This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Cinnamomum Pharm. Lond. & Edinb. Cinnamomum five canella zeilanica C. B. Cassia cinamomea Hermann. hort. Lugd. Bat. Cinnamon: the bark of a tree of the bay kind, (Laurus Cinnamomum Linn.) growing in the island Ceylon; freed from the outer green or greyish part, and cut into long dices, which curl up, in drying, into quills or canes, the form in which it is brought to us; very thin, light, of a reddish yellow or pale rusty iron colour, somewhat tough in breaking, and of a fibrous texture. It is frequently mixed with another bark, greatly resembling it in appearance, but much weaker in virtue, casia lignea: this last is distinguished by the close smooth surface which it exhibits on being broken, and by its remarkably slimy taste.
(a) Accidit nonnunquam quod . . . nauseas & vomiti-ones excitet, necnon etiam anxietates circa praecordia: quod & ipfe bis terve observavi, licet cinnabaris pluribus lotioni-bus purgata fuiffet. Geoffroy, mat. med. i. 146.
This bark is one of the most grateful of the aromatics; of a very fragrant smell, and a moderately pungent, glowing, but not fiery taste, accompanied with considerable sweetness, and some degree of astringency. It is said, that the fine flavour resides, originally, only in the thin pellicle, which lines the interiour surface of the bark, and which abounds with vesicles of essen-tial oil; the reft of the bark, while fresh, being merely subastringent, and receiving the flavour, which we find it to have, from the inner pellicle in drying(a). Accordingly the thinnest pieces are found to be strongeft; as containing the largest proportion of this active part, and the least of the inert woody matter.
Cinnamon, infused in boiling water in a close vessel, gives out to the fluid greatest part of its virtue: together with a reddish brown tincture, deeper or paler, according to the proportion of cinnamon employed. Rectified and proof spirit extract its virtues more perfectly than water, and without the assistance of heat; three ounces of the powdered bark, by cold maceration for a few days, give a strong impregnation to a quart† or two pints and a half ‡ of proof spirit.
The aromatic principle of this spice is an essential oil; which, in distillation with water, rises slowly and difficultly, and renders the liquor somewhat milky: the water continues to run milky, and gratefully impregnated with the fragrance of the cinnamon, till about a gallon has been drawn off from a pound: when large quantities of the spice are submitted to the operation at once, a small portion of oil commonly separates and sinks to the bottom of the water; in colour gold yellow; of a delightful smell like that of the cinnamon itself; and of a fiery pungency, so as not to be safely tailed or applied to the skin without dilution; for, as Boerhaave observes, it burns the part to a gangrenous eschar: in doses of a drop or two, diluted by the means of sugar, mucilages, etc. it is one of the most immediate cordials and restoratives, in languors, fingultuses, and all debilities. If the milky distilled water be long kept, great part of the ponderous oil, suspended in it, sepa-rates and subsides: some, with a view to the perfection of the water, endeavour to prevent this separation, by adding a small proportion of sugar, which contributes to keep the oil dissol-ved: others, with a view only to the obtaining of the oil, endeavour to promote the separation, by setting the liquor in a very cold place, and perhaps by other means not commonly known. It is said, that from sixteen ounces of good cinnamon, a dram and a half or two drams of oil have been collected.
(a) Acta acad. caesareae nat. curios. vol. i. ann. 1727. Append. p. 8.
Tinctura cinnamomi † Ph. Lond. ‡ Ph. Ed.
Aq. cinnam. fimp. Ph. Lond. & Ed.
The watery decoction, remaining after the distillation, yields, on being infpiffated, a mildly astringent mass, which has nothing of the sweet-ness, any more than of the peculiar flavour of the cinnamon. It is observable, that this extract is free from the nauseous relish which most of the other spices discover, in a greater or less degree, when diverted by the same means of their proper aromatic matter.
Rectified spirit, distilled from cinnamon, brings over very little of its flavour. An extract, made by this menstruum, retains nearly all the valuable parts of the spice, the sweet aromatic matter as well as the restringent: it has a durable and very grateful warmth and pungency, not a fiery heat like the spirituous extracts of many other spices; the heat and pungency of cinnamon residing in the pure essential oil. The quantity of this extract is about one sixth of that of the cinnamon employed.
Ol. effent. cinnamon Ph. Lond.
On distilling proof spirit from this spice, the purely spirituous part, which comes over first, proves almost flavourless, but the watery part which follows brings with it the essential oil; and this oil being dissolved by means of the spirituous portion, the liquor proves limpid. A cordial water of this kind is commonly prepared in the shops, by drawing off a. gallon † or nine parts ‡ of proof spirit from a pound of cinnamon. A like preparation might be obtained rather more advantageously, and free from the foreign flavour which the common proof spirits are accompanied with, by adding to the simple water a suitable quantity of pure rectified spirit.
Some other products of the cinnamon tree are used medicinally in the eastern countries, and have been sometimes, though very rarely, brought into Europe; to wit, an aromatic essential oil distilled from the roots, and a species of camphor which separates from this oil on redistilling it: an oil drawn from the leaves, similar in flavour to the genuine oil of cloves with a little admixture of that of the cinnamon bark; and a whitish sebaceous matter, said to resemble the expressed oil of nutmegs, obtained either by expression or by coction in water from the fruit(a).
(a) Albertus Seba, Atta academiae caesareae, ubi supra, p. 11, 12.
Spir. cinnam. † Ph. Lond. Aq. cinnam. spirituos. ‡ Ph. Ed.
Ol. caphurae. Caphura ba-ros Indorum.
Oleum ma-labathri. Cera cinna-momi.