Source, Etc

The cinnamon tree, Cinnamomum zeylanicum, Breyn (N.O. Laurineoe), is a small evergreen tree indigenous to and cultivated in Ceylon.

Cinnamon bark appears to have been collected from wild plants and exported towards the end of the thirteenth century. After the occupation of the island by the Portuguese in 1536, the exportation became more regular. In 1770 the cultivation of the tree was successfully carried out by the Dutch, who, as in other cases, made strenuous efforts to retain the cinnamon trade in their own hands, controlling the supply and the price. Soon afterwards the English obtained possession of the island, and the trade in cinnamon was diverted from Amsterdam to London.

Cinnamon is now almost entirely obtained from cultivated plants. These are cut down to form stools, from which adventitious shoots arise. When these are from 1.5 to 2 metres long and about a year and a half or two years old, they are cut down during the rainy season. The shoots are trimmed from the leaves, etc, ringed at the nodes with a brass or copper knife (to avoid the discoloration that steel would cause), and the bark removed in strips, which are allowed to remain exposed in heaps for about twenty-four hours. Each strip is then stretched upon a stick and the epidermis and cortex scraped off, great care being taken that neither too much nor too little is removed. They are then packed inside one another so as to form sticks, which are dried, cut to a definite length, sorted, and made into bundles. In the London docks each bundle is opened, carefully sorted and again made up; the bundles are then classified as ' firsts,' 'seconds,' 'thirds,' or 'fourths.' The trimmings are either exported as such (cinnamon chips), or are used in the island for the distillation of the volatile oil. The leaves and petioles also yield an oil, which, however, is less valuable than that from the bark.

Description

Cinnamon occurs in long, slender, flexible sticks about 1 metre in length and 6 mm. in width, each consisting of numerous (about forty) channelled pieces or single quills, about 1 to 2 dm. in length, skilfully packed into one another, the largest on the outside, so as to form a long stick of compound double quills; such a stick may easily be separated into its component parts after it has been soaked in water.

Each of the pieces of bark of which the stick is composed is of papery thickness and of a dull, pale brown colour. The outer surface is marked with paler, glossy, undulating, longitudinal lines (bundles of bast fibres), and show here and there scars or holes, indicating the insertion of leaves or lateral shoots, but is quite free of epidermis or cork. The inner surface is rather darker than the outer, and finely striated longitudinally. The drug consists almost entirely of secondary bast, the epidermis (or cork) and cortex having been removed by scraping.

The fracture is short and rather splintery; the transverse section shows an outer pale layer (sclerenchymatous cells) and an inner dark layer (bast).

Cinnamon has a fragrant odour and a warm, sweet, aromatic taste.

The student should observe

(a) The uniform colour and absence of cork,

(b) The narrow wavy longitudinal lines,

(c) The odour and taste.

Constituents

The principal constituent of cinnamon bark is the volatile oil, of which it yields 0 5 to 1.0 per cent.; the bark contains also tannin and mucilage. Inferior qualities are generally more mucilaginous and contain a volatile oil of inferior fragrance. The drug yields about 4 per cent. of ash.

The volatile oil (sp. gr. 1.000 to 1.030; O.R. - 05° to - 1°) contains from 55 to 65 per cent. of cinnamic aldehyde together with eugenol (4 to 8 per cent.), terpenes and small quantities of numerous other bodies. The amount of cinnamic aldehyde present may be determined by the official process of assay.

Uses

Cinnamon is used chiefly as a flavouring agent in astringent powders and tinctures. It has aromatic and mildly astringent properties.

Varieties

As already mentioned four grades of cinnamon bark are recognised on the London market. In addition the following may be noted.

Jungle Cinnamon. Obtained from wild plants; the bark is darker, coarser, less carefully trimmed and less aromatic; it closely resembles cassia bark (see below).

Saigon Cinnamon. Official in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia; obtained from an undetermined species of Cinnamomum; quillsa bout 15 cm. long, 10 to 15 mm. wide, and 2 to 3 mm. thick; greyish or greyish brown with lighter patches; warty and ridged; taste sweeter, odour stronger than Ceylon cinnamon.

Java Cinnamon. From C. Burmanni, Blume; odour less delicate than that of cinnamon; volatile oil contains about 75 per cent, of cinnamic aldehyde; used in Holland; the cells of the medullary rays contain small tabular crystals of calcium oxalate, whereas in cinnamon they contain minute needles.