History.—Cinnamon (Kinman, Hebr.) is mentioned in the Old Testament, [Exod. xxx. 23.] about 1490 years before Christ. In all probability the Hebrews received it from the Arabians, who must, therefore, have had commercial dealings with India at this early period. [Pictorial Bible, vol. i. p. 222.] The first notice of cinnamon (χινναμωμον) by the Greek writers occurs in Herodotus, [Thalia, cvii. and cxi.] who died 413 years before Christ. Probably both the Hebrew and Greek names for this bark are derived from the Cingalese cacyn-nama (dulce lignum), or the Malayan kaimanis. [Royle, Essay on Hindoo Medicine, pp. 84 and 141.] Hippocrates [Pp. 265, 575, and 609, ed. Foes.] employed cinnamon externally. Dioscorides [Lib. i. cap. 13.] describes several kinds of cinnamon.
Botany. Gen. Char.—Flowers hermaphrodite or polygamous. Calyx 6-cleft, with the limb deciduous. Stamina 12, in 4 rows; the 9 external ones fertile, the 3 inner ones capitate, abortive; the 3 most internal of the fertile stamina having 2 sessile glands at the base: anthers 4-celled, the 3 inner turned outwards. Ovary 1-celled, with 1 ovule. Fruit (a berry) seated on a cup-like calyx. Leaves ribbed. Leaf-buds naked. Flowers panicled, rarely fascicled. (Condensed from Endlicher.) [Gen. Plant.]
Sp. Char.—Branches somewhat 4-cornered, smooth. Leaves ovate or ovate-oblong, tapering into an obtuse point, triple-nerved, or 3-nerved, reticulated on the under side, smooth, the uppermost the smallest. Panicles terminal and axillary, stalked. Flowers hoary and silky; segments oblong, deciduous in the middle (Nees). [Systema Laurinarum.]
Botanists admit several varieties of this species; the most important are—
α. Broad-leaved, Moon; [Cat. of Ceylon Plants.] Mu-pat (Cingalese).—The plant above described.
β. Narrow-leaved, Moon; Cinnamomum zeylanicum, var. γ; Cassia, Nees; Heen-pat (Cingalese).—This variety, which I have received from Ceylon under the name of Bastard Cinnamon, has oblong or elliptical leaves, much tapering to the point, and acute at the base.
Percival [Account of the Island of Ceylon.] mentions four varieties which are barked: 1st, Rasse curundu, or honey cinnamon, with broad leaves, yields the best bark; 2dly, Nai curundu, or snake cinnamon, also with large leaves, not greatly inferior to the former; 3dly, Capura curundu, or camphor cinnamon, an inferior kind; 4thly, cabatte curundu, or astringent cinnamon, with smaller leaves; its bark has a harsh taste.
Hab.—Cultivated in Ceylon and Java.
Production.—The cinnamon bark of Ceylon is obtained by the cultivation of the plant. The principal cinnamon gardens lie in the neighbourhood of Columbo. [See Percival's Account of Ceylon, 2d ed. 1805.]
The bark-peelers, or choliahs, having selected a tree of the best quality, lop off such branches as are three years old, and which appear proper for the purpose. Shoots or branches, much less than half an inch, or more than two or three inches in diameter, are not peeled. The peeling is effected by making two opposite, or, when the branch is thick, three or four, longitudinal incisions, and then elevating the bark by introducing the peeling-knife beneath it. When the bark adheres firmly, its separation is promoted by friction with the handle of the knife. In twenty-four hours, the epidermis and greenish pulpy matter (rete mucosum) are carefully scraped off. In a few hours, the smaller quills are introduced into the larger ones, and in this way a congeries of quills formed, often measuring forty inches long. The bark is then dried in the sun, and afterwards made into bundles with pieces of split bamboo twigs. [Percival, op. cit.; and Marshall, in Thornton's Ann. of Philosophy, vol. x.]
Cinnamon walking-sticks.—The hazel-like walking-sticks, so much esteemed by visitors to Ceylon, are obtained from the shoots which spring almost perpendicularly from the roots after the parent bush or tree has been cut down. [Bennett, Ceylon and its Capabilities, 1843.]
Commerce.—Cinnamon is imported in bales, boxes, and chests, from Ceylon principally; but in part also from Madras, Tellicherry, and rarely from Java and other places.
In order to preserve and improve the quality of the bark, black pepper is sprinkled among the bales of cinnamon in stowing them at Ceylon (Percival). Mr. Dennett states that ships are sometimes detained for several weeks, through the want of pepper to fill the interstices between the bales in the holds.
When cinnamon arrives in London, it is unpacked and examined; all the mouldy and broken pieces are removed from it. It is then re-made into bales. These are cylindrical, 3 feet 6 inches long, but of variable diameter, perhaps 16 inches on the average. These bales are enveloped by a coarse cloth, called gunny. The cinnamon in boxes and chests is usually the small, inferior, and mouldy pieces.
