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Cinnamon foliage and flowers
Cinnamon foliage and flowers
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Laurales
Family: Lauraceae
Genus: Cinnamomum
Species: C. verum
Binomial name
Cinnamomum verum

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum, synonym C. zeylanicum) is a small evergreen tree 10–15 metres (32.8–49.2 feet) tall, belonging to the family Lauraceae, and is native to Sri Lanka.[1]

The leaves are ovate-oblong in shape, 7–18 cm (2.75–7.1 inches) long. The flowers, which are arranged in panicles, have a greenish color, and have a distinct odor. The fruit is a purple one-centimeter berry containing a single seed.

Its flavor is due to an aromatic essential oil that makes up 0.5% to 1% of its composition. This oil is prepared by roughly pounding the bark, macerating it in seawater, and then quickly distilling the whole. It is of a golden-yellow color, with the characteristic odor of cinnamon and a very hot aromatic taste. The pungent taste and scent come from cinnamic aldehyde or cinnamaldehyde and, by the absorption of oxygen as it ages, it darkens in colour and develops resinous compounds. Chemical components of the essential oil include ethyl cinnamate, eugenol, cinnamaldehyde, beta-caryophyllene, linalool, and methyl chavicol.

The name cinnamon comes from Greek kinnámōmon, itself ultimately from Phoenician. The botanical name for the spice—Cinnamomum zeylanicum—is derived from Sri Lanka's former (colonial) name, Ceylon.[2]

In Malayalam it is called as "karugapatta" and in Tamil "pattai" or "lavangappattai." In Indonesia, where it is cultivated in Java and Sumatra, it is called "kayu manis" and sometimes "cassia vera". In Sri Lanka, in the original Sinhala, cinnamon is known as "kurundu,"[3] recorded in English in the 17th century as Korunda.[4] In Sanskrit cinnamon is known as "tvak" or "dārusitā. In Urdu, Hindi, and Hindustani cinnamon is called dalchini, in Assamese it is called "alseni," and in Gujarati "taj." In Arabic it is called "qerfa."


[edit] History

Cinnamon (canella) output in 2005
Cinnamomum verum, from Koehler's Medicinal-Plants (1887)
Quills of true cinnamon bark and ground cinnamon.

Cinnamon has been known from remote antiquity, and it was so highly prized among ancient nations that it was regarded as a gift fit for monarchs and other great potentates. Cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka.[1] It was imported to Egypt from China as early as 2000 BC. It is mentioned in the Bible in Exodus 30:23, where Moses is commanded to use both sweet cinnamon (Hebrew קִנָּמוֹן, qinnāmôn) and cassia in the holy anointing oil; in Proverbs 7:17–18, where the lover's bed is perfumed with myrrh, aloe and cinnamon; and in Song of Solomon 4:14, a song describing the beauty of his beloved, cinnamon scents her garments like the smell of Lebanon. It is also alluded to by Herodotus and other classical writers. It was commonly used on funeral pyres in Rome, and the Emperor Nero is said to have burned a year's supply of cinnamon at the funeral for his wife Poppaea Sabina in 65 AD.

Up to the Middle Ages, the source of cinnamon was a mystery to the Western world. It is possible that the Arabs established an early monopoly on trading in cinnamon, and kept its origin a secret for hundreds of years.[citation needed] In Herodotus and other authors, Arabia was the source of cinnamon: giant Cinnamon birds collected the cinnamon sticks from an unknown land where the cinnamon trees grew, and used them to construct their nests; the Arabs employed a trick to obtain the sticks. This story was current as late as 1310 in Byzantium, although in the first century, Pliny the Elder had written that the traders had made this up in order to charge more. The first mention of the spice growing in Sri Lanka was in Zakariya al-Qazwini's Athar al-bilad wa-akhbar al-‘ibad ("Monument of Places and History of God's Bondsmen") in about 1270.[5] This was followed shortly thereafter by John of Montecorvino, in a letter of about 1292.[6]

Indonesian rafts transported cinnamon (known in Indonesia as kayu manis- literally "sweet wood") on a "cinnamon route" directly from the Moluccas to East Africa, where local traders then carried it north to the Roman market.[7][8][9] See also Rhapta.

