Cinnamon is used mainly as an aromatic condiment and flavoring additive in a wide variety of cuisines, sweet and savoury dishes, breakfast cereals, snackfoods, and traditional foods. The aroma and flavor of cinnamon derive from its essential oil and principal component, cinnamaldehyde, as well as numerous other constituents, including eugenol.
Only a few Cinnamomum species are grown commercially for spice.
The name «cassia», first recorded in English around AD 1000, was borrowed via Latin and ultimately derives from Hebrew q’tsīʿāh, a form of the verb qātsaʿ, «to strip off bark». Early Modern English also used the names canel and canella, similar to the current names of cinnamon in several other European languages, which are derived from the Latin word cannella, a diminutive of canna, «tube», from the way the bark curls up as it dries.
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It has been known from remote antiquity. It was imported to Egypt as early as 2000 BC, but those who report that it had come from China confuse it with cassia. Although its source was kept mysterious in the Mediterranean world for centuries by those in the spice trade to protect their monopoly as suppliers, cinnamon is native to India, Sri Lanka,Bangladesh, and Myanmar. The first Greek reference to kasia is found in a poem by Sappho in the seventh century BC.
According to Herodotus, both cinnamon and cassia grew in Arabia, together with incense, myrrh, and labdanum, and were guarded by winged serpents. In Ancient Egypt, cinnamon was used to embalm mummies. From Hellenistic times onward,Ancient Egyptian recipes for kyphi, an aromatic used for burning, included cinnamon and cassia. The gifts of Hellenistic rulers to temples sometimes included cassia and cinnamon.
It was brought around the Arabian peninsula on «rafts without rudders or sails or oars», taking advantage of the winter trade winds. Pliny the Elder also mentions cassia as a flavouring agent for wine. Malabathrum is among the spices that, according to Apicius, any good kitchen should contain.