Cinnamon is a spice made from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum tree. It is widely popular and has been linked to some impressive health benefits, including a lower risk of diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
The Two Main Types of Cinnamon are:
- Cassia:Also called “regular” cinnamon, this is the most commonly used type.
- Ceylon:Known as the “true” cinnamon, Ceylon has a lighter and less bitter taste.
Cinnamon Cassia is popularly found in supermarkets, since it is much cheaper than Ceylon cinnamon.
Although eating Cassia cinnamon is safe in small to moderate amounts, eating too much can cause health problems. This is because Cassia spice contains high amounts of a compound called coumarin. Research has found that eating too much coumarin can damage the liver and increase the risk of cancer. Also, eating too much Cassia cinnamon has been linked to many other side effects. Here are 6 possible side effects of eating too much Cassia cinnamon.
1. May Cause Liver Damage:
Cassia cinnamon or “regular” cinnamon is a very rich source of coumarin. It contains approximately 5 mg of coumarin per teaspoon (2 grams), while Ceylon cinnamon only contains small amounts of that compound. The recommended daily limit of coumarin is approximately 0.05 mg / pound (0.1 mg / kg) of body weight, or 5 mg per day for a person of 130 pounds (60 kg). This means that only one to one and a half teaspoons of Cassia cinnamon could exceed the daily limit. Unfortunately, several studies have found that eating too much coumarin can cause toxicity and liver damage. For example, a 73-year-old woman developed a sudden liver infection that caused liver damage after taking this spice supplements for only a week. However, this case involved supplements that provided a higher dose than what you would get only through diet.
Summary: Normal spice contains high amounts of coumarin. Studies have shown that eating too much coumarin can increase the risk of liver toxicity and damage.
2. May Increase Cancer Risk:
Animal studies have shown that eating too much coumarin, which translates to consuming enough Cassia spice, may increase the risk of certain cancers. For example, studies in rodents have found that eating too much coumarin can cause the development of cancerous tumors in the lungs, liver and kidneys. Unfortunately, the way coumarin can cause tumors is still unclear. However, some scientists believe that coumarin can damage certain organs repeatedly. Over time, damage can cause healthy cells to be replaced by tumor cells, which can become cancerous. Most research on the carcinogenic effects of coumarin has only been done in animals, and more research in humans is needed to know if the same link between cancer and coumarin is applied.
Summary: Animal studies have found that coumarin may increase the risk of certain cancers. However, more research is needed to determine if this also applies to humans.
3. May Cause Canker Sores:
Some people have experienced mouth sores from eating too much cinnamon. It contains cinnamaldehyde, a compound that can trigger an allergic reaction when consumed in large quantities. Small amounts of the spice do not seem to cause this reaction, since saliva prevents chemicals from remaining in contact with the mouth for a long time. Other symptoms of a cinnamaldehyde allergy, apart from mouth sores, usually have swelling of the gum or tongue, burning or itching sensation and white spots on the mouth. While these symptoms are not necessarily serious, they can cause discomfort. However, it is important to keep in mind that cinnamaldehyde will only cause mouth sores if you are allergic to this compound. You can have a test to find out if this is your case, for example, an epicutaneous test (patch test). In addition, mouth sores seem to mainly affect those who use too much cinnamon oil and cinnamon-flavored gum, since these products may contain more cinnamaldehyde.
Summary: Some people are allergic to a compound in this spice called cinnamaldehyde, which can cause mouth sores. However, this seems to mainly affect people who use too much cinnamon oil or chewing gum, since these products contain more cinnamaldehyde.
4. May Cause Low Blood Sugar:
Having high levels of chronic blood sugar is a health problem. If left untreated, it can cause diabetes, heart disease and many other health problems. Consume this spice in regulated portions, it can reduce blood sugar . Studies have found that the spice can mimic the effects of insulin , a hormone that helps eliminate blood sugar.
“While eating some cinnamon can help reduce blood sugar, eating it too much can make it go down too much”.
This is called hypoglycemia and can cause tiredness, dizziness and possibly fainting. People who are at a higher risk of having low blood sugar levels from consuming cinnamon are those who take diabetes medications. This is because this can enhance the effects of these medications and cause the blood sugar level to drop dramatically.
