting, flatulence, bed wetting, stomach and muscle cramps, bronchitis, impotence, etc.
While some research has been conducted, further evidence is required to rate its effectiveness for these conditions.
Cassia cinnamon varieties are safe when taken in food amounts and medicinal doses. When taken in large amounts and for longer periods, it could cause side effects in certain people due to the presence of coumarin.
Anyone sensitive to coumarin could develop liver problems. It could also cause allergic skin reactions in certain people.
Since it has the ability to lower blood sugar, those taking it for diabetes must monitor their blood sugar levels very carefully.
Since sufficient research is lacking, pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised not to use Saigon or cassia cinnamon.
Those requiring surgery should also avoid using cassia cinnamon varieties like Saigon cinnamon 2 weeks before the scheduled date.
Check with your doctor before using Saigon cinnamon for it could interact with drugs for the liver (hepatotoxic drugs), anti-diabetic drugs and certain herbs and supplements.