Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum, synonym C. zeylanicum) is a small evergreen tree 10-15 m tall, belonging to the family Lauraceae, native to Sri Lanka and Southern India. The bark is widely used as a spice.
The leaves are ovate-oblong in shape, 7-18 cm long. The flowers, which are arranged in panicles, have a greenish colour, and have a rather disagreeable odour. The fruit is a purple one-centimetre berry containing a single seed.
Its flavour is due to an aromatic essential oil which makes up 0.5 to 1% of its composition. This oil is prepared by roughly pounding the bark, macerating it in sea-water, and then quickly distilling the whole. It is of a golden-yellow colour, with the characteristic odour of cinnamon and a very hot aromatic taste. The pungent taste and scent come from cinnamic aldehyde or cinnamaldehyde and, by the absorption of oxygen as it ages, it darkens in colour and develops resinous compounds. Chemical components of the essential oil include ethyl cinnamate, eugenol, cinnamaldehyde, beta-caryophyllene, linalool and methyl chavicol.
The name cinnamon comes from Greek kinnámōmon, from Phoenician and akin to Hebrew qinnâmôn, itself ultimately from a Malaysian language, cf. Malay and Indonesian kayu manis "sweet wood".