Description.—Four kinds of cinnamon [In the years 1839 and 1840, I examined above 1000 bales of cinnamon in the Dock warehouses. In 1840, I was kindly assisted in my examination by Mr. Carroll, of Mincing Lane, one of the most experienced London dealers, who attended with me, and from whom I derived much practicul information.] are distinguished in the London market; namely, Ceylon, Tellicherry, Malabar, and Java cinnamon. The latter, however, is rarely met with. A fifth kind, called Cayenne, occurs in French commerce.
The Chinese cinnamon of continental writers is Cassia lignea of English commerce.
1. Ceylon Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum seu Cinnamomum acutum).—This is the most esteemed kind. The fasciculi or compound quills, of which the bales are made up, are about 3 feet 6 inches long, slender, and shivery, and are composed of several smaller quills inclosed one within the other. the bark is thin (the finest being scarcely thicker than drawing paper), smooth, of a light yellow-brown or brownish-yellow, moderately pliable, with a splintery fracture, especially in the longitudinal direction. The inner side or liber is darker and browner, and contains, according to Nees, small medullary rays filled with a red juice, and which he regards as the peculiar bearers of the aroma. The odour of the bark is highly fragrant. The flavour is warm, sweetish, and agreeable. Inspection and tasting are the methods resorted to for ascertaining the qualities of cinnamon. [See Percival, op. supra cit.; also, Marshall, op. supra cit.]
Ceylon cinnamon is characterized by being cut obliquely at the bottom of the quill, whereas the other kinds are cut transversely. In the London market three qualities of Ceylon cinnamon are distinguished; viz. first, seconds, and thirds. Inferior kinds are thicker, darker, browner, and have a pungent, succeeded by a bitter taste.
Thin, very much convoluted, smaller quills being inclosed in larger ones. Ph. Lond.
2. Tellicherry or Bombay Cinnamon is grown on one estate only, at Tellicherry, by Mr. Brown, and is wholly consigned to Messrs. Forbes and Co. Only 120 or 130 bales are annually imported. In appearance it is equal to the Ceylon kinds; but the internal surface of the bark is more fibrous, and the flavour is inferior. It is superior to the Malabar variety.
3. Madras or Malabar Cinnamon is of inferior quality. It is grown, I am informed, on the Coromandel coast. It is coarser and inferior in flavour to the other kinds. In thickness it approximates to Cassia lignea. Its quality has annually deteriorated since its introduction into the market. It does not meet with a ready sale, and it is expected that its importation will cease.
4. Java Cinnamon.—This is said to be equal in quality to the Ceylon sort. [Proceedings of the Committee of Commerce and Agriculture of the Asiatic Society, p. 147.]
5. Cayenne Cinnamon.—This is unknown in the London market. Its volatile oil is more acrid and peppery than the oil from Ceylon cinnamon. [Vauquelin, Journ. de Pharm, t. iii. p. 434.]
Substitution.—In commerce, Cassia lignea (called on the continent Chinese cinnamon) is frequently substituted for cinnamon. It is distinguished by its greater thickness, its short resinous fracture, its less delicacy but greater strength of flavour, its shorter quills, and its being packed in small bundles. Moreover, it may be distinguished chemically by the action of iodine on its infusion (see infra). The difference of flavour is best distinguished when the barks are ground to powder. The great consumers of cinnamon are the chocolate-makers of Spain, Italy, France, and Mexico, and by them the difference of flavour between cinnamon and cassia is readily detected. An extensive dealer in cinnamon informs me that the Germans, Turks, and Russians prefer cassia, and will not purchase cinnamon, the delicate flavour of which is not strong enough for them. In illustration of this, I was told that some cinnamon (valued at 3s. 6d. per lb.) having been by mistake sent to Constantinople, was unsaleable there at any price; while cassia lignea (worth about 6d. per lb.) was in great request.
Composition.—In 1817, Vauquelin [Journ. de Pharmacie, t. iii. p. 433.] made a comparative analysis of the cinnamons of Ceylon and Cayenne. The constituents of both were found to be volatile oil, tannin, mucilage, colouring matter (partially soluble in water and in alcohol, but insoluble in ether), resin, an acid, and ligneous fibre. Starch is a constituent of cinnamon, though not mentioned in this analysis.
Chemical Characteristics.—Sesquichloride of iron causes a greenish flocculent precipitate (tannate of iron) in infusion of cinnamon. Solution of gelatine also occasions a precipitate (tannate of gelatine) in the infusion.
A decoction of cinnamon may be distinguished from a decoction of cassia lignea by tincture of iodine; which gives a blue colour (iodine of starch) with the latter, but not with the former. Both barks contain starch, but cinnamon appears to contain a larger proportion of some principle (tannic acid?) which destroys the blue colour of iodide of starch; for, if the decoction of cassia lignea rendered blue by iodine be added to the decoction of cinnamon, the blue colour disappears.
