Ceylon cinnamon is also known as true cinnamon. This distinguishes it from the other forms of cinnamon that were at one time regarded as inferior. It is cinnamon from what is now Sri Lanka was considered superior as far back as Ancient Roman times.
What we now call Ceylon cinnamon was used all throughout the ancient world. The Egyptians used it in their embalming process, for example.
According to Pliny, cinnamon had a higher value by weight in comparison to silver. He wrote of its importance in the first century.
Ceylon cinnamon was brought to Europe by Arab traders where it became a luxury ingredient for the wealthy. The use of this spice became a status symbol. The traders were able to keep the source of true cinnamon a secret all the way up to the 16th century, thus preserving their so monopoly on it.
Ceylon cinnamon can be used as a preservative, which is one of the reasons it was so important to the Europeans. It could be used to help keep meat from going bad.
In the early 16th century, the Portuguese discovered cinnamon in Sri Lanka and conquered the Kotto people there. Having enslaved those Sri Lankans, they took control of the cinnamon trade for the next century. That is until the Dutch made contact with neighboring kingdom and ousted the Portuguese. The Dutch would rule Ceylon and the cinnamon trade for the next 150 years.
In 1757, Sri Lanka’s Dutch governor began the systematic cultivation of Ceylon cinnamon. He was the first to do so. The Dutch would lose control of Sri Lanka to the British in 1796 and would hold the monopoly on cinnamon until 1833; however, the importance of that monopoly would decline. The reason for the decline was twofold: other countries began cultivating Ceylon cinnamon and cassia cinnamon was growing in popularity as a Ceylon cinnamon alternative. Ceylon cinnamon is now cultivated in various parts of the world with tropical climates, including the West Indies and South America.
Ceylon cinnamon flavor profile
Ceylon cinnamon has a floral flavor note that is not as warm as that of cassia cinnamon. Its subtle flavor has subtle clove notes as well as hints of vanilla and citrus.
Health benefits of Ceylon cinnamon
Ceylon cinnamon’s health benefits are due to the various health-enhancing compounds it contains, which include:
- Terpenoids: Terpenoids are phytochemicals present in Ceylon cinnamon and that have a host of health benefits. Terpenoids have long been used for medicinal benefits by practitioners of traditional medicine. The modern-day pharmaceutical industry uses some of them to make drugs. Ceylon cinnamon is a richer source of terpenoids when compared to cassia cinnamon.
- Cinnamic acid: Like other cinnamon varieties, Ceylon cinnamon is a rich source of cinnamic acid, a powerful antioxidant.
- Cinnamaldehyde: Cinnamaldehyde is the compound that provides Ceylon cinnamon’s flavor and aroma. It also has health benefits.
The health-enhancing compounds in Ceylon cinnamon help it to treat or prevent health conditions like:
- Poor blood circulation: Cinnamaldehyde can help to improve blood flow, especially in the extremities.
- High blood pressure: Cinnamic acid can help to relieve high blood pressure and prevent diseases that can result from it.
- Alzheimer’s disease: Cinnamon’s effects on the metabolism can help the brain’s response to insulin. Research suggests a connection between that response and Alzheimer’s disease. As a result, cinnamon may be able to stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Ceylon cinnamon is the preferred cinnamon in Central and South America as well as in South Asia. In India and Sri Lanka, it is used in garam masala and teas among many other dishes. South Americans use it in chocolate and moles.