Lively Up Your Shelf! Barking up the Wrong Tree

Cinnamon is commonly used this time of year in Canada. It is the ubiquitous spice found in pumpkin and apple pie and its sweet and warming tones are ideally suited for comforting fall weather foods. But did you know…

most cinnamon sold commercially in Canada and the US is not actually cinnamon but cassia? The former is usually sold under the name ‘true cinnamon’ and the latter is often sold under the name Saigon/Vietnamese Saigon cinnamon.

True cinnamon 

origin: Sri Lanka (formerly named Ceylon)

botanical name: cinnamomum zeylanicum 


  • It is an evergreen tree that is part of the Laurel family.
  • It indigenous to Sri Lanka.
  • The inner bark is stripped away, laid out to dry at which point it curls up into quills. These are packed like Russian nesting dolls, one inside the other, to form sticks and sold as is or in ground form.
  • Popular uses: in savoury dishes and meat sauces during the Middle Ages and in spice blends in Eastern countries eg ras el hanout (Morocco), berbere (Ethiopia), curry (India). In the West, it is most often used in sweet dishes.
  • The Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Portuguese, Dutch and British all vied for trade in cinnamon.
  • It is true cinnamon that is recommended for its effect on blood sugar regulation.  Check out this post from Healthline for its other health benefits.


origin: Myanmar (formerly called Burma)

botanical name: cinnamomum cassia 


  • It is an evergreen tree, sometimes called bastard cinnamon, and processed the same way as cinnamon.
  • It is cheaper and easier to produce than true cinnamon.
  • Cassia is much more pungent than true cinnamon and therefore favoured in baking for its strong aroma and taste.
  • Cassia contains a significant amount of coumarin, a chemical compound that may cause liver damage in certain individuals when taken in high doses.



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