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Cinnamomum cassia

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File:Cinnamomum aromaticum - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-039 cropped.jpg
from Koehler's Medicinal-Plants (1887)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Magnoliids
Order: Laurales
Family: Lauraceae
Genus: Cinnamomum
Species: C. cassia
Binomial name
Cinnamomum cassia
(Nees & T.Nees) J.Presl
  • Camphorina cassia (Nees & T.Nees) Farw.
  • Cinnamomum aromaticum Nees
  • Cinnamomum longifolium Lukman.
  • Cinnamomum medium Lukman.
  • Cinnamomum nitidum Hook. nom. illeg.
  • Laurus cassia L.
  • Persea cassia (L.) Spreng.

Cinnamomum cassia, called Chinese cassia or Chinese cinnamon, is an evergreen tree originating in southern China, and widely cultivated there and elsewhere in southern and eastern Asia (India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam).[2] It is one of several species of Cinnamomum that are used primarily for their aromatic bark, which is used as a spice. In the United States of America, Chinese cassia is often sold under the culinary name of "cinnamon". The buds are also used as a spice, especially in India, and were once used by the ancient Romans.

The tree grows to 10–15 m tall, with greyish bark and hard elongated leaves that are 10–15 cm long and have a decidedly reddish colour when young.

Production and uses

Cassia (Cinnamomum cassia) essential oil in a clear glass vial
Cinnamomum cassia (top left) depicted by Michał Boym (1655)

Chinese cassia is a close relative to Ceylon cinnamon (C. verum), Saigon cinnamon (C. loureiroi, also known as "Vietnamese cinnamon"), and Indonesian cinnamon (C. burmannii). In all four species, the dried bark is used as a spice. Chinese cassia's flavour is less delicate than that of Ceylon cinnamon; for this reason, it is less expensive and is sometimes called "bastard cinnamon". Its bark is thicker, more difficult to crush, and has a rougher texture than that of Ceylon cinnamon.[citation needed]

Most of the spice sold as cinnamon in the United States and Canada is Chinese cinnamon (C. cassia).Template:Cn The more expensive Ceylon cinnamon (C. verum) is the form of the spice preferred in Mexico, Europe and Oceania.[3][dead link] "Indonesian cinnamon" (C. burmannii) is also commonly sold in the United States, where it is labeled only as cinnamon.

Chinese cassia is produced in both China and Vietnam. Until the 1960s, Vietnam was the world's most important producer of Saigon cinnamon (C. loureiroi), a species which has a higher oil content, and consequently has a stronger flavor. Saigon cinnamon is so closely related to Chinese cassia that it was often marketed as cassia although it commands a higher price if correctly labelled[citation needed]. Because of the disruption caused by the Vietnam War, however, production of Indonesian cassia (C. burmannii) in the highlands of the Indonesia island of Sumatra was increased to meet demand[citation needed]. Indonesian cassia has the lowest oil content of the three types of cassia and, consequently, commands the lowest price. Saigon cinnamon has only become available again since the early 21st century. Chinese cassia (C. cassia) has a sweeter flavor than Indonesian cassia (C. burmannii), similar to Saigon cinnamon (C. loureiroi), but with lower oil content.

In China, Chinese cassia is known as 肉桂 (ròu guì), and is produced primarily in the southern provinces of Guangxi, Guangdong, and Yunnan.

Cassia bark (both powdered and in whole, or "stick" form) is used as a flavouring agent for confectionery, desserts, pastries, and meat; it is specified in many curry recipes, where Ceylon cinnamon is less suitable. Cassia is sometimes added to Ceylon cinnamon, but is a much thicker, coarser product. Cassia is sold as pieces of bark (as pictured below) or as neat quills or sticks. Cassia sticks can be distinguished from Ceylon cinnamon sticks in the following manner: Ceylon cinnamon sticks have many thin layers and can easily be made into powder using a coffee or spice grinder, whereas cassia sticks are extremely hard and are usually made up of one thick layer.[citation needed]

Cassia buds, although rare, are also occasionally used as a spice. They resemble cloves in appearance and have a mild, flowery cinnamon flavor. Cassia buds are primarily used in old-fashioned pickling recipes, marinades, and teas.[4]

Health benefits and risks

File:Cassia bark.jpg
Dried cassia bark

Cassia (called ròu gùi; in Chinese) is used in traditional Chinese medicine, where it is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs.[5]

Due to a toxic component called coumarin, which can damage the liver, European health agencies have warned against consuming high amounts of cassia.[6]

Other possible toxins founds in the bark/powder are cinnamaldehyde and styrene.[7]

See also


  1. "The Plant List". 
  2. Xi-wen Li, Jie Li & Henk van der Werff. "Cinnamomum cassia". Flora of China. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  3. Needs cite web
  4. "Cassia". 
  5. Wong, Ming (1976). La Médecine chinoise par les plantes. Le Corps a Vivre series. Éditions Tchou.
  6. NPR: German Christmas Cookies Pose Health Danger
  7. High daily intakes of cinnamon: Health risk cannot be ruled out. BfR Health Assessment No. 044/2006, 18 August 2006 15p

Further reading

  • Dalby, Andrew (1996). Siren Feasts: A History of Food and Gastronomy in Greece. London: Routledge.
  • Faure, Paul (1987). Parfums et aromates de l'antiquité. Paris: Fayard.
  • Paszthoty, Emmerich (1992). Salben, Schminken und Parfüme im Altertum. Mainz, Germany: Zabern.
  • Paterson, Wilma (1990). A Fountain of Gardens: Plants and Herbs from the Bible. Edinburgh.

External links