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Cinnamon (// SIN-ə-mən) is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several trees from the genus Cinnamomum that is used in both sweet and savoury foods. While Cinnamomum verum is sometimes considered to be "true cinnamon", most cinnamon in international commerce is derived from related species, which are also referred to as "cassia" to distinguish them from "true cinnamon".
Cinnamon is the name for perhaps a dozen species of trees and the commercial spice products that some of them produce. All are members of the genus Cinnamomum in the family Lauraceae. Only a few of them are grown commercially for spice.
In Sri Lanka, in Sinhala, cinnamon is known as kurundu (කුරුඳු), and was recorded in English in the 17th century as "korunda". It is called karuva in Malayalam, and Tamil. Another Tamil variant is பட்டை Pattai. In Indonesia, where it is cultivated in Java and Sumatra, it is called kayu manis ("sweet wood"). In several European languages, the word for cinnamon comes from the Latin word cannella, a diminutive of canna, "tube", from the way it curls up as it dries.
In classical times, four types of cinnamon were distinguished (and often confused):
The Hebrew Bible makes specific mention of the spice many times: first when Moses is commanded to use both sweet cinnamon (Hebrew: קִנָּמוֹן, qinnāmôn) and cassia in the holy anointing oil; in Proverbs where the lover's bed is perfumed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon; and in Song of Solomon, a song describing the beauty of his beloved, cinnamon scents her garments like the smell of Lebanon. Cassia was also part of the ketoret, the consecrated incense described in the Hebrew Bible and Talmud. It is also referred to as the HaKetoret (the incense). It was offered on the specialized incense altar in the time when the Tabernacle was located in the First and Second Jerusalem Temples. The ketoret was an important component of the Temple service in Jerusalem. Psalm 45:8 mentions the garments of the king (or of Torah scholars) that smell of myrrh, aloes and cassia.
It was so highly prized among ancient nations that it was regarded as a gift fit for monarchs and even for a god: a fine inscription records the gift of cinnamon and cassia to the temple of Apollo at Miletus. Though its source was kept mysterious in the Mediterranean world for centuries by the middlemen who handled the spice trade, to protect their monopoly as suppliers, cinnamon is native to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Malabar Coast of India and Burma.
The first Greek reference to kasia is found in a poem by Sappho in the seventh century BC. According to Herodotus, both cinnamon and cassia grew in Arabia, together with incense, myrrh, and ladanum, and are guarded by winged serpents. The phoenix was reputed to build its nest from cinnamon and cassia. But Herodotus mentions other writers who see the home of Dionysos, somewhere east or south of Greece, as the source of cassia.
The Greeks used kásia or malabathron to flavour wine, together with absinth wormwood (Artemisia absinthium). While Theophrastus gives a good account of the plants, he describes a curious method for harvesting: worms eat away the wood and leave the bark behind.
Egyptian recipes for kyphi, an aromatic used for burning, included cinnamon and cassia from Hellenistic times onwards. The gifts of Hellenistic rulers to temples sometimes included cassia and cinnamon as well as incense, myrrh, and Indian incense (kostos), so one might conclude that the Greeks used it in this way too.
Pliny gives an account of the early spice trade across the Red Sea that cost Rome 100 million sesterces each year. The cinnamon was brought around the Arabian peninsula on "rafts without rudders or sails or oars," taking advantage of the winter trade winds. Pliny also mentions cassia as a flavouring agent for wine.
According to Pliny, a Roman pound (327 grams (11.5 oz)) of cassia, cinnamon, or serichatum cost up to 300 denarii, the wage of ten months' labour. Diocletian's Edict on Maximum Prices from 301 AD gives a price of 125 denarii for a pound of cassia, while an agricultural labourer earned 25 denarii per day.
Cinnamon was too expensive to be commonly used on funeral pyres in Rome, but the Emperor Nero is said to have burned a year's worth of the city's supply at the funeral for his wife Poppaea Sabina in AD 65.
Malabathrum leaves (folia) were used in cooking and for distilling an oil used in a caraway sauce for oysters by the Roman gourmet Gaius Gavius Apicius. Malabathrum is among the spices that, according to Apicius, any good kitchen should contain.
The famous Commagenum unguent produced in Commagene in present-day eastern Turkey, was made from goose-fat and aromatised with cinnamon oil and spikenard. Malobathrum from Egypt (Dioscorides I, 63) was based on cattle-fat and contained cinnamon as well; one pound cost 300 denarii. The Roman poet Martial (VI, 55) made fun of Romans who drip unguents, smell of cassia and cinnamon taken from a bird's nest, and look down on him who does not smell at all.
Before the foundation of Cairo, Alexandria was the Mediterranean shipping port of cinnamon. Europeans who knew the Latin writers who were quoting Herodotus knew cinnamon came up the Red Sea to the trading ports of Egypt, but whether from Ethiopia or not was less than clear. When the Sieur de Joinville accompanied his king to Egypt on crusade in 1248, he reported what he had been told (and believed) that cinnamon was fished up in nets at the source of the Nile out at the edge of the world.
