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Is Cinnamon toxic?
Question - I here that cinnamon in good for helping to control blood sugar, but now I read that it contains something that is toxic, is it OK to use still?
Answer- The herb (actually is a small evergreen tree) cinnamon has been used safely for thousands of years, that is if is it is used in moderation. Cinnamon contains an active compound known as MHCP or Methyl-Hydroxy-Chalcone Polymer which is what was thought to be the chemical in the plant that was responsible for its blood sugar controlling affects. However more recently, a study that was published in
the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (Anderson et al.) that characterized the insulin-enhancing plant complexes in cinnamon as a collection of catechin/epicatechin oligomers (more plant chemicals) that increase the body's insulin dependent ability to use glucose. These plant chemicals were shown to increase insulins activity in the body.

To answer your question, there has been concern that a chemical called coumarin that is naturally found in cinnamon may be toxic. There are varying opinions on this subject, but after some studies were performed to determine its safety when ingested, it was determined that if used in small quantities (such as the amounts that you would find in foods) it is safe. Cinnamon's odor and flavor are tied to a chemical called cinnamaldehyde, it is the major 'oily' component that is found in the plant. It can be toxic in large doses, a regular use of substantial amounts (e.g. 1/2 teaspoon amounts) of ground cinnamon may be unsafe. This problem can be avoided by using a water-soluble cinnamon extract in which the active polyphenolic compounds are retained but the oil constituents are removed (such as is found in some supplements). Cinnamon also contains a plant chemical called coumarin, which has also raised some concerns as to the herbs safety. Recent information provided by the Federal Institute of Risk Assessment "states that coumarin may damage the liver of particularly sensitive individuals. However, this is not permanent damage. Isolated coumarin by itself may not be added to foods by law. If coumarin containing parts of the plant are added to flavor foods, then the amount of coumarin is limited to two milligrams per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of food. Food manufacturers and importers are responsible for ensuring compliance with maximum levels. They may not place harmful foods on the market.

Cinnamon has been granted GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status as a food additive by the FDA. GRAS substances are considered safe by the experts and not restricted as is the case with other food additives. NOTE: Pregnant women are advised to avoid taking cinnamon oil or large doses of the bark, since high doses can induce abortion. Other information provided by a USDA study on Cinnamon showed it can?t harm you if taken small doses.

The bottom line is that if you are using the herb to flavor food, in the amounts used the government states it is safe. For those who are sensitive to certain plant chemicals, they may have a problem and if they stop consuming it any possible damage is reversible. If you want to take the herb to help control blood sugar, which means that you will be taking larger doses than normally would be used on foods, then take a product that has been certified to have had the potentially harmful plant chemicals removed.

TIP: There are basically two types of cinnamon being sold, they are ceylon cinnamon and cassia cinnamon. It is almost impossible for consumers to distinguish between the two, but by chance if the manufacturer provides the type of cinnamon they are offering on the package, buy the ceylon type, it will contain lower doses of the above mentioned problem chemicals.

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