Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several trees from the genus Cinnamomum. Cinnamon is used in both sweet and savoury foods. The term “cinnamon” also refers to its mid-brown colour.
Cinnamon has been known from remote antiquity, but it came into prominence in the Mediterranean region towards the end of the first millennium BCE, when it was imported along with other spices as a luxury product by Phoenician traders. It was so highly prized among ancient nations that it was said to have been kept in special caskets made of gold and silver to protect it from thieves and moths.
The Greek name for cinnamon, kassia, eventually led to the Arabic word qassāh (modern Arabic: قسه) which became the source of English “cassia”. Cinnamon has been used as a spice since antiquity; some scholars believe that it was introduced into Europe in the 6th century BCE by returning Scythian warriors, who were able to bring back cinnamon via two routes: through Egypt or Arabia.
Cinnamomum verum (cinnamon) is indigenous to South India where it was cultivated before it spread to China, Thailand and Vietnam at least 4,000 years ago.
Last modified: August 11, 2022