Cinnamomum zeylanicum Blume
Family: Lauraceae


Cinnamon is the dried bark of the perennial tree of C.zeylanicum of the Lauraceae family. True cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka. Cinnamon is originally grown wild in central hill country of Sri Lanka. The history of cinnamon dates back to about 2800 B.C where it can be found referenced as ”kwai” in Chinese writings. Cinnamon is even mentioned in the Bible when Moses used it as an ingredient for his anointing oil in ancient Rome. It was burned in Roman funerals perhaps partly as a way forward to off the odor of dead bodies. Emperor Nero is said to have burned a years’ worth of the dry supply of cinnamon at the funeral of his wife Poppaea Sabina. Ancient Egyptians used it in embalming mummies because of pleasant odors and its preservative qualities.

Cinnamon was a precious spice in the west during 14th -15th centuries and its’ primary use was to preserve meat and to retard the growth of bacteria.   The quest for cinnamon was a major factor which led to exploration of the world in 15th century. By that time the real cinnamon was produced in only one place, namely in Ceylon or Sri Lanka. Anyone who had the control of the supply flow would have made profits immensely. Portuguese traders made their way to Ceylon in the 15th century, enslaved the natives and had the control of the trade from Arabs. Soon the Dutch displaced the Portuguese and gained the control of the cinnamon monopoly. It was the Dutch who took a massive effort to boost the production by domestication of crop and expanding extent in the areas they had the control. Because of that effort cinnamon cultivations were moved to Western and Southern coastal belts of the island. Since 1815 the British took the control of the island and cinnamon trade too was moved to their hands. By this time the relative importance of spices in the world market had been declining due to the emerging plantation crop sector of tea and rubber, which restricted the further expansion of cinnamon.
The best historical evidence about the cinnamon trade in Sri Lanka is found in Up country-Dutch agreement (Hanguranketha agreement) signed in 14th February 1766 between the Sri Lankan king Sri Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe and the Dutch government.
By this agreement King had permitted the Dutch to cut and peel cinnamon in certain forest areas of Sri Lanka and Dutch agreed to protect the Kingdom from foreign invasion.

Products and Uses

Cinnamon bark is largely available in the form of quills and making quills is unique to Sri Lanka. Quills are made by rolling the pealed bark and join several of them together to get a pipe like structure in the required length. Other than that pieces of bark are available as chips, quillings or featherings. Cinnamon is unique plant which has essential oil in leaves, bark and roots but chemical composition of them are completely different from each other. Essential oils are produced from both bark and leaves; major chemical in bark oil is Cinnamaldehyde and in leaf oil Euginol. Cinnamon is also available in pure ground form or as an ingredient in curry mixtures and pelleted form too.

Cinnamon is mostly used in cooking and baking. Cinnamon is a versatile spice which can be added to any food item such as salads, confectionaries, beverages, soups, stews and sauces. Cinnamon drink made by immersing pieces of bark in hot water is popular among Latin American countries. Cinnamon flavored tea is becoming popular. It is also used as a common ingredient in Chinese ad Aurvedic medicine. Cinnamon leaf and bark oils are used to flavor food products, in perfumery industry and in pharmaceutical industry.

Major Growing Areas

In Sri Lanka, Cinnamon seems to have originated in the central hills where seven wild species of cinnamon occur in Kandy, Matale, Belihull oya, Haputale, Horton planes and the Sinharaja forest range. Presently cultivation concentrated along the coastal belt from Negambo to Matara, it has also made inroads to Kalutara and Ratnapura.


There are eight cinnamon species in Sri Lanka. Among them only Cinnamomum zeylanicum Blume is grown commercially. In tradition, there were several types of cinnamon categorized based on taste of the bark. “Pani-Miris Kurundu” was the best with sweet-pungent taste and “Miris Kurundu”, “Sevel Kurundu” and “Thiththa Kurundu” are the others. Currently ten cinnamon accessions have been identified based on yield and quality performances and best two lines, named as “Sri Vijaya” and “Sri Gamunu”, were released. Other selections are under evaluation in different agro climatic zones.

