Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several species of trees in the genus Cinnamomum. Cinnamon is mainly used as an aromatic spice and flavoring additive in a wide variety of cuisines, sweet and savory dishes, breakfast cereals, snacks, teas and traditional foods. The aroma and flavor of cinnamon comes from the essential oil and its main component, cinnamaldehyde, as well as several other components, including eugenol.
Cinnamon is the name for many species of trees and the commercial spice products that some of them produce. All are members of the Cinnamomum genus of the Lauraceae family. Only a few species of Cinnamomum are cultivated commercially for spices. Cinnamomum verum (AKA C. zeylanicum), known as "Ceylon cinnamon" after its origin in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), is considered "true cinnamon", but most cinnamon in international trade comes from four other species, usually more properly referred to as "cassia": C. burmannii (Indonesian cinnamon or Padang cassia), C. cassia (Chinese cinnamon or Chinese cassia), C. loureiroi (Saigon cinnamon or Vietnamese cassia), and the less common C. citriodorum (Malabar cinnamon) .
The English word "cinnamon" comes from the ancient Greek kinnámōmon (kinnámōmon, later KINNAMON: kínnamon), via Latin and Medieval French intermediate forms. The Greek was borrowed from a Phoenician word, which was similar to the related Hebrew word קנמון (qinnāmōn).
The name "cassia", first recorded in late Old English from Latin, ultimately derives from the Hebrew word קציעע qetsīʿāh, a form of the verb קצע qātsaʿ, "to strip the bark".
Early modern English also used the names canel and canella, similar to the current names of cinnamon in many other European languages, which are derived from the Latin word cannella, diminutive of canna, "tube", from the way the bark curls and it dries up.
Cinnamomum verum, which translates from Latin as "true cinnamon", is native to India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Cinnamomum cassia is native to China. Related species, harvested and sold in modern times as cinnamon, are native to Vietnam ("Saigon cinnamon"), Indonesia, and other Southeast Asian countries with warm climates.
Cinnamon is an evergreen tree characterized by oval-shaped leaves, thick bark and berry fruit. When harvesting the spice, the bark and leaves are the main parts of the plant used. Cinnamon is cultivated by growing the tree for two years, and then by cutting the tree, that is by cutting the stems at ground level.
Stems should be processed immediately after harvest while the inner bark is still moist. Cut stems are processed by scraping off the outer bark and then hitting the branch evenly with a mallet to loosen the inner bark, which is then rolled out into long rolls. Only 0.5 mm of the inner bark is used; the outer, woody part is discarded, leaving one meter long strips of cinnamon that are rolled into rolls when dried. Treated bark dries completely in four to six hours, provided it is in a well-ventilated and relatively warm environment.
Cassia produces a strong, spicy flavor and is often used in baking, especially in conjunction with cinnamon rolls, as it handles baking conditions well. Among cassia, Chinese cinnamon is generally medium to light reddish-brown in color, as all layers of the bark are used. Ceylon cinnamon, using only the thin inner bark, has a lighter brown color and a finer, less dense and more crumbly texture. It is subtle and more aromatic in flavor than cassia and loses much of its flavor when cooked.
Ceylon cinnamon sticks (bagels) have many fine layers and can easily be ground into a powder using a coffee or spice grinder, while cassia sticks are much harder.
Cinnamon bark is used as a spice, seasoning and flavoring material. It is used in making chocolate, especially in Mexico. Cinnamon is often used in savory chicken and lamb dishes. In the United States and Europe, cinnamon and sugar are often used to flavor cereals, bread-based dishes such as toast, and fruit, especially apples. It is also used in Portuguese and Turkish cuisine for sweet and savory dishes. Cinnamon can also be used in pickles and Christmas drinks such as eggnog. Cinnamon powder has long been an important flavor-enhancing spice in Persian cuisine, used in a variety of thick soups, drinks and sweets.
Taste and aroma
The flavor of cinnamon is due to an aromatic essential oil that makes up 0.5 to 1% of its composition. This essential oil can be prepared by coarsely pounding the bark, steeping it in seawater, and then quickly distilling the whole. It is golden yellow in color, with a characteristic smell of cinnamon and a very hot aromatic taste. The spicy taste and aroma come from cinnamaldehyde (about 90% of the essential oil from the bark) and, by reaction with oxygen as it ages, darkens the color and forms resinous compounds.
The components of cinnamon include about 80 aromatic compounds, including eugenol, which is found in the oil from the leaves or bark of cinnamon trees.
Cinnamon is used as a flavoring in cinnamon liqueurs, such as cinnamon-flavored whiskey in the United States and rakomelo, a cinnamon brandy popular in parts of Greece.
Cinnamon has a long history of use in traditional medicine as a digestive aid, however, modern studies are unable to find evidence of any significant medicinal or therapeutic activity.
The Cochrane authors' conclusion was: "There is insufficient evidence to support the use of cinnamon for type 1 or type 2 diabetes." in individuals do not support the use of cinnamon for any health condition." However, the results of studies are difficult to interpret because it is often unclear which type of cinnamon and which part of the plant was used.
A meta-analysis of trials of cinnamon supplements with lipid measurements reported lower total cholesterol and triglycerides, but no significant changes in LDL-cholesterol or HDL-cholesterol. Another reported no change in body weight or insulin resistance.
More information: Coumarin
A systematic review of adverse effects as a result of cinnamon use reported gastrointestinal disturbances and allergic reactions as the most commonly reported adverse effects.
In 2008, the European Food Safety Authority reviewed the toxicity of coumarin, a component of cinnamon, and confirmed the maximum recommended tolerable daily intake (TDI) of 0.1 mg of coumarin per kilogram of body weight. Coumarin is known to cause liver and kidney damage at high concentrations and a metabolic effect in humans with CYP2A6 polymorphisms. Based on this assessment, the European Union set a guideline for maximum coumarin content in food of 50 mg per kg of yeast in seasonal foods and 15 mg per kg in daily baked foods.
The maximum recommended TDI of 0.1 mg coumarin per kg body weight is equivalent to 5 mg coumarin (or 5.6 g C. verum with 0.9 mg coumarin per gram) for 50 kg body weight. C as shown in the table below:
|C. cassia||C. verum|
|mg coumarin/g cinnamon ||0.085 mg/g||12.18 mg/g (He et al., 2005) ||0.007 mg/g||0.9 mg/g|
|TDI cinnamon at 50 kg body weight (bw)||58.8 g/bw||0.4 g/bw||714.3 g/bw||5.6 g/bw|
Due to the variable amount of coumarin in C. cassia, usually well over 1.0 mg of coumarin per gram of cinnamon and sometimes up to 12 times, C. cassia has a low upper limit of safe intake to meet the above TDI. In contrast, C. verum has only traces of coumarin.
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