Unlocking the Power of Cinnamon

In addition to being a pantry staple, cinnamon is a potent ingredient that holds valuable medicinal properties. While most are well-aware of the many health benefits of cinnamon, very few are able to distinguish between the many different types. Saigon cinnamon, in particular, is a specific variety of cinnamon with a stronger, more distinct flavor and unique chemical composition that sets it apart from other spices.

So which type of cinnamon is healthiest? Is there a difference between Saigon cinnamon and regular cinnamon? And is Saigon cinnamon good for you? Let’s dive in and explore these questions one at a time.

Saigon cinnamon - Dr. Axe

What Is Saigon Cinnamon?

Saigon cinnamon, also known as Vietnamese cinnamon or Cinnamomum loureiroi, is a powerful spice that’s highly aromatic and loaded with antioxidants. It has a unique flavor that’s very similar to common cinnamon (also known as cassia), but it’s much stronger and more intense. This is mostly due to the cinnamaldehyde content of Saigon cinnamon vs. cinnamon, which is the essential oil that provides cinnamon with its distinct taste and smell.

Like other types of cinnamon, Saigon cinnamon is used around the world and can be added to a wide variety of dishes. It’s frequently found in curries, baked goods and pho, a traditional Vietnamese dish made using broth, rice noodles, herbs, meat and veggies.

However, Saigon cinnamon is not as widely available as other types of cinnamon, and figuring out where to buy it can be tricky. Unlike other cinnamon varieties, you’re unlikely to find it in the spice section of your local supermarket and may need to visit a specialty shop to get your fix.

Health Benefits

1. Rich in Antioxidants

Without a doubt, one of the top Saigon cinnamon benefits is its stellar antioxidant content. In fact, Saigon cinnamon sticks are loaded with cinnamaldehyde and eugenol, both of which are compounds that act as antioxidants in the body to neutralize free radicals and prevent oxidative damage to the cells. Some research suggests that antioxidants could play a central role in health and disease and may protect against conditions like heart disease, autoimmune disorders and diabetes.

2. Supports Blood Sugar Control

Cinnamon is well-known for its ability to decrease blood sugar levels to support glycemic control. According to one large review in Annals of Family Medicine, cinnamon consumption has been linked to lower blood sugar levels when used between four to 18 weeks. It was also shown to improve heart health by decreasing bad LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels in participants.

3. Relieves Inflammation

Chronic inflammation can have a huge impact on overall health. Not only can it switch the immune system into overdrive, damaging healthy, normal tissues and cells in the process, but it can also contribute to the development of chronic conditions like cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease. Animal models show that cinnamon and its components can decrease levels of TNF-α and IL-6, both of which are markers used to measure inflammation in the body.

4. Preserves Brain Function

Although more research in humans is needed, several promising in vitro studies have found that cinnamon extract can help protect and preserve brain function during aging. For instance, a 2009 study conducted by the University of California showed that cinnamon extract inhibited the accumulation of a specific protein in the brain that has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Other animal models have found that cinnamon could protect the neurons in the brain and may be beneficial for those suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

5. Promotes Oral Health

Studies show that cinnamon could help kill off harmful bacteria to promote oral hygiene. One study out of Amity University in India even found that cinnamon oil was effective at blocking the growth of Streptococcus mutans, a type of bacteria responsible for dental plaque, indicating that cinnamon could be useful in the prevention of cavities. For this reason, cinnamon has been used historically as a natural remedy for issues like toothaches and mouth sores.

6. Naturally Sweetens Recipes

In addition to the multitude of health benefits associated with Saigon cinnamon, it can also be used to help sweeten recipes naturally, even without the use of added sugar. This can be especially beneficial for those looking to cut calories or improve overall health. Studies show that excess sugar consumption may be linked to a higher risk of obesity, heart disease, fatty liver disease, diabetes and more.

Nutrition Facts

Packed with flavor, most recipes only require a small amount of ground Saigon cinnamon to amp up the taste and aroma of the final product. However, even a small amount Saigon cinnamon can supply a hearty dose of antioxidants, which can help fight free radical damage and protect against chronic disease.

Saigon cinnamon is especially rich in cinnamaldehyde, an essential oil that acts as an antioxidant to scavenge harmful, disease-causing free radicals and prevent lipid peroxidation. It also features eugenol, a potent compound that can prevent damage to cells and reduce inflammation. Cinnamon also contains a small amount of fiber and micronutrients like manganese, calcium iron and vitamin K in each serving.

Difference Between Saigon Cinnamon and Ceylon Cinnamon

Ceylon cinnamon stands out from other cinnamon varieties when it comes to flavor and health benefits. Also known as “true cinnamon,” Ceylon is a form of cinnamon that is native to Sri Lanka. When comparing Ceylon vs. Saigon cinnamon, Ceylon has a much more subtle taste and doesn’t have the same kick of flavor as many other cinnamon varieties. It’s also much more expensive and often considered a prized spice due to its superior flavor and quality.