Soils and Climatic needs

Cinnamon can be grown in various types of soils varying from silver sands in Negambo to loamy and lateritic gravelly soils in Southern costal belt and interior. The bark quality is influenced by soil and climatic factors and the best quality cinnamon is produced in white sandy soil in Negombo area. However, the most expensive grade of cinnamon called “Alba” is mainly produced by very skillful peelers and they are the lowest diameter quills (6 mm) only fill with one or two inner fillings with super quality. Cinnamon needs a deep soil but cinnamon roots can penetrate even through the cracks of the parent material to deeper layers.

Cinnamon is commercially grown in coastal belts in Sri Lanka and spread to interior part of the country where elevation is increased up to about 250 above MSL. Naturally cinnamon has been found in central hilly area of Sri Lanka the elevation increased up to about 500m amsl. Until to date it can be found in  Sinharaja  and Knuckles forest reserve. Wet zone is ideal for the successful growth of cinnamon but it can be grown commercially in Intermediate zones of mid and low country, where annual rainfall is more than 1750mm.  However it is not suitable for areas with prolong dry periods.
Cinnamon is sun loving plant and high sun shine is needed.
The most suitable temperature is between 25˚C- 32˚C .
Rainfall should be in the region of 1,750-3,500 mm per annum.

Crop establishment

Planting materials
Cinnamon is usually propagated by seeds in large scale. Vegetative propagation through stem cuttings is feasible. Well ripened seeds are selected, thoroughly washed to remove pericarp and plant in 12.5 x20.0cm poly bags filled with equal parts of top soil, cow dung, sand and coir dust.
Five to eight seeds are planted in a bag but thinning out is done to keep 4-5 vigorous plants after about two months.

Field planting
Spacing – 120cm x 90cm (9000 plants/ha)
Planting is done with the on set of monsoon rains.  Healthy, disease free, four month old seedlings are planted in pits of 30cm x 30cm x 30cm. Planting pit is filled with top soil and cow dung or compost and one bag with 4-5 seedlings is planted in a pit.

Crop management

Fertilizer application
When harvesting the whole cinnamon plant is harvested hence the bush need a high fertilizer dose to rejuvenate a new shoot. Application of chemical fertilizer increases the yield significantly and application of organic fertilizer (cinnamon leaves, compost, poultry manure) too is highly beneficial for successful growth and yield.

Fertilizer recommendation
Recommended fertilizer mixture – 900 kg / ha /yr

Components of the
Parts by
Nutrients in the
Urea (46% N)223% N
Rock phosphate (28% p2O5)17% P2O5
Muriate of potash (60% k2O)115% K20
Age of plantation
Maha Season
(mixture kg/ha)
Yala Season
(mixture kg/ha)
1st Year (six months after planting)150150
2nd Year (kg)300300
3rd Year and onwards (kg)450450

Fertilizer is applied twice a year with the beginning of rains of Yala and Maha. Dolomite is applied, at the rate of 500 to 1000kg / ha /year, in areas where soil pH is below 4.5.

Weeding – Weeding is also an essential operation in cinnamon. Clean weeding is recommended for young plantations and slash weeding is recommended at 2-3 times a year for mature crop.
Soil conservation –In areas where the land is sloppy or undulated, soil conservation reduce the erosion.  Contour trenches at appropriate intervals are recommended.
Plant training and pruning – Training and pruning of plants should be done once in every six months. Excess lateral branches are removed to have a straight and smooth stem and after harvesting weak shoots are removed to enhance the growth of main stems.

Crop Protection


Rough Bark Disease: Phomopsis sps.

Rough bark disease is the most common disease of cinnamon which affects on young bark of immature shoots as brown spots and spread gradually throughout the bark. Leaves of the infested plants show clorosis and under severe conditions infected immature plants will die. Diseased bark can not be peeled. Disease can be controlled by destroying diseased plant and through adoption of correct cultural practices. Harvesting should be done at correct intervals and excess lateral branches to be removed. As a chemical treatment 1% Bordeaux mixture or copper based fungicide can be sprayed.

