A number of species are often sold as cinnamon:
Cinnamomum verum ("True cinnamon", Sri Lanka cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon or zeylanicum)
C. burmannii (Korintje or Indonesian cinnamon)
C. loureiroi or laureirii (Saigon cinnamon or Vietnamese cinnamon)
C. aromaticum (Cassia or Chinese cinnamon)
Ceylon cinnamon, using only the thin inner bark, has a finer, less dense, and more crumbly texture, and is considered to be less strong than cassia. Cassia has a much stronger (somewhat harsher) flavor than Ceylon cinnamon.
Zeylanicum cinnamon is sometimes called 'true cinnamon' and 'old fashioned cinnamon.' But the 'true' part was just advertising copy for the Dutch East India Company's 17th century monopoly.
Cassia cinnamon is what most Americans are used to and is the preferred cinnamon in Southern Europe. So don't let the term 'true cinnamon' confuse you; cassia, burmanii or laureirii cinnamon is just as true as zeylancium.
Although in Europe and the U.S. cinnamon is most often associated with sweet dishes, it has broad culinary uses. For example, in India, cinnamon is never used with desserts, but is the main ingredient in curries. In North Africa, not only is cinnamon an ingredient in Raz-el-Hanout, the flavoring of couscous and tagines, but appears also in Berber spices. In Greece, it appears in lamb dishes.
And it is an essential spice in Chinese cuisine. Ground, it is one of the constituents of five-spice powder; whole, it is frequently added to flavor braised dishes.
In the Caribbean, it is in Jerk seasoning. In Mexico, it appears with chocolate and chili powder in Mole sauces. In the U.S., it is used in barbecue rubs and sauces.
Cassia cinnamon has a more intense and less fragrant aroma than zeylanicum (Ceylon) cinnamon. It is sweet, warm, pungent, and slightly astringent. Zeylanicum cinnamon is pale in color, and more delicate, more fragrant, not as pungent, and not as sweet. It has a slight citrus flavor. Zeylanicum cinnamon is more expensive than cassia, and better to use in sweet dishes and cakes.
Cassia nips the tongue and is more suited to spiced meats, stews, rice dishes, curries, pancake and waffle batters, cinnamon rolls, and flavored drinks. Cassia cinnamon sticks are reddish brown, thick, and coarse in texture. They are the sticks Americans are accustomed to and use in mulled cider and wine. Zeylanicum cinnamon sticks are pale in color, thin, and look like a roll of dried paper; they are delicate and crumble easily.
Neither Grieve, King nor Felter distinguish the cinnamon varieties medicinally – Grieve simply asserting that they all act alike, and King's covers all varieties in one listing, as 'The barks of numerous species of Cinnamomum.' Medicinally, they all act the same, although there are subtle taste differences.
The 1997 Commission E on Phytotherapy and Herbal Substances of the German Federal Institute for Drugs recommends Cinnamon 'For loss of appetite, dyspeptic complaints such as mild, spastic condition of the gastrointestinal tract, bloating, flatulence.'
'Side Effects: Frequently, allergic reactions of skin and mucosa.'
'Daily Dosage: 2 - 4 g of bark; 0.05 - 0.2 g of essential oil; equivalent preparations. Mode of Administration: Cut or ground bark for teas, essential oil, as well as other galenical preparations for internal use. Actions: Antibacterial; Fungistatic; Promotes motility.'
Cinnamon is also a powerful hemostat and can be of great use in some female complaints.
Grieve's classic 'A Modern Herbal': 'Stomachic, carminative, mildly astringent, said to be emmenagogue and capable of decreasing the secretion of milk.'
'The tincture is useful in uterine haemorrhage and menorrhagia, the doses of 1 drachm being given every 5, 10 or 20 minutes as required.'
'It is chiefly used to assist and flavor other drugs, being helpful in diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, and to relieve flatulence.'
'The oil is a powerful germicide, but being very irritant is rarely used in medicine for this purpose. It is a strong local stimulant, sometimes prescribed in gastro-dynia, flatulent colic, and gastric debility.'
'Dosages: Of oil, 1 to 3 minims. Of powder, 10 to 20 grains.'
King's 1898 Dispensatory: 'Stimulant, tonic, stomachic, carminative, and astringent; also reputed emmenagogue, and capable of diminishing the secretion of milk.'
'The tincture of the bark is useful in uterine hemorrhage and menorrhagia, given in drachm doses in sweetened water, and repeated every 5, 10, or 20 minutes, or as may be required. A tincture of the oil (j) in 98 per cent alcohol (viii), is preferable, given in from 5 to 30-drop doses, repeated as often as necessary.'
'For post-partum and other uterine hemorrhages, it is one of the most prompt and efficient remedies in the Materia Medica. To a limited extent it controls hemorrhage from other parts of the body, yet its most direct action is upon the uterine muscular fibres, causing contraction and arresting bleeding.'
'Upon the nervous system cinnamon first stimulates and then depresses. Cinnamon is generally used to correct the effects or improve the flavor of other drugs, and is one of the best additions to cinchona bark for correcting the nausea or vomiting sometimes occasioned by that drug.'
'Internally, it is very useful in diarrhoea, colic, cramp of the stomach, flatulency, and to allay nausea and vomiting. Dose of the powder, from 5 to 20 grains; of the tincture, from 10 to 60 drops; tincture of oil, 6 to 60 drops. Specific cinnamomum, 10 to 60 drops (see Oil of Cinnamon).'
American Materia Medica, 1919 (Ellingwood): 'Cinnamon, in the experience of the writer, is a hemostatic of much power and is positively reliable in all passive hemorrhages. It is not advisable to combine it with the usual astringents, as ergot, geranium or epilobium, but it acts in perfect harmony with erigeron and to a certain extent with turpentine.'
'German authorities claim that as soon as the menses or any uterine hemorrhage becomes excessive and produces exhaustion or causes alarm the decoction should be administered freely. It works to a better advantage in hemorrhage due to atonic conditions of the non-gravid womb, or where there is muscular relaxation, or a general flaccid state of the womb after delivery.'
'It certainly restores tone to the uterine muscular structure and induces tonic contraction. It will also, Hale says, moderate hemorrhage not dependent on plethora, anemia or organic uterine disease. In some cases, during labor, it promotes the normal labor pains and materially increases uterine contraction, and prevents post-partum hemorrhage.'
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