Don’t Make Your Own Cinnamon Oil – until you read this!

cinnamon and cassia sticks

cinnamon (left) and cassia (right) sticks

Daft.  Absolutely daft is what I was thinking when I came across a website explaining how to make your own cinnamon oil.  Making the oil is not the daft part – I’ll explain how to do it in another article.  The daft part is not understanding what you are doing and releasing that on your readers.  It’s a perfect example of the saying ‘a little bit of knowledge is dangerous’.

“Ok, so?” you may be wondering.

It’s the coumarin in cassia cinnamon that is the problem.  And this health and wellness website was showing photos of the steps to make the ‘cinnamon oil’ but it was clearly cassia cinnamon they are using.  I nearly clicked off, but I couldn’t help but leave a message anyway for the benefit of any innocent readers wandering upon that article.

Here’s what I wrote:

“Good article but I see you are using cassia in the photo and not Cinnamonum verum aka Ceylon or True cinnamon. Cassia is a variety of cinnamon but with MUCH higher coumarin content (.5% compared to Ceylon cinnamon at .0004%) – which is oil soluble. This means the oil maceration will extract it out…and this is not a good idea if taken in large doses and frequently. Particularly for the young and older populations. This link to my site explains it, scroll down to ‘The Odd Cousin’.
epicureandigest.com/2013/06/22/dosage-and-method-turmeric
I have another article on the site regarding dosage and method for Ceylon cinnamon.
Coumarin is a blood thinner, like Warfarin, which contains…coumarin and in high concentration has other potentially dangerous side effects.”

Unfortunately, many sites are not aware of the difference between the cinnamons. In supermarkets, it is nearly always cassia cinnamon that is used as it is much, much cheaper, stronger in taste and nearly ‘harsh’ compared to Ceylon cinnamon.

More potential problems with cassia oil are liver and kidney damage in those patients with those organs already compromised because of an illness or disease.  Cassia oil should not be used for body massage because coumarin is…wait for it…trans-dermal.  Ever heard of coumarin patches? True Ceylon cinnamon is wonderful for massage purposes, though.

Cassia certainly has its benefits especially in  Asian traditional medicine and with knowledgeable Western herbologists, but its not for the general populous in large amounts.  Casual use of cassia with knowledge of how and why is not a problem.  Sprinkling a little over your food or using a cassia stick in your hot tea, not a problem.  Using large amounts daily in medicinal doses is, yes, as mentioned above – a potential problem.

A stick of cassia left in your tea or boiled will draw out the beneficial properties that are water soluble leaving the coumarin behind.  The same is true for powdered as it will be the sediment at the bottom that will have the coumarin.  So no problem. An oil maceration on the other hand, draws out the coumarin and leaves the water soluble constituents behind.  Common herbal extractions and tinctures are made depending on the properties you wish to extract using water, alcohol or oil (maceration).

So, if you wanted to make a natural blood thinner, make a maceration of cassia!  Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but much closer to the truth than not.

Related articles:  Cinnamon – Dosage and Method and Spice: Cinnamon-A Major Cin

Small selection of references:

  • Tai-Long Pan, Pei-Wen Wang, Ibrahim A. Aljuffali, Yann-Lii Leu, Yi-Yun Hung, Jia-You Fang  Corrigendum to “Coumarin derivatives, but not coumarin itself, cause skin irritation via topical delivery”. Toxicology letters 226(2014) 173–181 Toxicology Letters, Volume 232, Issue 2, 22 January 2015, Page 546
  • J Agric Food Chem. 2013 May 8;61(18):4470-6. doi: 10.1021/jf4005862. Epub 2013 Apr 29.  Cassia cinnamon as a source of coumarin in cinnamon-flavored food and food supplements in the United States.Wang YH1, Avula B, Nanayakkara NP, Zhao J, Khan IA.
  • Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinnamomum_cassia#Health_benefits_and_risks
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