Since time immemorial, Sri Lanka has been known as the country that produces the most delicious cinnamon in the world. The fresh smell unique to cinnamon is a factor that determines the quality of cinnamon products. The real cinnamon taste has helped to take the cinnamon industry in Sri Lanka to the world’s top markets. Local cinnamon is unique in its high-quality yield, aroma, taste, and medicinal properties. Based on this uniqueness, local cinnamon has a high demand in export markets.
The cinnamon industry in Sri Lanka had its highest value in the last few centuries.
The cinnamon plant is an evergreen perennial crop. The scientific name of local cinnamon is ‘Cinnamomum Verum.’ It is a crop native to Sri Lanka, belonging to the genus Loresus and Cinnamonum. Its color ranges from light brown to beehive red. Sri Lankan cinnamon has medicinal properties, a delicious taste, and an incomparable aroma.
History of the cinnamon industry
Cinnamon history dates back to 2800 BC. Ancient Chinese records mention cinnamon under the name “Kwai.” According to the Bible, Moses also used oil ointments made with cinnamon. Romans burned cinnamon in Roman funerals to remove the stench of corpses. Also, various ancient documents show that the ancient Egyptians used cinnamon to remove the stench from dead bodies and to preserve them.
Ceylon was the most popular country for cinnamon for centuries
The Hebrew Bible is the first source of information on sweet cinnamon or Pure Ceylon Cinnamon. It is a necessary component of consecrated incense; even the New Testament refers to cinnamon’s aroma in Proverbs.
Since Arabian traders brought aromatic, sweet, and potent spices to Europe and kept a monopoly on Ceylon cinnamon and pepper worldwide, the beautiful golden-colored cigar-shaped rolls of Pure Ceylon cinnamon have been the toast of civilizations everywhere.
According to Roman and Greek archives, the Arabian traders who brought cinnamon to Europe via a treacherous land route created a web of exaggerated legends about Ceylon cinnamon to fend off rivals. It wasn’t until the late 13th century that Sri Lanka was identified as the country that produced the finest cinnamon in the world, according to an Arabic chronicle titled Monument of Places and History of God’s Bondsmen.
Types of Cinnamon in Sri Lanka
Although there are eight species of cinnamon in Sri Lanka, farmers cultivate only one type commercially. It is the type of Cinnamomum Verum. Others are considered wild cinnamon. The Sinharaja Forest’s Haputale is where one can see wild Kurudu Knuckles. There are two main varieties of Cinnamomum Verum.
- Cassia cinnamon with the botanical name Cinnamomum cassia
- Ceylon Cinnamon with the botanical name Cinnamomum zeylanicum
Cinnamon farmers mainly cultivate Cassia cinnamon in South and East Asian countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Burma, and India. But true cinnamon is only available in Sri Lanka.
Cinnamon oil in Sri Lanka
The oil produced using the leaves, bark, and roots of the cinnamon tree is called cinnamon leaf oil and contains a high percentage of the compound eugenol. The oil produced using cinnamon bark is known as cinnamon bark oil and has a higher rate of cinnamaldehyde, and cinnamon root oil contains a higher percentage of camphor. It is considered to be the main poultry product. Sri Lankans use it commonly as a spice, especially in home cooking. Cinnamon oil is also used as a traditional medicine to alleviate dental conditions.
How to make cinnamon oil in Sri Lanka?
In the commercial extraction of cinnamon oil, steam distillation and water distillation are the two main methods used. Farmers use a white iron boiler, distillation chamber, and cooling system.
Cinnamon bark oil extract
In the extraction of oil from cinnamon bark, bark pieces and outer bark are used, including cinnamon sticks/flakes, ground cinnamon grooves, and rinds. Cinnamon oil extracted from Sri Lanka contains about 50% – 55% cinnamaldehyde.
Cinnamon leaf oil extract
Farmers extract Cinnamon leaf oil from cinnamon leaves that they dry until they turn silvery. The percentage of eugenol in cinnamon leaf oil produced by steam distillation is about 70% – 80%.
Cinnamon products and their uses
Cinnamon farmers prepare cinnamon in the form of sticks for export and release to the local market. Apart from this, they also distribute cinnamon to the market through chips, powder, and featherings. All parts of a cinnamon tree, roots, bark, leaves, branches, fruits, etc., are helpful for some purpose. Some unique uses of cinnamon are as follows.
- People use peeled cinnamon sticks for firewood and decorative purposes.
- Cinnamon farmers use cinnamon bark, leaves, nuts, and roots for oil extraction.
- Cinnamon is known as a good stimulant in Ayurvedic texts. Also, it contains high antioxidant properties.
- The benefits of adding cinnamon to the daily diet include removing heat from the body, maintaining gum and dental health, healing wounds, removing excessive cold, facilitating blood circulation and preventing heart disease, and removing unnecessary fat from the body.
- Fighting bacterial and fungal infections.
- Maintaining healthy glucose and lipid levels in diabetic patients.
- Reducing the susceptibility to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s that many people get old.
- Slowing down the aging process in the brain and body.
- Cinnamon is also a flavoring agent in making cakes, sweets, etc.
- For dental medicines to maintain good oral health.
- Cinnamon is a very healthy antiseptic; taking cinnamon powder as a drink is also beneficial for health.
- Cinnamon tea is a prevalent tea among consumers in major world markets.
- Besides domestic consumption, people use cinnamon as an ingredient in perfumes and toothpaste production.
Cinnamon growing areas in Sri Lanka
Cinnamon in Sri Lanka originates from the Central Highlands, and there are seven wild species of cinnamon in Kandy, Matale, Belihul Oya, Haputale, Horton Plains, and Sinharaja sites. Currently, cinnamon is cultivated along the coast from Negombo to Matara and has also spread to Kalutara and Ratnapura.
Where to buy cinnamon in Sri Lanka?
You can browse the store’s aisles, examine the labels, or choose the item you desire from an online retailer. In the second scenario, there is also a significant danger of purchasing a defective item for which no one will refund your money. Therefore, keep in mind to buy cinnamon from reputable retailers. Always check the labels to see who makes these spices. True Ceylon spices, Saaraketha, and New Lanka Cinnamon are famous sites where you can purchase various Pure Ceylon Cinnamon products.
Among the countries of the eastern world, Sri Lanka is among the countries that take the lead in cinnamon production. The cinnamon industry in Sri Lanka is one of the factors that caused the attention of the countries of the western world to focus on Sri Lanka since the Portuguese, Dutch, and English colonial eras. Cinnamon, which ranks fourth among Sri Lanka’s export crops, is an evergreen perennial plant belonging to the Laurasian genus.