Cinnamomum zeylanicum (true cinnamon)
Sri Lanka, Southwest India
There is quite a bit of confusion about cinnamon. True cinnamon is harvested from Cinnamomum zeylanicum, a medium-sized tree, originating from the forests of Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon.
Several species from the genera of Cinnamomum are also harvested and marketed as cinnamon, The most common of these is Cinnamomum cassia, in Southeast Asia. It is often blended with true cinnamon to make commercially available spice mixes, curry powders and cinnamon powders.
Both cassia and true cinnamon have been used for centuries. The Egyptians used cinnamon and cassia along with myrrh in embalming, perhaps because cinnamic acid (and myrrh) has antibacterial effects.
The Roman Empire imported large quantities of cinnamon and used it in the manufacture of fragrances, cooking and the flavoring of wines. It has also been used for medicinal purposes.
In the Middle Ages and subsequently, cinnamon was imported from Egypt, having been brought there by Arabian traders who obtained it in Ceylon. It became a favorite flavor in many banquet foods and was regarded as an appetite stimulator, a digestive, an aphrodisiac, and a treatment for coughs and sore throats.