Arab traders brought the spice via overland trade routes to Alexandria in Egypt, where it was bought by Venetian traders from Italy who held a monopoly on the spice trade in Europe. The disruption of this trade by the rise of other Mediterranean powers, such as the Mamluk Sultans and the Ottoman Empire, was one of many factors that led Europeans to search more widely for other routes to Asia.

Portuguese traders finally discovered Ceylon (Sri Lanka) at the beginning of the sixteenth century and restructured the traditional production and management of cinnamon by the Salagama (brahmins) caste who later held the monopoly for cinnamon in Ceylon. The Portuguese established a fort on the island in 1518 and protected their own monopoly for over a hundred years.

Dutch traders finally dislodged the Portuguese by allying with the inland Kingdom of Kandy. They established a trading post in 1638, took control of the factories by 1640, and expelled all remaining Portuguese by 1658. "The shores of the island are full of it", a Dutch captain reported, "and it is the best in all the Orient: when one is downwind of the island, one can still smell cinnamon eight leagues out to sea." (Braudel 1984, p. 215)

The Dutch East India Company continued to overhaul the methods of harvesting in the wild, and eventually began to cultivate its own trees.

The British took control of the island from the Dutch in 1796. However, the importance of the monopoly of Ceylon was already declining, as cultivation of the cinnamon tree spread to other areas, the more common cassia bark became more acceptable to consumers, and coffee, tea, sugar, and chocolate began to outstrip the popularity of traditional spices.

[edit] Cultivation

Leaves of a wild Cinnamon

Cinnamon is harvested by growing the tree for two years and then coppicing it. The next year, about a dozen shoots will form from the roots. These shoots are then stripped of their bark, which is left to dry. Only the thin (0.5 mm) inner bark is used; the outer woody portion is removed, leaving metre-long cinnamon strips that curl into rolls ("quills") on drying; each dried quill comprises strips from numerous shoots packed together. These quills are then cut into 5–10 cm lengths for sale.

Cinnamon has been cultivated from time immemorial in Sri Lanka, and the tree is also grown commercially at Tellicherry in southern India, Bangladesh, Java, Sumatra, the West Indies, Brazil, Vietnam, Madagascar, Zanzibar, and Egypt. Sri Lanka cinnamon has a very thin, smooth bark with a light-yellowish brown color and a highly fragrant aroma.

According to the International Herald Tribune, in 2006 Sri Lanka produced 90% of the world's cinnamon, followed by China, India, and Vietnam.[10] According to the FAO, Indonesia produces 40% of the world's Cassia genus of cinnamon.

[edit] Varieties of cinnamon

There are several species of Cinnamon found in South and South-East Asia. In addition to the cultivated cinnamon type (Cinnamomum zeylanicum or C. verum), there reported to be seven other species of wild cinnamon which are endemic to Sri Lanka

  • Cinnamomum dubium (Wight) (Sinhala: sewel Kurundu or wal Kurundu)
  • Cinnamomum ovalifolium (Wight)
  • Cinnamomum litseafolium Thw. (Sinhala: Kudu Kurundu)
  • Cinnamomum citriodorum (Sinhala: Pangiri Kurundu - rare)
  • Cinnamomum rivulorum
  • Cinnamomum sinharajense
  • Cinnamomum capparu-corende (Sinhala: Kapuru Kurundu)

There are several different cultivars of Cinnamomum zeylanicum based on the taste of bark.

  • Type 1 Sinhala: Pani Kurundu, Pat Kurundu or Mapat Kurundu
  • Type 2 Sinhala: Naga Kurundu
  • Type 3 Sinhala: Pani Miris Kurundu
  • Type 4 Sinhala: Weli Kurundu
  • Type 5 Sinhala: Sewala Kurundu
  • Type 6 Sinhala: Kahata Kurundu
  • Type 7 Sinhala: Pieris Kurundu

[edit] Cinnamon and cassia

Cinnamon (on the left) and Indonesian Cinnamon quills (Cinnamomum burmannii) side-by-side