Summary: While eating this spice can help reduce blood sugar, eating too much can cause you to get too low, especially if you are taking diabetes medications. Common symptoms of low blood sugar levels are tiredness, dizziness and fainting.
5. May Cause Respiratory Problems:
Eating too much ground cinnamon in one session can cause respiratory problems. This is because the spice has a fine texture that can facilitate inhalation. Inhaling it accidentally can cause cough, retching (violent movement of the stomach, before or simultaneously with vomiting) and difficulty in breathing. In addition, cinnamaldehyde in it tends to irritate the throat and may cause more respiratory problems. People with asthma or other medical conditions related to breathing should take special care when accidentally inhaling cinnamon, as they tend to have a higher risk of breathing problems.
Summary: Eating too much ground spice in a single session can cause respiratory problems. The fine texture of the spice makes it easier to inhale and irritate the throat, which can cause coughs, retching and difficulty breathing.
6. May Interact with Certain Medications:
Cinnamon is safe to eat in small to moderate amounts along with most medications. However, taking too much cinnamon can be a problem if you are taking medications for diabetes, heart disease or liver disease. This is because cinnamon can interact with these medications, either by enhancing the effects of these medications or by intensifying the side effects of the spice. For example, Cassia cinnamon contains high amounts of coumarin, which can cause toxicity and liver damage if consumed in large quantities. If you are taking medications that can affect your liver, such as paracetamol, acetaminophen or statins, consuming too much cinnamon can increase the risks of aggravating liver damage. In addition, it can help lower blood sugar, so if you take it along with diabetes medications, the spice can increase its effects and make your blood sugar level drop too low.
Summary: If you eat large amounts of cinnamon, the spice can interact with medications for diabetes, heart disease and liver disease. It can enhance the effects of medications or increase their own side effects.
Risks of Eating Dried Cinnamon:
Since the “cinnamon challenge” has become tremendously popular, many have tried to eat large amounts of dried cinnamon. This challenge involves eating a tablespoon of dried and ground cinnamon in less than a minute without drinking water. While it may sound harmless, the challenge can be very dangerous. Eating dried cinnamon can irritate the throat and lungs. It can also cause arches, strangle or permanently damage the lungs. This is because the lungs cannot break down the fibers in the spice. Which means it can accumulate in the lungs and cause lung inflammation known as aspiration pneumonia. If aspiration pneumonia is not treated in time, the lungs may become permanently marked and possibly collapse.
Summary: While eating large amounts of dried cinnamon may seem harmless, it is actually very dangerous. If cinnamon reaches the lungs, it cannot be broken down and as a result can cause infection and permanent damage to the lungs.
How Much is too Much?
Cinnamon is generally safe to eat and is linked to many impressive health benefits. However, eating too much can cause potentially dangerous side effects. This mainly applies to Cassia cinnamon because it is a rich source of coumarin. In contrast, Ceylon cinnamon contains only small amounts of coumarin. In fact, research has found that Cassia cinnamon, on average, contains 63 times more coumarin than Ceylon cinnamon. The tolerable daily intake of coumarin is 0.5 mg per pound (0.1 mg per kg) of body weight. This is the amount of coumarin you can eat per day without having the risk of side effects. This equals one teaspoon (0.5 to 2 grams) of Cassia cinnamon per day. However, you can eat up to 2.5 teaspoons (5 grams) of Ceylon cinnamon per day. It is important to keep in mind that these amounts are for adults, since children can tolerate less amounts.
Summary: You can safely eat up to a teaspoon of Cassia cinnamon or up to 2.5 teaspoons of Ceylon cinnamon per day. It is not recommended to eat more of this, as it may contain too much coumarin.
It is a delicious spice, linked to many health benefits. Although it is safe to eat small or moderate amounts, eating too much can cause side effects. This mainly applies to Cassia cinnamon or “regular” cinnamon, because it contains high amounts of coumarin, which has been linked to conditions such as liver damage and cancer. On the other hand, Ceylon spice or “true” cinnamon only contain traces of coumarin and can be safely consumed in larger quantities. You can safely eat up to a teaspoon (0.5 to 2 grams) of Cassia cinnamon or up to two and a half teaspoons (5 grams) of Ceylon spice per day. Although eating too much cinnamon may have some drawbacks, it is a healthy spice that gives important benefits if you eat it in small to moderate amounts. Eating less than the tolerable daily intake is more than enough to get your health benefits.