Botanical Name: Cinnamomum Zeylanicum

Family: Lauraceae

Hindi Name: Dalchini

Cinnamon originates from the island of Sri Lanka, south-west India and the Tenasserim Hills of Myanmar. They have been cultivated in the Seychelles.

Cinnamon is an ancient spice mentioned several times in the Old Testament, although only Chinese cinnamon has been known in the West until the sixteenth century. The Sri Lankan cinnamon has a more delicate aroma then the Chinese species, and is the most popular variety in the Western market. The cinnamon from Sri Lanka and the Seychelles Island are considered to be among the best. The 248-acre Randa Tarra cinnamon plantation is the oldest plantations in Asia.

The trees that produce this fabulous spice range from thick-stemmed bushes to trees that rise to a height of as much as about 13 metres.

Cinnamon is actually the bark of the bushes and trees. When harvested, the bark forms into long, slender, tight curls, sold as cinnamon sticks in our market. The thickness of the bark ranges from 0.2 to 1.0 mm. Since cinnamon can lose its potency, the sticks are ground into spice after being exported. The sticks are graded according to quality. The higher the oil content, the better the aroma and flavour.

Vietnamese cinnamon, reddish brown in colour, has an intense flavour, and is high in oil Content. Chinese cinnamon, true brown, is lower in the essential oil. Sri Lankan cinnamon is mostly sold in stick form.

In traditional Asian medicine, cinnamon has long been used to treat blood pressure and poor blood circulation. Cinnamon leaves may serve as a substitute for Indian bay leaves.

Its composition is as follows:

  • Volatile oil: 0.3-2.8 %
  • Fixed oil: 0.3-1.9 %
  • Fibre: 25.6-30.5 %.
  • Carbohydrates: 16.2-22.6 %
  • Protein: 3-4.5 %
  • Ash: 3.4-6%

An essential oil can be obtained from leaves that consists mainly of eugenol, and can be used as a substitute for clove oil. In the essential oil extracted from the roots, camphor dominates, but this oil is not used commercially. An essential oil can be obtained from cinnamon leaves that consists mainly of eugenol and can be used as a substitute for clove oil.

The so-called 'cinnamon buds' are the unripe fruits harvested shortly after the blossom. In appearance these buds are similar to cloves, and are less aromatic than the bark. The odour of these buds is, however, rather interesting-mild, pure and sweet. To get maximum fragrance from them, they must be finely ground. Their usage as a spice has only regional importance in China (obtained from the cassia tree) in India.

Now researchers have shown that cinnamon extracts increase insulin sensitivity, helping glucose to metabolise. The compound that causes this effect is a type of flavonoid which makes this fabulous spice an important addition to our diets. Scientists in Israel have found that cinnamon extract is useful in inhibiting the bacteria, H.Pylori which causes many ulcers.

Cinnamon even contains an antioxidant, glutathione. Although our bodies also produce this antioxidant, cinnamon can enhance these levels, helping to counter lipid (fat) oxidation. Since Sri Lankan cinnamon is native to South Asia, it is not surprising that the cuisines of Sri Lanka and India make heavy use of it. It is equally suited for the fiery beef curries of Sri Lanka and the subtle fragrant rice dishes of the Imperial North Indian cuisine.

It is also widely used for flavouring tea. In Western Countries cinnamon is used in several kinds of desserts, stewed fruits and herbal tea. In India, cinnamon is applied as a whole. The bark pieces are fried in hot oil until they unroll; this is necessary to release the fragrance. In most other countries, powdered cinnamon is preferred. Powdered cinnamon is contained in several spice mixtures, like the Indian garam masala, curry powder, Arabic baharat Moroccan ras el hanout, Tunisian galat dagga and berbere which is an Ethiopian spice mixture with a somewhat Indian character. Cinnamon bark is, furthermore, an optional ingredient for the classical mixture, a quatre epices

Cinnamon is used as a carminative, astringenr, stimulant and an antiseptic. Cinnamon stops vomiting and nausea, relieves flatulence and diarrhoea, and can also be employed to stop haemorrhage of the womb.

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