The name cinnamon is correctly used to refer to Ceylon cinnamon, also known as "true cinnamon" (from the botanical name C. zeylanicum). However, the related species, Cassia (Cinnamomum aromaticum), Saigon Cinnamon (Cinnamomum loureiroi), and Cinnamomum burmannii are sometimes sold labeled as cinnamon, sometimes distinguished from true cinnamon as "Chinese cinnamon", "Vietnamese cinnamon", or "Indonesian cinnamon"; many websites, for example, describe their "cinnamon" as being cassia[2]. Ceylon cinnamon, using only the thin inner bark, has a finer, less dense, and more crumbly texture, and is considered to be less strong than cassia. Cassia has a much stronger (somewhat harsher) flavour than cinnamon, is generally a medium to light reddish brown, hard and woody in texture, and thicker (2–3 mm thick), as all of the layers of bark are used[3].

Due to the presence of a moderately toxic component called coumarin, European health agencies have recently warned against consuming large amounts of cassia.[11] This is contained in much lower dosages in Cinnamomum burmannii due to its low essential oil content. Coumarin is known to cause liver and kidney damage in high concentrations. True Ceylon cinnamon has negligible amounts of coumarin.

The two barks, when whole, are easily distinguished, and their microscopic characteristics are also quite distinct. Cinnamon sticks (or quills) have many thin layers and can easily be made into powder using a coffee or spice grinder, whereas cassia sticks are much harder. Indonesian cassia (Cinnamomum burmannii) is often sold in neat quills made up of one thick layer, capable of damaging a spice or coffee grinder. Saigon cassia (Cinnamomum loureiroi) and Chinese cassia (Cinnamomum aromaticum) are always sold as broken pieces of thick bark, as the bark is not supple enough to be rolled into quills. It is a bit harder to tell powdered cinnamon from powdered cassia. 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 cassia.[citation needed]

Cinnamon is also sometimes confused with Malabathrum (Cinnamomum tamala) and Saigon cinnamon (Cinnamomum loureiroi).

[edit] Uses

Cinnamon bark

Cinnamon bark is widely used as a spice. It is principally employed in cookery as a condiment and flavoring material. It's used in the preparation of chocolate, especially in Mexico, which is the main importer of true cinnamon.[12] It is also used in the preparation of some kinds of desserts, such as apple pie and cinnamon buns as well as spicy candies, tea, hot cocoa, and liqueurs. True cinnamon, rather than cassia, is more suitable for use in sweet dishes. In the Middle East, it is often used in savoury dishes of chicken and lamb. In the United States, cinnamon and sugar are often used to flavour cereals, bread-based dishes, and fruits, especially apples; a cinnamon-sugar mixture is even sold separately for such purposes. Cinnamon can also be used in pickling. Cinnamon bark is one of the few spices that can be consumed directly. Cinnamon powder has long been an important spice in Persian cuisine, used in a variety of thick soups, drinks, and sweets. It is often mixed with rosewater or other spices to make a cinnamon-based curry powder for stews or just sprinkled on sweet treats (most notably Sholezard Per. شله زرد)

In medicine it acts like other volatile oils and once had a reputation as a cure for colds. It has also been used to treat diarrhea and other problems of the digestive system.[13] Cinnamon is high in antioxidant activity.[14][15] The essential oil of cinnamon also has antimicrobial properties,[16] which can aid in the preservation of certain foods.[17]

Cinnamon has been reported to have remarkable pharmacological effects in the treatment of type II diabetes and insulin resistance. However, the plant material used in the study was mostly from cassia and only few of them are truly from Cinnamomum zeylanicum (see cassia's medicinal uses for more information about its health benefits).[18][19] Recent advancement in phytochemistry has shown that it is a cinnamtannin B1 isolated from C. zeylanicum which is of therapeutic effect on type II diabetes,[20] with the exception of the postmenopausal patients studied on C. cassia.[21] Cinnamon has traditionally been used to treat toothache and fight bad breath and its regular use is believed to stave off common cold and aid digestion.[22]

Cinnamon is used in the system of Thelemic Magick for Solar invocations, according to the correspondences listed in Aleister Crowley's work Liber 777. In Hoodoo, it is a multipurpose ingredient used for purification, luck, love, and money.[23]

