A Chemical By Any Other Name : How Cinnamon Can Be Toxic (Part 1).

People often think that because something is derived from nature that intrinsically it is safe. However, a chemical is still a chemical regardless of whether it comes from a plant or synthesized in a laboratory. Case in point is Cinnamon and a component of its oil.

I have been suffering for 2 years from re-occurring, sporadic eruptions of a rash all over my face. The skin on my face would first become very itchy and oily, then it would get hot and red. Lastly, it would break-out into what looked like a heat rash, that would prickle, sting, and sometimes burn. Once the flare-up reached its climax, it would subside anywhere from within an hour to a day. Afterwards, it was such that no one would ever know anything was ever wrong with my face. So, when I would go to the dermatologist, they would look at me as if though I was delusional, and tell me it was nothing— perhaps it was just acne.

Yet still, I was prescribed an array of treatments that didn’t work: oral antibiotics, topical antibiotics, topical anti-fungal, oral anti-fungal, hydrocortisone ointment, a sulfur-containing face-wash. Only one doctor confirmed what I had suspected all along; that it was contact dermatitis! The problem was, I still didn’t know what was causing it. I had previously seen an Allergist, I knew for certain I had a serious allergy to dust-mites, oral allergies to a series of fruit whose proteins cross react with my true allergy to birch trees, but nothing prepared me for this:

It was only after careful consideration of my diet and examination of the ingredient list of all the products I had been apply to my skin and hair, that I came to the realization of the culprit. Turns out there is a chemical that is found in Cinnamon known as Cinnamaldehyde. It is used in cosmetics and foods to impart fragrance or flavor. It is a known skin irritant and a strong sensitizer.

Cinnamon or Cinnamaldehyde was in the cinnamon raisin bread and bagels my sister kept in the house, that I would only eat periodically. It was in the cereal my mom would sometimes bring home. I was putting it in the banana bread I started baking. It was everywhere; I was unwittingly exposing myself randomly and repeatedly to Cinnamaladehyde. Primarily, it was in one of the conditioners I  washed my hair with (I wash my hair everyday with conditioner, and sometimes I would rotate brands). This was why it was primarily affecting my face, but re-occurring sporadically. I wasn’t always using a product that contained the chemical, but when I did the majority of it was coming in contact with the skin on my face. I also had hives and clusters of prickly pimple like bumps appearing on my forearms.

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Now I take an oral anti-histamine each day, and try to stay away from eating and applying anything that contains cinnamon extracts. Cinnamaldehyde is derived primarily from cinnamon bark and other plants, but is also synthesized in a lab. To know more about how and why it causes dermatitis click here for Part 2.

A Chemical By Any Other Name: How Cinnamon Can Be Toxic (Part 2).


Cinnamaldehyde (cinnamic aldehyde, cinnamal) is a naturally occurring aldehyde in many plants. The clear yellow liquid is extracted mainly from cinnamon bark (cinnamomum cassia, cinnamomum zeylanicum) and has a strong spicy aroma and sweet taste. For this reason it is commonly used as a flavorant and fragrance in foods, cosmetics, and other products. It has also been commonly reported to cause  allergic contact dermatitis, as it is a known skin irritant and strong sensitizer .

Cinnamaldehyde was first isolated from Cinnamon essential oil in 1834. Cinnamon contains approximately 1 to 3.5% essential oil. The oil itself, is approximately 70 – 90% cinnamaldehyde. The oil has been used to impart such fragrances as almond, apricot, butterscotch, hyacinth, and lilac.  It has been recognized in Europe as the most common organic allergen in humans, second  only to Nickel. In fact, do to its potential for allergenicity, the European Union has listed cinnamaldehyde and cinnamic alcohol as fragrance materials that must be labeled on consumer products (essential oils often appear on labels as : “essential oil mix” or ” natural fragrance”). Continue reading