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Historical overview of the cinnamon industry.


Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum, Nees in Wall) is one of the world's oldest spices. Sri Lanka is the main provider of cinnamon, mainly exported as "cinnamon quills." From a phytochemical viewpoint, cinnamon is q uniquely interesting plant. The volatile oils obtained from the bark, leaf, and root bark vary significantly in chemical composition. Each oil has a different primary constituent: cinnamaldehyde (in the bark oil), eugenol (in the leaf oil), and camphor (in the root-bark oil). Recent studies based on techniques such as gas-liquid chromatography and infrared spectrometry have revealed that the three oils possess the same array of monoterpene hydrocarbons in different proportions. Both gas-liquid chromatography and quantitative infrared spectrometry have recently been used to study changes in the chemical composition in the volatiles of cultivated and wild-growing cinnamons. As a result, some interesting biosynthetic speculations have evolved, and reliable methods of analytical assessment of quality have been developed. The technology of production of cinnamon oils has varied little from the methods introduced by the early Dutch settlers. They are based on variations on the general theme of steam distillation. Recently, new still designs have greatly enhanced the technological capability in Sri Lanka. Cinnamon bark and leaf oils form the basis of a variety of synthetically derived chemicals used in the food and cosmetic industries.

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