Cinnamon has been proposed for use as an insect repellent, although it remains untested.[24] Cinnamon leaf oil has been found to be very effective in killing mosquito larvae.[25] The compounds cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, eugenol and anethole, that are contained in cinnamon leaf oil, were found to have the highest effectiveness against mosquito larvae.[25]

It is reported that regularly drinking of Cinnamomum zeylanicum tea made from the bark could be beneficial to oxidative stress related illness in humans, as the plant part contains significant antioxidant potential.[26]

[edit] References

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ a b "Cinnamon". Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2008. "(species Cinnamomum zeylanicum), bushy evergreen tree of the laurel family (Lauraceae) native to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), the neighboring Malabar Coast of India, and Myanmar (Burma) and also cultivated in South America and the West Indies for the spice consisting of its dried inner bark. The bark is widely used as a spice due to its distinct odor." 
  2. ^
  3. ^ The Epicentre, Encyclopedia of Spices, Cinnamon,, retrieved on 2008-07-15 
  4. ^ Knox, Robert, An Historical Relation Of The Island Ceylon,, retrieved on 2008-07-15 
  5. ^ Tennent, Sir James Emerson, Account of the Island of Ceylon,, retrieved on 2008-07-15 
  6. ^ Yule, Col. Henry, Cathay and the Way Thither,, retrieved on 2008-07-15 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ Harris, Emily, German Christmas Cookies Pose Health Danger,, retrieved on 2007-05-01 
  12. ^
  13. ^ Felter, Harvey, Cinnamomum.—Cinnamon.,, retrieved on 2007-05-01 
  14. ^ Shan B, Cai YZ, Sun M, Corke H (October 2005). "Antioxidant capacity of 26 spice extracts and characterization of their phenolic constituents". J. Agric. Food Chem. 53 (20): 7749–59. doi:10.1021/jf051513y. PMID 16190627. 
  15. ^ Mancini-Filho J, Van-Koiij A, Mancini DA, Cozzolino FF, Torres RP (December 1998). "Antioxidant activity of cinnamon (Cinnamomum Zeylanicum, Breyne) extracts". Boll Chim Farm 137 (11): 443–7. PMID 10077878. 
  16. ^ López P, Sánchez C, Batlle R, Nerín C (August 2005). "Solid- and vapor-phase antimicrobial activities of six essential oils: susceptibility of selected foodborne bacterial and fungal strains". J. Agric. Food Chem. 53 (17): 6939–46. doi:10.1021/jf050709v. PMID 16104824. 
  17. ^ George Mateljan Foundation, Cinnamon, ground, Research: Thalido...,, retrieved on 2007-05-01 
  18. ^ Khan A, Safdar M, Ali Khan MM, Khattak KN, Anderson RA (December 2003). "Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes". Diabetes Care 26 (12): 3215–8. PMID 14633804. 
  19. ^ Verspohl, Eugen J. et al. (2005). "Antidiabetic effect of Cinnamomum cassia and Cinnamomum zeylanicum In vivo and In vitro". Phytotherapy Research 19 (3): 203–206. doi:10.1002/ptr.1643. 
  20. ^ Taher, Muhammad et al.. "A proanthocyanidin from Cinnamomum zeylanicum stimulates phosphorylation of insullin receptor in 3T3-L1 adipocyties" (PDF). Retrieved on 2008-05-11. 
  21. ^ Vanschoonbeek, Kristof et al.. "Cinnamon Supplementation Does Not Improve Glycemic Control in Postmenopausal Type 2 Diabetes Patients". Retrieved on 2008-05-11. 
  22. ^ Alice Hart-Davis (16 January 2007). "Chillies Are the Spice of Life". Retrieved on 2007-12-17. 
  23. ^ Yronwode, Cat,, retrieved on 2007-12-12 
  24. ^ Beck, Leslie, Cinnamon — December 2006's Featured Food,, retrieved on 2007-05-01 
  25. ^ a b "Cinnamon Oil Kills Mosquitoes". Retrieved on 2008-08-05. 
  26. ^ Ranjbar, Akram et al.. "Antioxidative stress potential of Cinnamomum zeylanicum in humans: a comparative cross-sectional clinical study". doi:10.2217/14750708.3.1.113. Retrieved on 2008-05-11. 

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