Step 1: Coumarin poisoning from Cassia "Cinnamon"

Picture of Coumarin poisoning from Cassia
I ate probably almost a cup of cinnamon in the last week while testing various versions of this project.
I feel weird.
Like I just want to stare at one point and let my eyes unfocus and not move my head.
But before everything goes to static I get fidgety and move my head.
Has this happened to anyone else?
I think I'll take a break for a while...

WARNING: Don't eat too much Cinnamon. according to wikipedia the "cinnamon" we get here isn't "true cinnamon" and it contains coumarin which bad for your liver and kidneys at least.

The Spice Page explains the different kinds of plants called "Cinnamon" and claims you can eat up to 1 gram of the local "cassia" crap per day without getting coumarin poisoning.

A friend of mine was eating cinnamon with a spoon because she'd seen reports of
cinnamon being investigated for diabetes/sugar metabolism and other health benefits.
So I thought I'd try it.

Eggnog usually also has nutmeg in it, but having experienced a nutmeg poisoning/overdose, I never use it. See the comments for the story of how that was. Damn. Food is dangerous.
I guess it actually IS the leading cause of death here in the States.
AL03U2 years ago
Coumarin is fat soluble not water soluble. To separate it from the cinnamon, I stir cinnamon powder in boiling water and let stand for a few minutes. Then I pour the liquid through a coffee filter (reusuable plastic kind) and dump the gooey mass at the bottom which contains the coumarin. I'm sure that this separated & filtered liquid is NOT 100% coumarin-free but nevertheless I feel better about consuming it, confident that there is much less coumarin there after this process.


"However, essentially all toxic materials in cinnamon are lipid soluble, Dr. Anderson says. Therefore, he uses a water-soluble extract."

"We recommend that people take ¼ to 1 teaspoon daily," he tells us. "Or if they want to take more, to boil cinnamon in water and pour off the soluble portion and discard the solid cinnamon."


PatCater4 years ago
Cassia has 1250 times more coumarin than Ceylon Cinnamon. Relatively small amounts of coumarin can damage the liver of particularly sensitive individuals. So make sure that your Cinnamon is Ceylon Cinnamon.

The only issue here is that Ceylon Cinnamon does not produce the blood sugar benefits that the other, more common, forms of cinnamon give. Therefore, it may be safer but it isn't the same. It isn't harmful in small amounts (up to 1 gram) unless you are a very sensitive individual. Your safest bet is to consult a qualified herbologist and or a pharmacist when taking it as a supplement.
Here's the thing that people don't seem to understand about food and herbs... Even NATURAL stuff is dangerous. Even organic plants and what not can cause grievous harm.

Um, excuse me, but digitalis grows very organically and naturally, and, unless you have a heart condition, and take *just* *the* *right* amount, it can easily kill you. Or make you very sick, at least. Some idiots use it for weight loss, and wonder why they get high blood pressure and... symptoms of poisoning! Imagine!

The USA has nothing to do with it... I'm sure you can poison yourself with a number of things on your spice rack in any country in the world. For example, lemon grass is pretty toxic, so is clove and mace.

Heck, using regular cinnamon the way he described using cassia might have been worse! Why? It would have caused him to go into hypoglycemic shock... that is, unconscious with VERY low blood pressure. BTW, he could have *died* that way, in fact, a good deal more likely than the coumerin poisoning.  That is, if he were alone and no one checked in on him for a day or two.

Also, coumerins are very natural. A large number of plants carry it, like king's clover, Mexican vanilla, and most things, to be honest, that taste like vanilla save the real thing. There are a number of commonly used herbal medicines that contain coumerins, and indeed, it's a part of the health benefit!
Herbs are, and always have been medicinal. As far as side effects from cinnamon, headaches, dizziness and lack of coordination would even be expected with real cinnamon. It lowers blood sugar so drastically that it can provoke hypoglycemia in non-diabetics.

If you are all looking for a reputable source of properly identified herbs, consider buying organic products from a heath food store or herbalist. The standards are very different.

Sorry if I sound somewhat preachy. That always seems to happen when I speak English.

Thanx BayouMonroe for the clarification on Cassia/Cinnamon. I am a chartered Herbalist and I was unaware of this substitution.
BayouMonroe5 years ago
Most commercial versions of the spice labeled as "cinnamon" and sold in the USA are not actually cinnamon at all. Hence, the toxic side-effects. It is not the same spice our grandparents bought and consumed.http://www.ceylon-cinnamon.com/Identify-Cinnamon.htm
Thanks to the influence of giant corporations, the FDA now allows a cheap alternative called "cassia" to be sold and labeled as "cinnamon" but unfortunately, cassia "cinnamon" contains coumarin--which is potentially toxic. It also thins the blood and can cause liver and kidney damage.

This link has an interesting and helpful chart on identifying true cinnamon.

Unfortunately, the USDA allows spice importers to sell these faux cinnamon products without declaring them as such--and food manufacturers are allowed to use the term "cinnamon" as a generic phase. However, you can avoid these potentially toxic cinnamon imposters by purchasing the authentic item, which is labeled "Ceylon Cinnamon."

Please shop around because unfortunately, there are many websites that take advantage of consumer health concerns by overcharging for their Ceylon cinnamon products.

I buy Ceylon Cinnamon directly from "Surfas" (a chef supply source). For SoCalifornia residents, they have a store in Culver City'; or you can order Ceylon Cinnamon online at www.culinarydistrict.com. It's pure, it's safe and it's delicious.

Note: when you are consuming real cinnamon, you will notice you don't need to use as much as the cheap commercial type--because Ceylon cinnamon is more fragrant and flavorful.

Bon appetite and good health!

livibosch6 years ago
I agree with your suspicions about ingesting too much cinnamon. I recently read a Chinese Medicinal Herbal Book which contained advice about using cinnamon in daily drinks such a coffee (yum); to rid your body of excess water. As a female I am very interested in this concept at least once a month. However, while I did need to urinate every fifteen minutes I soon found that my kidneys hurt and I had a tremendous headache. Let me be honest, I really over did how much cinnamon I was using; and I continued its use for over four days before I noticed any side effects. Still, I have learned a lesson that even what seems as a modest kitchen herb can cause damage when used improperly. Hope this helps 
TimAnderson (author)  livibosch6 years ago
What sort of side effects did you notice?
d2j56 years ago
i have that same bottle i think O_o
Lulz for American food.