A History of Cinnamon
Cinnamon Properties and Varieties
Cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka and the affinity between the spice and the island is so strong that its botanical name Cinnamomum zeylanicum is derived from Ceylon, the island's former name. It is also known as Ceylon cinnamon or ''true cinnamon'' . Although available throughout the year, the fragrant, sweet and warm taste of cinnamon is a perfect spice to use during the winter months. Nutritional information per 5 ml (1 teaspoon) cinnamon : 6 cal, 0.09 g protein, 0.07 g fat, 1.87 g carbohydrate, 1.3 g fibre, 0.391 mg manganese.
The Cinnamon tree is an evergreen which can grow up to 7m (56 ft) in its actual state Although trees in cultivated plantations are more often grown as bushes, no taller than 3 m (10 ft), as the stems are continually cut back to produce new stems for bark. It thrives best in a hot, wet tropical climate at low altitude and is usually ready to harvest after 3 years. The plant is harvested during the wet season because the rains facilitate the peeling of the bark. Harvesting involves the removal of the stems then after 24 hours drying, the outer bark and inner lining are scraped off. The naturally curled pieces of peeled bark (quills) areplaced one inside the other to make long 'compound quills'. The best quills are placed on the outside and broken and smaller pieces in the centre. These left in the shade to dry completely and to prevent warping. The long quills are then cut into smaller lengths and graded according to thickness, aroma and appearance. The quills can then be ground or processed into oil for cooking purposes.
The Uses of Cinnamon - As a spice
Cinnamon bark is widely used as a spice. It is principally employed in cookery as a condiment and flavoring material, being largely used in the preparation of some kinds of desserts, chocolate, spicy candies, tea, hot cocoa and liqueurs. In the Middle East, it is often used in savory dishes of chicken and lamb. In the United States, cinnamon and sugar are often used to flavors cereals, bread-based dishes, and fruits, especially apples; a cinnamon-sugar mixture is even sold separately for such purposes.
As a Medicine
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. Cinnamon is high in antioxidant activity). The essential oil of cinnamon also has antimicrobial properties, which aid in the preservation of certain foods. "Cinnamon" has been reported to have remarkable pharmacological effects in the treatment of type II diabetes.
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. Although it is mildly astringent, Cinnamon has few cosmetic uses as it is strongly stimulating to the skin and warms the body.
Principal Known Constituents
The essential oil from the bark contains 65-75% cinnamic aldehyde, 4-10% eugenol, carbindes, terpenic alcohols. I-pinene, cineol, phellandrene, furfurol, cymene, linalol, sugar, mucilage, tannin, starch, mannite (Valnet, 1992). The essence from the leaves contains 70-75% eugenol. only 3% cinnamic aldehyde, benzyl benzonate, linalol, and safrol (Valnet, 1992).
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