White Root Disease
Causal agent is a fungus known as Fomes noxis. Commonly found in cinnamon planted in lands which previously had rubber cultivations. Yellowing and subsequent shedding of leaves and sudden death of plants are visible symptoms. White colour fungal mycelia growths can be observed on roots of infected plants.
To control the spread of disease dead plants should be uprooted and burned. Root bases should be cleaned. Sulphur powder should be applied to the bases of infected plants and planting holes when new plants are establishing in such lands.
Other minor diseases are leaf blight, Black powdery mildew algae growth on leaves.

Pink Stem Borer: Ichneumoniptera cf.xanthosoma

Adult moth lays eggs in the bases of the cinnamon plant and caterpillar (larvae) eats in to the plant stem near the soil surface. This pest damage is most common in old plantations with poor crop management. As a result, new shoots may die and some mature shoots collapses from the base. New shoot formation also retarded. At the end gradually bush will die. The damage can successfully be controlled by covering the plant base by earthling up and through proper soil conservation. If the damage is serious, chemicals such as carbofuran and chlorophyrophos can be used.    

Other minor pest problems are cinnamon shoot borer, plant ticks and mites, leaf minor and cinnamon butterfly attacks.

Harvesting and Post Harvest practices

First harvest of cinnamon can be taken after three years of planting and two harvests can be taken per year. Harvesting is done when the bark color of the stem turn in to brown and stick diameter is about 3-5cm diameter. Branches and leaves are removed from harvested sticks before peeling and harvested stems should be peeled on the same day. During peeling outer skin is scraped and rubs the bark with a brass rod to be loosened bark from the hard wood. Then peel the bark, part by part, with a special knife and peeled bark is allowed to dry under sun for few hours and when rolling of the bark starts, pieces of bark are connected together and to make a pipe like structure (called as a quill) and the standard length of the tube is 42 inches. The hollow of the tube is filled with small pieces of bark and the tubes are left for in-door drying for about 4-7 days.

Standard quality specifications
Quality requirements in cinnamon quills

SmellInherited smell of cinnamon
ColourLight brown to brown
Moisture content14% for quills and 12% for other products
Volatile oil1% for quills and 0.7% for other products
No. of dead insects (no./kg)4
Mammalian fecal matter (mg/kg)2
Other fecal matter (mg/kg)4
Pieces with fungus attacked (% weight)1
Pieces with insects damages ( %  weight)1
Other extraneous matter (% weight)05

Specifications for cinnamon quills

GradeDiameter (max. mm)Min. no. of 42”long quills per kg% rough quills per kgMin. length of quills in a bailMax. % of single quality quills per bail
Continental (C )     
C00000 Sp.635102001
Mexican (M)     
Hamburg (H)     

Medicinal and Chemical Properties

Euginol is the main chemical ingredient in cinnamon leaf oil and Cinnamaldihide is present in cinnamon bark oil. However there are hundreds of minor chemical ingredients which give characteristic flavor and aroma in true cinnamon.
Cinnamon has been used for medicinal purposes and has been known as a healing herb since it is mentioned in Chinese botanical books that date back to 2700 B.C. In ancient Rome It had been used medicinally for cold and flu as well as for the problems of the digestive system. Recently, it has been studied for its ability to boost brain power, reduce blood clotting and its healing effects on the heart and colon. Recent studies have proved its ability to control type 2 diabetics by reducing blood sugar level and to reduce blood cholesterol level. In traditional society’s cinnamon is said to have used to relieve digestive upset, congestion, menstrual problems, stiff joints and muscles. It has said to been used as an anti-inflammatory agent and as a pain reliever to arthritis patients. Some studies had shown that cinnamon help to cure urine tract infections and to fight tooth decay and gum disease.

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