Another major difference between Saigon cinnamon vs. Ceylon cinnamon is the content of coumarin, a chemical compound that can be toxic to the liver and kidneys if consumed in large amounts. While Ceylon contains a very low amount of coumarin, other varieties of cinnamon — including Saigon — contain much higher amounts, diminishing many of their potential health benefits.

Can you use Saigon cinnamon in place of Ceylon cinnamon?

In many recipes, you can use Saigon as a substitute for Ceylon cinnamon. However, there are some notable differences in taste between Saigon vs. Ceylon cinnamon, and Saigon typically has a much stronger, more distinct flavor than other types. Not only does this mean that you need less Saigon in recipes that call for Ceylon if you’re making a substitution, but it may also alter the flavor profile a bit, especially with traditional dishes from regions like Mexico or Southeast Asia.

When should you use Saigon cinnamon, and when should you use Ceylon cinnamon?

The biggest difference between Ceylon cinnamon vs. Saigon cinnamon is that Saigon has a much more intense flavor. Saigon cinnamon recipes often feature a number of powerful spices like cloves, star anise and fennel. Since the taste of Saigon cinnamon vs. regular cinnamon is very similar, it can also be swapped into almost any recipe that calls for cinnamon.

Because it has a much more mild, subtle flavor, Ceylon works well in dishes that contain fewer ingredients. This helps allow its natural flavors to shine through. In particular, it makes a great addition to baked goods and traditional dishes like churros. Ceylon should also be used for dishes that require a large amount of cinnamon, as it can help minimize coumarin content and maximize the potential health benefits.

Saigon vs. Chinese Cassia

Chinese cassia, also known as Chinese cinnamon or cassia cinnamon, is the type of cinnamon that most people are familiar with. It has a spicy yet sweet flavor and a warm aroma that’s often associated with sweet treats and baked goods.

Saigon cinnamon sticks are very similar to Chinese cassia but have a stronger, more distinct flavor due to their higher content of cinnamaldehyde, which is the essential oil responsible for its familiar flavor. However, Chinese cassia is much cheaper to produce and tends to be more consistent in quality. That is why it is easier to find and more widely available than roasted Saigon cinnamon.

Saigon Cinnamon vs. Indonesian Korintje

Indonesian Korintje is a spicy cinnamon variety that is very similar to Chinese cassia in terms of taste, appearance and aroma. It’s also cheap and easy to produce, making it a popular choice among manufacturers and consumers alike. Although it does tend to a be a bit less bitter than cassia cinnamon, the two are very closely related and can be used interchangeably in almost any recipe.

Is It Safe? Risks and Side Effects

Saigon cinnamon contains a compound called coumarin, which can be toxic when consumed in high amounts. Compared to other types of cinnamon, the Saigon cinnamon coumarin content is significantly higher. That means that it’s especially important to moderate your intake of this potent ingredient to prevent adverse effects on health.

Some of the most common side effects of coumarin consumption include nausea, diarrhea, headaches and blurred vision. More serious side effects can also occur, such as unusual bleeding or bruising, both of which can indicate a more serious problem.

Is Saigon cinnamon toxic?

If used in small amounts, it can be a safe and effective way to bump up the flavor of your favorite recipes. In larger doses, however, it can be dangerous and come with some serious negative effects on health. In some cases, even less than half a teaspoon can put you over the recommended daily limit for coumarin.

Therefore, it’s best to use very small amounts of organic Saigon cinnamon in your dishes to avoid adverse side effects. Alternatively, select Ceylon cinnamon instead, which boasts the same set of health benefits with significantly lower levels of coumarin.

Final Thoughts

  • Saigon cinnamon is a type of cinnamon that has a higher concentration of cinnamaldehyde, giving it a stronger flavor and aroma than other varieties.
  • Is Saigon cinnamon healthy? In addition to being high in antioxidants, some of the potential Saigon cinnamon health benefits include improved blood sugar control, reduced inflammation, better brain function and enhanced oral health.
  • Is Saigon cinnamon the same as Ceylon cinnamon, Chinese cassia or Indonesian Korintje? There are several distinctions that set Saigon apart from other types of cinnamon, including its intense taste and distinct flavor.
  • Another major difference between Saigon cinnamon vs. Ceylon is its coumarin content. Of all the different types of cinnamon, Saigon contains the highest concentration of coumarin, a compound that can be toxic if consumed in high amounts.
  • Therefore, it’s best to stick to small amounts of Saigon or opt for Ceylon cinnamon instead to prevent negative effects on health.

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