Physiological Effects.—Cinnamon produces the effects of the spices already described (see ante, p. 221). In moderate doses, it stimulates the stomach, produces a sensation of warmth in the epigastric region, and promotes the assimilative functions. The repeated use of it disposes to costiveness.
In full doses, it acts as a general stimulant to the vascular and nervous systems. Some writers regard it as acting specifically on the uterus. [Sundelin, Heilmittel. Bd. ii. S. 199, 3tte Aufl.; and Wibmer, Wirk. d. Arzn. u. Gifte, Bd. ii. S. 137.]
Uses.—The uses of cinnamon are those of the species generally, and which have been, before noticed. It is employed by the cook as an agreeable condiment. In medicine, it is frequently added to other substances: as to the bitter infusions, to improve their flavour; and to purgatives, to check their griping qualities. As a cordial, stimulant, and tonic, it is indicated in all cases characterized by feebleness and atony. As an astringent, it is employed in diarrhoea, usually in combination with chalk, the vegetable infusions, or opium. As a cordial and stimulant, it is exhibited in the latter stages of low fever. In flatulent and spasmodic affections of the alimentary canal, it often proves a very efficient carminative and antispasmodic. It checks nausea and vomiting. It has also been used in uterine hemorrhage.
Administration.—The dose of it in substance is from ten grains to half a drachm.
1. Oleum Cinnamomi, L. E. D. [U. S.]; Oleum Cinnamomi veri, offic.; Oil of Cinnamon.—(Obtained in Ceylon by macerating the inferior pieces of the bark, reduced to a gross powder, in sea-water for two days, when both are submitted to distillation.)—As imported, the oil varies somewhat in its colour from yellow to cherry-red; the paler varieties are most esteemed; hence London druggists frequently submit the red oil of cinnamon to distillation, by which they procure two pale yellow oils; one lighter (amounting to about the quarter of the whole), the other heavier than water. The loss on this process is considerable, being near 10 per cent. Percival says that the oil obtained from the finer sorts of cinnamon is of a beautiful gold colour, while that from the coarser bark is darker and brownish.
Its odour is pleasant, and purely cinnamomic. Its taste is at first sweetish, afterwards cinnamomic, burning, and acrid.
Cinnamon oil of commerce is a complex substance, consisting of a mixture or compound of two or more bodies. The principal constituent, and which is considered to be cinnamon oil properly so called, is the hydruret of cinnamyle, whose formula, according to Mulder, [Berlinisches Jahrbuch für d. Pharmacie, Bd. xxxviii. p. 176, 1837.] is C20H11O2; but, according to Dumas and Peligot, [Ann. de Chim. et de Phys.] is C18H8O2. Mulder [Pharmaceutisches Central-Blatt für 1839, p. 879.] supposes that the differences in these formulae depend on the oil analyzed by Dumas and Peligot not having been quite fresh.
By exposure to the air, oil of cinnamon absorbs oxygen, and produces cinnamic acid, two resins, and water.
3(C20H11O2) (Oil of cinnamon.) + 8O (Oxygen.) = C18H7O3 (Cinnamic acid.) + C12H5O (α resin.) + C30H15O4 (β resin.) + 6HO (Water.)
With nitric acid, oil of cinnamon combines to form a white crystalline nitrate (C18H8O2,NO5) and a red oil. With ammonia, the oil unites to form a crystalline solid amide, called cinnhydramide, whose formula is C54H24N2.
On account of their great difference in commercial value, and resemblance in physical and chemical properties, oil of cassia is sometimes substituted for, or admixed with, genuine oil of cinnamon. The finer and more delicate odour of the latter is the chief distinction between them.
The Edinburgh College gives the following characters of oil of cinnamon:—
"Cherry-red when old; wine yellow when recent; odour purely cinnamomic: nitric acid converts it nearly into a uniform crystalline mass."
These characters, however, are not peculiar to this oil, as they are also possessed by oil of cassia.
Zetter [Jahrbuch for praktische Pharmazie, Bd. xix. S. 3, and General-Tabelle, 1849.] says that oil of cinnamon is a thinner and specifically lighter oil, which does not become turbid at a lower temperature than the oil of cassia. Most, if not all, the other characteristic differences which he has given probably relate rather to particular samples of the oils than to their peculiar natures.
Oil of cinnamon root.—In 1848 some of this oil was imported. Its colour was pale yellow, and its odour that of cinnamon; but not so delicate as the oil of the bark.
Oil of cinnamon is sometimes employed as a powerful stimulant in paralysis of the tongue, in syncope, or in cramp of the stomach. But its principal use is as an adjuvant to other medicines. The dose of it is from one to three minims.
2. Oleum Cinnamomi Foliorum; Oil of Cinnamon leaf—It is exported from Ceylon, and is sometimes called, on account of its odour, clove oil.
The Elements of Materia Medica and Therapeutics, Vol. II, 3th American ed., was written by Jonathan Pereira in 1853.