Through the Middle Ages, the source of cinnamon was a mystery to the Western world. Marco Polo avoided precision on this score. 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") about 1270. This was followed shortly thereafter by John of Montecorvino in a letter about 1292.
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. See also Rhapta.
Arab traders brought the spice by 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 landed in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) at the beginning of the 16th century and restructured the traditional production and management of cinnamon by the Sinhalese, 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 manufactories by 1640, and expelled the 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.
In 1767, Lord Brown of the East India Company established Anjarakkandy Cinnamon Estate near Anjarakkandy in Cannanore (now Kannur) district of Kerala, and this estate became Asia's largest cinnamon estate.
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.
Global annual production of cinnamon and cassia amounts to 27,500-35,000 tons. Cinnamomum verum accounts for 7,500-10,000 tons of production, with the remainder produced by other species. Sri Lanka produces 80-90% of the world's supply of C. verum, but that is the only species grown there; C. verum is also cultivated on a commercial scale in Seychelles and Madagascar. Global production of the other species averages 20,000-25,000 tons, of which Indonesia produces around two-thirds of the total, with significant production in China. India and Vietnam are also minor producers.
Cinnamon is harvested by growing the tree for two years, then coppicing it. The following year, about a dozen shoots will form from the roots.
The branches harvested this way are processed by scraping off the outer bark, then beating the branch evenly with a hammer to loosen the inner bark. The inner bark is then pried out in long rolls. Only 0.5 mm (0.02 in) of the inner bark is used; the outer, woody portion is discarded, leaving metre-long cinnamon strips that curl into rolls ("quills") on drying. Once dry, the bark is cut into 5- to 10-cm (2- to 4-in) lengths for sale.
The bark must be processed immediately after harvesting while still wet. Once processed, the bark will dry completely in four to six hours, provided it is in a well-ventilated and relatively warm environment. A less than ideal drying environment encourages the proliferation of pests in the bark, which may then require treatment by fumigation. Bark treated this way is not considered to be of the same premium quality as untreated bark.
Sri Lanka cinnamon has a very thin, smooth bark with a light-yellowish brown colour and a highly fragrant aroma. In recent years in Sri Lanka, mechanical devices have been developed to ensure premium quality and worker safety and health, following considerable research by the universities in that country, led by the University of Ruhuna.
The Sri Lankan grading system divides the cinnamon quills into four groups:
These groups are further divided into specific grades. For example, Mexican is divided into M00 000 special, M000000, and M0000, depending on quill diameter and number of quills per kilogram.
Any pieces of bark less than 106 mm (4.2 in) long are categorized as quillings. Featherings are the inner bark of twigs and twisted shoots. Chips are trimmings of quills, outer and inner bark that cannot be separated, or the bark of small twigs.
A number of species are often sold as cinnamon:
Ceylon cinnamon, using only the thin inner bark, has a lighter brown colour, a finer, less dense, and more crumbly texture, and is considered to be more aromatic and more subtle in flavour than cassia. Cassia has a much stronger (somewhat harsher) flavour than Ceylon cinnamon, is generally a medium to light reddish brown, hard and woody in texture, and thicker (2–3 mm (0.079–0.118 in) thick), as all of the layers of bark are used.
Potentially toxic coumarin is present in much lower levels in C. burmannii due to its low essential oil content. Levels of coumarin in Ceylon cinnamon are much lower than those in cassia.
The barks, when whole, are easily distinguished, and their microscopic characteristics are also quite distinct. Ceylon cinnamon sticks (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 cinnamon is often sold in neat quills made up of one thick layer, capable of damaging a spice or coffee grinder. Saigon cinnamon (C. loureiroi) and Chinese cinnamon (C. cassia) are always sold as broken pieces of thick bark, as the bark is not supple enough to be rolled into quills. The powdered bark is harder to distinguish, but if it is treated with tincture of iodine (a test for starch), little effect is visible with pure Ceylon cinnamon, but when Chinese cinnamon is present, a deep-blue tint is produced.
The flavour of cinnamon is due to an aromatic essential oil that makes up 0.5 to 1% of its composition. This essential oil 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 characteristic odour of cinnamon and a very hot aromatic taste. The pungent taste and scent come from cinnamic aldehyde or cinnamaldehyde (about 90% of the essential oil from the bark) and, by reaction with oxygen as it ages, it darkens in colour and forms resinous compounds. Other chemical components of the essential oil include ethyl cinnamate, eugenol (found mostly in the leaves), beta-caryophyllene, linalool, and methyl chavicol.
Cinnamon bark is widely used as a spice. It is principally employed in cookery as a condiment and flavouring material. It is used in the preparation of chocolate, especially in Mexico, which is the main importer of cinnamon. It is also used in many dessert recipes, such as apple pie, doughnuts, and cinnamon buns as well as spicy candies, coffee, tea, hot cocoa, and liqueurs. True cinnamon, rather than cassia, is more suitable for use in sweet dishes.
