CINNAMON (DARCHINI)

DR. S.M. ALAM
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Jan 17 - 23, 2011

The tree Cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka and South India. Locally known as darchini, cinnamon is an essential part of the garam masala used normally in cooking.

Cinnamon is one of the most important tree spices. Like its cassia, cinnamon consists layers of dried pieces of the inner bark of branches and young shoots from the evergreen tree, 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.

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 the world. Cinnamon planted along the coast of Colombo is considered to be the best from Sri Lanka. In India, it is grown on the west coast. Cinnamon is also planted in Indonesia, Egypt, Brazil, and Vietnam. Cinnamon is a very useful tree. Every part of the tree-bark, wood, leaves, buds, flowers, fruits, and roots - finds some use or the other as indicated below.

Cinnamon bark is one of the most popular spice in use. It has a delicate fragrance and a warm agreeable taste. It is extensively used in the form of small pieces or powder. It is aromatic, astringent, stimulant, and carminative and also possesses the property of checking nausea, vomiting and heartburn. It improves blood lipid profile and lowers hypertension. Cinnamon is used for flavoring confectionery, liquors, pharmaceuticals, soaps, and dental preparations. Powdered cinnamon is a constituent of chocolate preparations made in Spain. Cinnamon is also used in candy, gum, incense, and perfume.

Cinnamon bark contains 0.5 to 1.0 per cent volatile oil. The essential oil, generally manufactured in the USA and Europe, is steam distilled mainly from cinnamon chips and residue left over after the preparations of quills for the spice trade. It is light yellow in color when freshly distilled and changes to red on storage.

The composition of cinnamon is as moisture: 9.9 per cent; protein: 4.6 per cent; fat (ether extract): 2.2 per cent; fibre: 20.3 per cent; carbohydrates: 59.5 per cent; total ash: 3.5 per cent; calcium: 1.6 per cent; phosphorus: 0.05 per cent; iron: 0.004 per cent; sodium: 0.01 per cent; potassium: 0.4 per cent; vitamin B1: 0.14mg/100gm; vitamin B2: 0.21mg/100gm; niacin: 1.9mg/100gm; vitamin C: 39.8mg/100gm; vitamin A: 175 I.U. per 100gm; calorific value: 355 calories per 100gm.

It also contains organic compounds as, cinnamaldehyde around 60-75 per cent; eugenol and benzaldehyde. Synthetic cinnamaldehyde and cinnamon leaf oil are the common adulterants for bark oil. Bark oil is extensively used for flavoring confectionery, liquors, pharmaceuticals, soaps, and dental preparations. It has a high germicidal activity (R.W. coefficient, 14); but on account of its irritant properties, it is not used as such. It is also a fungicide. It has the cordial and carminative properties of cinnamon without its astrigency and is employed as adjuvant in stomachic and carminative medicine. As a powerful local stimulant, it is sometimes prescribed in gastrodynia, flatulent colic and gastric debility.

Green leaves, on steam distillation, yield one per cent essential oil, which is generally heavier than water and is aggressive in action. Cinnamon oil has the same content of eugenol as clove oil and is used in making perfumes. It is also used for flavouring sweets and confectionery and is a common adulterant for the bark oil. It is used as an embrocation in rheumatism.

The root bark yields three per cent oil which differs from both stem-bark and leaf oils. It is a colorless liquid with a camphoraceous odour. It contains camphor, pinene, cineole, dipentene, phellandrene, eugenol, safrole, caryophyllene, borneol, and possibly cinnamic and benzoic aldehydes. Camphor separates out on allowing the oil to stand. The oil however is not an article of commerce.

Cinnamon seeds contain 33 per cent 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.

Cinnamon buds are useful for flavoring and spicing up food, similar to the cinnamon bark. The wood of the cinnamon tree provides a soft timber for use as a low-grade board wood. Timber is moderately soft, not very strong, seasons without difficulty but warps, splits and cracks are liable when strained. It is faintly scented, straight-grained, medium, and fairly even textured. Cinnamon leaves are used in the form of powder. They are stimulant and useful in relieving flatulence and in increasing secretion and discharge of urine. Cinnamon prevents nervous tension, improves complexion and memory. Cinnamon is an effective medicine for common cold. Cinnamon checks nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. It stimulates digestion. Cinnamon serves as a good mouth freshener. It is also useful headache and Acne. It has anticancer properties and resists cancerous cell growth especially in the colon, breast and rectal areas.

In Ayurvedic healing methods, cinnamon is used as a remedy for diabetes. Ancient Chinese medicine states that cinnamon is used for cold, flatulence, nausea, diarrhea, and painful menstruation. It is also thought to improve blood circulation, energy levels, and overall vitality. Most common ways to add cinnamon into your daily diet is by using it as a spice in your curries, or even by adding some cinnamon powder into your daily cup of tea or other hot drinks.