(Last Updated on : 16/03/2009)
Cinnamon is an important tree spice grown in different parts of India. The Botanical name of Cinnamon is Cinnamomum zeylanicun Blume and it belongs to the family of Lauraceae. It is also called Darchini in Hindi, Lavangpattai in Kannada, Darushila in Sanskrit and Sanna-lavangapattai in Tamil.
The quality of cinnamon depends, among other factors, on the region where it is grown. Sri Lankan cinnamon and cinnamon from the Seychelles Island are considered to be the best. In India, it is grown on the West coasts. At Anjarakkandi, Cannanore district of Kerala, there is a 248-acre Randa Tarra cinnamon plantation - one of the biggest and perhaps the oldest plantation in Asia. It also grows on the Western Ghats from South Kanara southwards at low altitudes. Still the quantity produced in the country is not enough, and India imports considerable quantity of cinnamon every year, since its consumption is extremely high.
Cinnamon is one of the most important tree spices of India. Like its cousin cassia, cinnamon consists layers of dried pieces of the inner bark of branches and young shoots from the evergreen tree Cinnamomum zeylanicum which is obtained when the cork and the cortical parenchyma are removed from the whole bark. The thickness of the bark ranges from 0.2 to 1.0 mm. Pure cinnamon is free from any admixture with cassia, which is considered inferior to the former in appearance, flavor and odor. Cassia is the commonest substitute of cinnamon. While it may be possible morphologically to distinguish one from the other in the whole form, it is difficult to identify them in the powder form. Harvest Season of Cinnamon is from June to December and the marketing season is from August to February.
Cinnamon bark primarily is one of the most popular spices in use in every home. It has a delicate fragrance and a warm agreeable taste. It is extensively used as a spice or condiment in the form of small pieces or powder. It is used for flavoring confectionery, liquors, pharmaceutical preparations, soaps and dental preparations. It is also used in candy, gum, incense and perfumes. It has a number of medicinal virtues. As a part of home remedy its decoction is used to combat cough. It is aromatic, astringent, stimulant and carminative and also possesses the property of checking nausea and vomiting.
Cinnamon is available in the market in different grade designations in different countries, but the more common are the following four accepted by the ISO and BIS that are graded according to their length, breadth and thickness. Cinnamon Quills are the long compound rolls of bark up to 1 meter in length, which constitutes the best grade. During the course of grading and transportation, some breakage of quills takes place. Besides, the smaller pieces left after the preparation of quills also goes into this second quality cinnamon known as `quillings`. They are of course, genuine cinnamon, are mainly used for grinding, and also for distillation of cinnamon bark oil. Is another grade that consists of the inner bark of twigs and twisted shoots which can not give straight quills or quillings of normal length. Thus they are also genuine and are used in the same way as quillings. However, they often contain small chips.
Chips grade includes the Cinnamon bark, obtained from thick branches and stems, trimmings of the cut shoots before they are peeled, shavings of outer and inner bark which can not be separated or which are obtained from small twigs by beating or hammering, and odd pieces of outer bark. They invariably contain more or less inferior bark and woody material. This admixture is leveled `chips` which constitutes the most inferior grade of cinnamon. The most important component of Cinnamon is the volatile oil of commerce, which finds numerous uses. Besides, volatile oil is also prepared from cinnamon leaves, fruits and roots as a by-product, which too finds use in the trades. Cinnamon Tree is a very useful tree. Every part of the tree; bark, wood, leaves, buds, flowers, fruits and roots - finds some use or other.
Bark oil of Cinnamon is extensively used for flavoring confectionery, liquors, and soaps, dental and pharmaceutical preparations. It has high germicidal properties. It is also a good fungicide. It has the cordial and carminative properties of cinnamon without its astringency and is employed as adjuvant in stomachic and carminative medicines. As a powerful local stimulant, it is sometimes prescribed in gastrodynia, flatulent colic and gastric debility. Green leaves of Cinnamon on steam distillation, yield 1 % essential oil, which is generally heavier than water and is aggressive in action. The leaf oil yellow to yellowish brown in colour with a slight camphoraceous odor resembles that of clove oil. It is used for flavoring sweets, confectionery and pharmaceutical preparations, besides being as a perfume for soaps. It is used as an embrocation in rheumatism.
The roots bark of Cinnamon yields 3 % oil, which differs from both stem/bark, and leaf oils. It is a colorless liquid with a camphoraceous odor. Camphor can be separates out on allowing the oil to stand. Presently it does not have commercial importance but there is opportunity to develop further. The seeds of Cinnamon contain 33 % fixed oil, formerly used for making candles. The oil, also called `cinnamon suet`, is obtained by heating to boil crushed ripe fruits suspended in water. The oleaginous matter rises to the surface and solidifies on cooling. Cinnamon buds are as good for flavoring and spicing as the bark itself. Medicinal oil can be obtained from its fruits.
The wood of Cinnamon provides a soft timber for use as low-grade board wood. Timber is moderately soft, not very strong and seasons without difficulty, but at times warps, splits, cracks, and is liable to strain. It is faintly scented, straight grained, medium and fairly textured. It can be effectively used for making curved fancy and decorative items. The Cinnamon plant therefore is much more than the source of spice, for which it is universally known. Besides being the source of all-important spice, for which it is grown, it is a source for medicines, can support craft persons, an important source of perfumes, a source of fatty oil and so on. Therefore it is important source for growth of rural industrialization and if utilized planned manner can change our rural economic scenario.
Cinnamon leaves are used in the form of powder or decoction. They are refreshment and useful in relieving flatulence and in increasing secretion and discharge of urine. Cinnamon prevents nervous tension, improves complexion and memory. A pinch of cinnamon powder mixed with honey does the trick if taken regularly every night for these purposes. Common cold can be effectively cured with the use of cinnamon. Coarsely powdered and boiled in a glass of water with a pinch of pepper powder and honey, it can be beneficially used as medicine in cases of influenza, sore throat, and malaria. Its regular use during the rainy season prevents attacks of influenza. Cinnamon oil, mixed with honey, gives relief from cold. Cinnamon helps cure nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It stimulates digestion. A tablespoon of cinnamon water, prepared as for cold and taken half an hour after meals, relieves flatulence and indigestion.
Cinnamon is often used as a good mouth freshener. Applying a paste of finely powdered cinnamon mixed in water on the temples and forehead readily cures headache caused by exposure to cold air. Paste of cinnamon powder prepared with a few drops of fresh limejuice can be applied over pimples and blackheads with beneficial results. Cinnamon is highly beneficial in the treatment of several other ailments, including spasmodic afflictions, asthma, paralysis, excessive menstruation, uterus disorders and gonorrhea. It is sometimes used as a prophylactic agent, to control German measles.
Cinnamon can be used for natural birth-control. It has the remarkable effect of checking the early release of ova after child-birth. A piece of cinnamon taken every night for a month after child-birth delays menstruation for more than 15 to 20 months thus preventing early conception. It indirectly helps the secretion of breast milk. Dried cinnamon leaves and inner bark are used for flavoring cakes and sweets and in curry powder. They are also used in incense, dentifrices and perfumes. Cinnamon bark oil is used for flavoring confectionery and liquors. It is also used in pharmaceutical and dental preparations. Cinnamon leaf oil is used in perfumes and flavorings as also in the synthesis of vanillin.