Cinnamon is the aromatic, inner bark of certain bushy, tropical, evergreen trees of the Cinnamomum genus.
Cinnamon has been in use by humans for thousands of years—as early as 2,000 B.C. Egyptians employed it, as well as the related spice cassia, as a perfuming agent during the embalming process.
Evidence suggests it was used throughout the ancient world, and that Arab traders brought it to Europe, where it proved equally popular.
Legend holds that the Roman emperor Nero burned as much as he could find of the precious spice on the funeral pyre of his second wife Poppaea Sabina in A.D. 65 to atone for his role in her death.
In the first century A.D., Pliny the Elder wrote off 350 grams of cinnamon as being equal in value to over five kilograms of silver, about fifteen times the value of silver per weight.
Through the Middle Ages, the source of cinnamon remained a mystery to the Western world.
Cinnamon is a small evergreen tree 10-15 meters (32.8-49.2 feet) tall.
The leaves are ovate-oblong in shape, 7-18 centimeters (2.75-7.1 inches) long.
The flowers, which are arranged in panicles, have a greenish color, and have a rather disagreeable odor.
The fruit is a purple one-centimeter berry containing a single seed.
When harvesting the spice, the bark and leaves are the primary parts of the plant used.
It is principally employed in cookery as a condiment and flavouring material.
Cinnamon is often used in savoury dishes of chicken and lamb.
In the United States, cinnamon and sugar are often used to flavour cereals, bread-based dishes, such as toast, and fruits, especially apples; a cinnamon-sugar mixture is sold separately for such purposes.
Ground cinnamon is composed of around 11% water, 81% carbohydrates, 4% protein, and 1% fat.
Cinnamon has a long history of use in traditional medicine.
The health benefits of cinnamon include its ability to help manage diabetes, protect against fungal and bacterial infections, increase brain function, prevent certain cognitive disorders, improve digestion, boost the strength of the immune system.
Cinnamon is a rich source of vitamin K, calcium, and iron, while providing moderate amounts of vitamin B6, vitamin E, magnesium, and zinc.
Cinnamon constituents include some 80 aromatic compounds, including eugenol found in the oil from leaves or bark of cinnamon trees.
Cinnamon is a popular flavouring in numerous alcoholic beverages and cocktails.
The term “cinnamon” also is used to describe its mid-brown colour.
In Exodus 30:23-4, Moses is ordered to use both sweet cinnamon (Kinnamon) and cassia (qəṣî`â) together with myrrh, sweet calamus (qənê-bosem, literally cane of fragrance), and olive oil to produce a holy oil to anoint the Ark of the Covenant.
Cinnamon also is mentioned in Proverbs 7:17-18, where the lover’s bed is perfumed with myrrh, aloe, and cinnamon. Psalm 45:8 mentions the garments of Torah scholars that smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia.
Cinnamon also is alluded to by Herodotus and other classical writers. According to Herodotus, both cinnamon and cassia grow in Arabia, together with incense, myrrh, and ladanum, and are guarded by winged serpents. The phoenix builds its nest from cinnamon and cassia.