In the Middle East, cinnamon 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, such as toast, and fruits, especially apples; a cinnamon-sugar mixture is even sold separately for such purposes. It is also used in Turkish cuisine for both sweet and savoury dishes.
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 Shole-zard, Persian شله زرد). It is also used in sambar powder or BisiBelebath powder in Karnataka, which gives it a rich aroma and unique taste.
Cinnamon has been proposed for use as an insect repellent, although it remains untested. Cinnamon leaf oil has been found to be very effective in killing mosquito larvae. Of the compounds found in the essential oil from cinnamon leaves, cinnamyl acetate, eugenol, and anethole, and in particular cinnamaldehyde, were found to have the highest effectiveness against mosquito larvae.
Cinnamon, as a warm and dry substance, was believed by doctors in ancient times to cure snakebites, freckles, the common cold, and kidney troubles, among other ailments. However, newer studies showed that some substances in cinnamon, particularly coumarin, may cause liver damage in some sensitive people.
Cinnamon along with garlic is used as a fish and meat preservative and in the future might be used in an inner layer of plastic as it has antimicrobial properties up to 120 °C (250 °F); they can also be used to preserve fried and deep fried foods.
It is a popular flavoring in numerous alcoholic beverages. Fireball Cinnamon Whisky is a cinnamon-flavoured whisky-based liqueur produced by the Sazerac Company. Somewhat similar products — Red Stag Spiced by Jim Beam, DeKuyper Hot Damn!, Gold Strike cinnamon liqueur containing gold snippets, produced by Lucas Bols, Hood River Distillers SinFire Cinnamon Whisky. and Goldschlager Cinnamon Schnapps containing gold flecks — which also have cinnamon as an ingredient in high potency liqueurs.
Other products feature cinnamon-infused vodka, including Smirnoff's Cinna-Sugar Twist. In November 2013, Beam's Pinnacle Vodka and Cinnabon teamed up to introduce their own brand of cinnamon flavored vodka, Cinnabon Vodka.[A] Yet another is Stolichnaya Zinamom Vodka.
Cinnamon brandy concoctions, called "Cinnamon liqueur" and made with distilled alcohol, are popular in parts of Greece. For those who wish to make their own "cinnamon liqueur" there is much controversy concerning the proper ingredients. Particularly, some purported "cinnamon" found in "cinnamon sticks" is in fact not cinnamon, as the latter may be banned or limited in some countries due to the presence of coumarin.[B]
There are many cinnamon-infused liquors on the market. See Fireball and discussion therein.
Cinnamon is used in traditional medicine, and several studies have tested chemicals extracted from cinnamon for various possible medicinal effects.
In an experiment testing the effects of various plants used in traditional Indian medicine, an extract of Cinnamomum cassia had an effect on HIV-1. Another study found that eugenol, a chemical found in cinnamon essential oils, and in other plants, inhibited the replication of the virus causing herpes in vitro. The compound cinnzeylanine, from C. zeylanicum, also had antiviral properties in a model system using silkworm cells.
Two studies have shown that including cinnamon and cinnamon extract in the diet may help type 2 diabetics to control blood glucose levels. One study used C. cassia, while the other study used an extract (made from "Chinese Cinnamomum aromaticum", an older name for C. cassia). Apart from the most common flavanol (epi)catechin and (epi)afzelechin, cinnamon proanthocyanidins contain (epi)catechingallate and (epi)gallocatechin units. Furthermore, these proanthocyanidins are bioavailable and may have an effect on the target tissues. However a Cochrane review study published in 2012 found that cinnamon was no more effective than placebo in reducing glucose levels and glycosylated haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) (a long-term measurement of glucose control in diabetes). Authors concluded that "There is insufficient evidence to support the use of cinnamon for type 1 or type 2 diabetes mellitus".
Pharmacological experiments suggest that dietary cinnamon-derived cinnamic aldehyde (cinnamaldehyde) activates the Nrf2-dependent antioxidant response in human epithelial colon cells and may therefore represent an experimental chemopreventive dietary factor targeting colorectal carcinogenesis. Recent research documents antimelanoma activity of cinnamic aldehyde observed in cell culture and a mouse model of human melanoma.
A 2011 study isolated a substance (CEppt) in the cinnamon plant that inhibits development of Alzheimer's disease in mice. CEppt, an extract of cinnamon bark, seems to treat a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease.
The European Food Safety Authority in 2008 considered toxicity of coumarin, known to cause liver and kidney damage in high concentrations and a significant component of cinnamon, and metabolic effect on humans with CYP2A6 polymorphism, and confirmed a maximum recommended Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) of 0.1 mg of coumarin per kg of body weight. The European Union set a guideline for maximum coumarin content in foodstuffs of 50 mg per kg of dough in seasonal foods, and 15 mg per kg in everyday baked foods. These limits are low enough to affect the flavour of cinnamon pastries.
Ten grams (about 2.1 teaspoons) of ground cinnamon contain:
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