Cinnamon: A Popular Spice Known for Its Aroma and Medicinal Properties

Cinnamon: A Popular Spice Known for Its Aroma and Medicinal Properties

Madagascar is one of the significant producers of Ceylon cinnamon. Cinnamon cassia plantations are found worldwide. These are two different varieties, differing in both quality and price.

What is Cinnamon?

Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner bark of the cinnamon tree, a member of the Lauraceae family. It’s an aromatic plant, with the aroma of cinnamon also found in the flowers, fruits, and leaves of the tree. However, the bark of the cinnamon tree contains the most intense cinnamon aroma.

Today, cinnamon trees are cultivated worldwide. Most of the global cinnamon production comes from countries bordering the Indian Ocean, as well as from Latin America. Cinnamon is used in various fields: food, confectionery, cosmetics, perfumery, and pharmacy.

What Are the Different Varieties of Cinnamon?

There are two main varieties of cinnamon produced globally: Ceylon cinnamon and cassia cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum Verum) is known as true cinnamon. Its production is very small compared to the other three varieties. Chinese cinnamon, Padang cinnamon, and Saigon cinnamon are grouped under the name cassia cinnamon or false cinnamon. Their scientific name is Cinnamomum Cassia or Cinnamomum Aromaticum.

Who Are the Main Producers of Cinnamon?

The global market share of cinnamon is heavily skewed towards false cinnamon, with 92% of global consumption, compared to only 8% for true cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon is mainly produced in Madagascar, Seychelles, Comoros, and Sri Lanka. As for cassia cinnamon, the main producers are Indonesia, Laos, India, China, East Timor, Grenada, São Tomé and Príncipe, Dominica, and Vietnam.

What Distinguishes the Different Types of Cinnamon?

False cinnamon (cassia cinnamon) is produced on a large scale, whereas true cinnamon is quite rare. It is characterized by a darker hue with a reddish-brown color. The bark is thick, hard, and more difficult to break. It has a woody taste, slightly spicy and bitter. Cassia cinnamon is less expensive and is more intended for the food

industry than for direct consumption.

True cinnamon (Ceylon cinnamon) is immediately recognizable by its pale ochre color, its thin bark composed of many fine, brittle layers, and its unique taste (warm and sweet at the same time, sugary without bitterness). These qualities make Ceylon cinnamon highly appreciated by gourmets, which explains its higher price.

How Are Cinnamon Sticks Prepared?

Preparing Ceylon cinnamon requires much more work than cassia cinnamon. Production involves various scales of operation. Producers regularly prune cinnamon trees to encourage new shoots and harvest young branches. The best sticks come from younger trees, resulting in lighter and more fragrant sticks. Ceylon cinnamon is more expensive due to this labor-intensive preparation. In contrast, cassia cinnamon does not require special preparation.

How to Choose Your Cinnamon?

To choose cinnamon, consider a few criteria:

Appearance and Color: The paler the color, the better the quality.
Taste: Cinnamon from Madagascar is known for its subtle taste, powerful aroma, and warm note.
Lack of Bitterness: High-quality cinnamon has a slightly sweet and extremely smooth flavor.
Brittleness: High-quality cinnamon is very brittle. Ceylon cinnamon bark is composed of many fine, fragile layers that break easily with fingers.

What Are the Different Commercial Forms of Cinnamon?

Cinnamon is generally sold as sticks, but it is also available in powder and extract forms. Ground cinnamon has a more pronounced aroma but does not keep as long as cinnamon sticks.

How to Use Cinnamon in Recipes?

Cinnamon is used to impart a unique flavor to recipes. Historically, in the West, cinnamon was primarily used to flavor sweet dishes (fruit compotes, pastries, baked goods, ice creams, desserts…). With the popularization of international recipes, cinnamon is increasingly used in savory dishes, sauces, salads, and marinades. It is perfect for enhancing meat, poultry, fish, and vegetables.

Cinnamon blends wonderfully in spice mixes. In North Africa, it is used in the preparation of soups and tagines. In India, it is a key ingredient in many recipes. Note that adding ground cinnamon is not recommended for prolonged cooking as it does not withstand high temperatures well and should be added as late as possible. It is preferable to use cinnamon sticks, which are more resistant to high cooking temperatures.

What Are the Medicinal Properties of Cinnamon?

Cinnamon is not only used to flavor recipes but also has medicinal properties. Humans have known about cinnamon since antiquity. It was widely used in traditional Chinese medicine. The medicinal properties of cinnamon are numerous. Cinnamon is a powerful anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitic, antiseptic, and antioxidant. Its consumption helps combat heartburn, cholesterol, diabetes, heart diseases, cancers, and hair loss.

How to Store Cinnamon?

Whether ground or in sticks, cinnamon can be stored for a long time. It should be placed in a sealed bag or container. Store it in a cool, dry place, away from light.

Ceylon cinnamon and cassia cinnamon: what to choose?

Comments (2)

  1. Maryann Connolly
    June 6, 2024

    Need to remind people that cinnamon is naturally occurring form of warfarin (Coumadin) a strong anticoagulant. Calais cinnamon is high in warfain and should be used with caution by those on anticoagulants or are deficient in Vit. K.

  2. rmp
    June 7, 2024

    Personally, I much prefer the taste of Saigon Cinnamon to the celebrated Ceylon cinnamon…however, I recently learned that it does NOT share the health benefits of Ceylon cinnamon!
    Thank you for mentioning that there also is a Madagascar Cinnamon …. I will certainly try it!❤️

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