(Cinnamomum zeylanicum) is a small evergreen tree 10-15 m tall, belonging
to the family Lauraceae, and a spice obtained from
the inner bark of this
species. It is native to Sri Lanka. The leaves are ovate-oblong in shape,
7-18 cm long. The flowers, which are arranged in
panicles, have a
greenish colour and a rather disagreeable odour. The fruit is a purple 1 cm berry containing a single
is principally employed in cookery as a condiment and flavouring material, being
largely used in the preparation of some kinds of chocolate and
medicine it acts like other volatile oils and once had a reputation as a "cure"
for colds. The pungent taste and scent come from cinnamic aldehyde or
best cinnamon is from Sri Lanka, but the tree is also
grown at Tellicherry,
in Java, Sumatra, the West Indies,
Brazil, and Egypt. Sri Lanka cinnamon of fine
quality is a very thin smooth bark, with a light-yellowish brown colour, a highly
fragrant odour, and a peculiarly sweet, warm and pleasing aromatic taste. Its
flavour is due to an aromatic oil which it contains to the extent
of from 0.5 to 1%. This essential oil, as an article of commerce, is prepared
by roughly pounding the bark, macerating it in sea-water, and then quickly distilling the whole. It
is of a golden-yellow colour, with the peculiar odour of cinnamon and a very hot
aromatic taste. It consists essentially of cinnamic aldehyde and, by the absorption
of oxygen as it
ages, darkens in colour and develops resinous compounds.
has been known from remote antiquity, and it was so highly prized among ancient
nations that it was regarded as a present fit for monarchs and other great potentates.
It is mentioned in Exodus 30: 23, where Moses is commanded to
use both sweet cinnamon (Kinnamon) and cassia, and in Proverbs 7: 17-18, where the
lover's bed is perfumed with myrrh, aloe and cinnamon. It is also alluded to by
and other classical writers.
a much more costly spice than cassia, that comparatively harsh-flavoured
substance is frequently substituted for or added to it. The two barks when whole
are easily enough distinguished, and their microscopic characteristics are also
quite distinct. When powdered bark is treated with tincture of iodine (a test for starch), little effect
is visible in the case of pure cinnamon of good quality, but when cassia is present
a deep-blue tint is produced, the intensity of the coloration depending on the
proportion of the cassia.
Herbal advises a daily draught of cinnamon in "any convenient liquor"
against scurvy. Studies have found that using half a teaspoon of cinammon
a day significantly reduces blood sugar levels in diabetics. The benefit,
which can even be produced by soaking cinnamon in tea, also benefits non-diabetics
who have blood sugar problem.