Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), sometimes called true cinnamon, has a long history. It originated in Asia, mostly Sri Lanka and India. Now, cinnamon shrubs are grown in almost every tropical region of the world.
Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices known. It was mentioned in the Old Testament. In the book of Exodus, God instructs Moses to make a holy anointing oil out of cinnamon, cassia, olive oil, myrrh, and hemp.
Ancient Egypt. Cinnamon was used in ancient Egypt not only as a beverage flavoring and medicine, but also as an embalming agent. It was so highly treasured that it was considered more precious than gold.
Ancient China. About the same time, cinnamon also received much attention in China. It is mentioned in one of the earliest books on Chinese botanical medicine, dated back to around 2,700 B.C. Cinnamon’s popularity continued throughout history. Cinnamon was often added to food to prevent spoiling.
Ancient Rome. Cinnamon was used on funeral pyres in Ancient Rome. In 65 AD, Nero burned a year's supply of cinnamon at his second wife Poppaea Sabina's funeral in order to show the depth of his grief.
History of Cinnamon: Medieval Europe. Due to its demand, cinnamon became one of the first commodities traded regularly between the Near East and Europe. It became one of the most popular spices in medieval Europe.
During the Bubonic Plague, sponges were soaked in cinnamon and cloves and placed in sick rooms, and it has also been burned as an incense. During the explorations of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, cinnamon was the most sought-after spice.
In the Middle Ages, cinnamon was only affordable by the wealthy elite of society. A person's social rank during that time could be determined by the number of spices they could afford.
From the 16th to the 19th centuries, there were power struggles among European nations over who would control Ceylon and the lucrative cinnamon industry. In the early part of the 19th century, other countries began growing cinnamon and it became available to everyone.
History of Cinnamon: Modern Cinnamon Production. Today, Ceylon cinnamon is produced in Sri Lanka, India, Madagascar, Brazil and the Caribbean, while Cassia cinnamon is mainly produced in China, Vietnam and Indonesia. Most cinnamon sold in supermarkets in North America comes from the less expensive variety, Cassia cinnamon.
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