Cinnamon, fragrant spice plant

Cinnamon, the spice is much in talk these days because of the finding of some studies that it may improve blood glucose and cholesterol levels in people with Type 2 diabetes. A certain study showed lower levels of fasting glucose, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol after 40 days with levels continuing to drop for 20 days after that. Cinnamon was once so highly valued that wars were fought over it. It was believed to have aphrodisiacal powers. And it was used as currency during the period of barter system. True cinnamon dates back in Chinese writings to 2800 B.C. Its botanical name derives from the Hebraic and Arabic term amomon meaning 'fragrant spice plant'. Through the centuries this fragrant spice has played its unique role in luring humans from emperors to commons. The spice Cinnamon is the inner bark of an evergreen tropical forest tree, belonging to the family Lauraceae, and is a native to Sri Lanka (erstwhile Ceylon). It has its origin in the central hills of the country, according to plant-tree historians. In India, it is grown in certain areas in Kerala. There are many species of the tree (cinnamomum cassia, cinnamomum zeylanicum etc.) and different grades of the bark. Cinnamon Zeilanicum is also known as 'Ceylon cinnamon' or 'true cinnamon', and this one has a lighter color and sweeter flavor than the other varieties. Ceylon's monopoly could not continue for long. The preservative quality of cinnamon for meat and its medicinal properties to treat coughing, hoarseness and sore throats made it a much sought-after spice. The Dutch seized Ceylon, the world's largest source of cinnamon in the 17th century, according to history. The Dutch were defeated by the French and thus Ceylon came under the French power. In the meanwhile, Ceylon's monopoly ended when some other countries such as India, China, Vietnam, Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Mauritius, Reunion and Guyana, South America, the West Indies began growing the tree. The commercial products of cinnamon are proof of the spice's various uses and popularity – quills, quillings, featherings, chips, bark oil, and leaf oil.