(קִנָּמוֹן; Gr. κινάμων; a word, according to Herodotus [3, 111], of Phoenician origin; according to Gesenius [Thes. Heb. p. 1223], from קוּן, to stand upright) occurs first in Ex 30:23, where it is enumerated as one of the ingredients employed in the preparation of the holy anointing oil: "Take thou also unto thee powerful spices, myrrh, and of sweet cinnamon half as much (i.e. 250 shekels), together with sweet calamus and cassia." It is next mentioned in Pr 7:17: "I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon." Again, in Song of Solomon 14: "Spikenard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices." In Re 18:13, among the merchandise of Babylon (Rome), we have "cinnamon, and odors, and ointments, and frankincense." Also in Ecclesiasticus 24:15, "I gave a sweet smell, like cinnamon and aspalathus." Cinnamon was probably an article of commerce in ancient Babylon. The Hebrews received this Indian production through the Midianites and Nabathaeans, who brought it from the Arabian Gulf. It seems that the Arabians at an early period had commercial intercourse with Ceylon and Continental India, as they were the first navigators of the Indian Ocean (Ge 37:25). Many writers have doubted whether the kinnamon of the Hebrews is the same article that we now call cinnamon. Celsius quotes R. Ben-Melech (ad
Song of Solomon 3:14) and Saadias (Exodus 30) as considering it the Lign Aloe, or Agallochum. Others have doubted whether our cinnamon was at all known to the ancients. But the same thing has been said of almost every other drug which is noticed by them. The word κιννάμωμον occurs in many of the Greek authors, as Herodotus, Hippocrates, Theophrastus, Dioscorides, Galen, etc. The first of these, writing 400 years before the Christian aera, describes Arabia as the last inhabited country towards the south, and as the only region of the earth which produces frankincense, myrrh, cinnamon, cassia, and ledanum (3, 107). He states, moreover, that the Arabians were unacquainted with the particular spot in which it was produced, but that some asserted it grew in the region where Bacchus was educated. From all this we can only infer that it was the production of a distant country, probably India, and that it was obtained by the route of the Red Sea. Theophrastus (9, 5) gives a fuller but still fabulous account of its production; and it is not until the time of Dioscorides, Galen, and the Periplus of the Erythrean Sea, that we get more definite information. Galen says that cassia and cinnamon are so much alike that it is not an easy matter to distinguish the one from the other. Cinnamon of the best quality is imported in the present day from Ceylon, and also from the Malabar coast, in consequence of the cinnamon plant (Cinnamomum Zeylanicum) having been introduced there from Ceylon. An inferior kind is also exported from the peninsula of India, the produce of other species of cinnamomum, according to Dr. Wight. From these countries the cinnamon and cassia of the ancients must most likely have been obtained, though both are also produced in the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, in China, and in Cochin China. Cinnamon is imported in bales and chests, the bundles weighing about 1 lb. each. The pieces consist of compound quills, are about three feet long, slender, and inclose within them several smaller quills. These are thin, smooth, of a brownish color, of a warm, sweetish, and agreeable taste, and fragrant odor; but several kinds are known in modern markets, as they were in ancient times. In Ceylon cinnamon is carefully cultivated, the best cinnamon-gardens being on the south-western coast, where the soil is light and sandy, and the atmosphere moist from the prevalent southern winds. This little tree belongs to the laurel family, and the leaf is not unlike the laurel, though of a lighter green. The white blossom comes out with great profusion, and for many miles around Colombo brightens all the landscape in its season, although it diffuses hardly any perceptible odor through the air. The tree is about twenty feet in height, and spreads into numerous branches; the fruit or nut is about the size of a damson, and when ripe is of a black color. The plants begin to yield cinnamon when about six or seven years old, after which the shoots may be cut every three or four years. The best kinds of cinnamon are obtained from twigs and shoots; those less than half an inch, or more than two or three inches in diameter, are not peeled. "The peeling is effected by making two opposite, or, when the branch is thick, three or four longitudinal incisions, and then elevating the bark by introducing the peeling-knife beneath it. In twenty-four hours the epidermis and greenish pulpy matter are carefully scraped off. In a few hours the smaller quills are introduced into the larger ones, and in this way congeries of quills are formed, often measuring forty inches in length. The bark is then dried in the sun, and afterwards made into bundles, with pieces of split bamboo twigs" (Percival's Account of Ceylon, p. 336-351). Besides cinnamon, an oil of cinnamon is obtained in Ceylon, by macerating the coarser pieces of the bark, after being reduced to a coarse powder, in sea-water for two days, when both are submitted to distillation. A fatty substance is also obtained by bruising and boiling the riper fruit, when an oily body floats on the surface, which, on cooling, concretes into a dirty-whitish, rather hard, fatty matter. As this oil burns with a delightful fragrance, when receiving ambassadors and on high state occasions, the kings of Candy used to have lamps of it burning in their audience-chamber. The wood itself is pervaded by the same grateful perfume, and walking-sticks of cinnamon-wood are highly prized, as well as little articles of cabinet-work. Some camphor may be procured from the roots. Cassia bark, as we have seen, was distinguished with difficulty from cinnamon by the ancients. In the present day it is often sold for cinnamon; indeed, unless a purchaser specify true cinnamon, he will probably be supplied with nothing but cassia. It is made up into similar bundles with cinnamon, has the same general appearance, smell, and taste; but its substance is thicker and coarser, its color darker, its flavor much less sweet and fine than that of Ceylon cinnamon, while it is more pungent, and is followed by a bitter taste; it is also less closely quilled, and breaks shorter than genuine cinnamon. Its decoction gives a blue color when treated with tincture of iodine which the true cinnamon does not. "The great consumers of cinnamon are the chocolate-makers of Spain, Italy, France, and Mexico, and by them the difference in the flavor between cinnamon and cassia is readily detected. An extensive dealer in cinnamon informs me that the Germans, Turks, and Russians prefer cassia, and will not purchase cinnamon, the delicate flavor of which is not strong enough for them. In illustration of this, I was told that some cinnamon (valued at 3s. 6d. per lb.), having been by mistake sent to Constantinople, was unsalable there at any price, while cassia lignea (worth about 6d per lb.) was in great request" (Pereira's Materia Medica, p. 1306). From the various sources, independently of the different qualities, it is evident, as in the case of cinnamon, that the ancients might have been, as no doubt they were, acquainted with several varieties of cassia. These, we have no doubt, are yielded by more than one species. Besides cassia bark, there is also a cassia oil and cassia buds, supposed to be produced by the same tree. There can be no reasonable doubt, as cinnamon and cassia were known to the Greeks, that they must have been known to the Hebrews also, as the commerce with India can be proved to have been much more ancient than is generally supposed. (See the Penny Cyclopedia, s.v. Cinnamon; Celsii Hierobot. 2:350 sq.; Bodsei a Stapel, Comm. in Theophr. p. 984; Knox, Travels in Ceylon, p. 32; also Ritter, Erdk. VI, 4, pt. 2, p. 123 sq.; Geiger, Pharmac. Botan. 1:330' sq.; especially Nees v. Esenbeck, De Cinnanzomo [Bonn, 1823], and Blume in Wiegmann's Archiv fur Naturgesch. 1831, 1:116 sq.; Martius, Pharmakogn. p. 132, 141; Smith's Dict. of Class. Antiq., Amer. ed., s.v. Cinnamomum.) SEE CASSIA.