Cassia Bark

Some 250 species of evergreen trees and shrubs belong to this genus, occuring in E and SE Asia, and in Australia. Cinnamomum camphora, C. cassia, and C. zeylanicum provide three different commodities: camphor, cassia bark, and cinnamon, respectively. Camphor (often called camphorated oil) is an aromatic terpene ketone, familiar as mothballs, which is used medicinally and in the manufacture of celluloid. It is best known in the compound camphorated oil, in which camphor is blended with peanut oil. Similar compounds are extracted from Blumea balsamifera (Ngai camphor), and Dryobalanops aromatica (Borneo camphor, See, Borneo camphor). Cassia and cinnamon are usually produced as bark quills, from which powdered cinnamon and essential oil are produced. They are of major importance in food flavoring and are ingredients in numerous medicinal formulas for their warming, stimulant properties. Cinnamomum cassia is one of the oldest spices known, first recorded in China in 2700BCE and in Egypt in 1600BCE. Oil from C. camphora contains safrole (as in Sassafras albidum, See, sassafras), which can be extracted for flavoring but is now banned in many countries because it is potentially carcinogenic. Cinnamomum zeylanicum is a major world spice, which played a significant role in colonial expansion; the Portuguese invaded Ceylon in 1536 to obtain a monopoly of cinnamon; the Dutch began to cultivate it in 1770, and thereafter, the Dutch East India Company dominated the world trade in it from 1796 to 1833. Commercially less important species include: C. burmanii (Batavia cinnamon, Indonesian cassia, korintje), a good cinnamon substitute, also used in incense; C. iners (wild cinnamon), used in SE Asia for curries; C. loureirii (Saigon cassia/cinnamon), a sweet variety used for baking and made into a cordial; C. massoia (massoia bark) from New Guinea, which has a clove-like aroma, used for flavoring and perfumery; C. oliveri (Oliver bark, or black sassafras), an Australian species with a pungent, clove-sassafras flavor; and C. tamala (Indian bay/cassia), tejpat), with aromatic leaves and coarsely flavored bark, used in Italian cuisine and to adulterate cinnamon.

Evergreen tree with thick, leathery leaves to 20cm (8in) long. Yellow flowers appear in panicles 8-18cm (3-7in) long in summer, followed by single-seeded berries.

Common Name:
Cassia Bark
Other Names:
Bastard Cinnamon, Cassia Bark, Chinese cinnamon Cinnamon Bark
Botanical Name:
Cinnamomum cassia syn. C. aromaticum.
Native Location:
Moist, well-drained soil in sun or partial shade. Trees tolerate coppicing.
By seed sown when ripe at 13-18°C (55-64°F); by semi-ripe cuttings in summer.
Leaves of the C. camphora are picked as required; wood is cut from trees over 50 years old and boiled to extract camphor, which is steam-distilled for oil or use in infusions, liniments, powder, and other medicated preparations. Bark of C. cassia is dried in quills without fermentation for use in infusions, powder and tinctures; branches and leaves are distilled for oil. Unripe fruits of C. cassia are picked in summer and dried as cassia buds. Shoots of coppiced plants of C. zeylanicum are cut every second year during the rainy season, and stripped of leaves for distillation. The bark is left 24 hours to ferment; outer bark is then scraped away to expose inner bark, which is peeled and dried for use, whole or powdered, in infusions and tinctures, or distilled for oil.
12-20m (40-70ft)
6-12m (20-40ft)
Min. 15°C (59°F)
One of the oldest of the healing herbs, cinnamon bark has been used in traditionaly Chinese herbal medicine for over 4,000 years. In China, where it is called rou gui, cinnamon bark—a "warming" herb—had long been famously used to treat "cold" ailments (also known as "yang" or "hot" deficiencies), including chills, diarrhea, low energy, and poor kidney function. In the second century BCE, the ancient Egyptians used cinnamon bark in their embalming formulas—do doubt because of its strong antiseptic properties and distinctive aroma. The ancient Greeks and Romans were also well acquainted with the herb, which they used as a stimulant and to spice their wines and foods. In Rome, where cinnamon bark was especially prized, the herb was a dearly priced and highly taxed import—a fact that would soon make the exotic tree a much sought-after commodity that directly contributed to world exploration and colonialism. During the Middle Ages, cinnamon-spiced wine was still a popular beverage, and one particularly potent brew was named Hippocras, in homage both to the Greek "father of medicine", Hippocrates, and to cinnamon bark's therapeutic effects. By then, cinnamon bark was widely used by Western herbalists to treat a variety of ailments, including diarrhea, indigestion, and nausea. The herb's popularity spread to the United States with the colonization of America, and by the early 1900s, more than 7 million pounds of cinnamon bark were being imported yearly.
Parts Used:
Inner bark (rou gui), leafy twigs (gou zhi), fruits, oil.
Inner bark is a pungent, sweet, hot herb that stimulates the circulatory system, improves digestion, relieves spasms, and vomiting, and controls infections. Twigs increase perspiration and lower fever.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally, in Western medicine, mainly in preparations for diarrhea, flatulent dyspepsia and colic, and colds; in Chinese medicine, for diarrhea, poor appetite, low vitality, kidney weakness (yang deficiency manifesting in edema and light urination), rheumatism, and coldness (rou gui); and for colds, influenza, fevers, arthritic and rheumatic complaints, angina, palpitations, and digestive ailments related to cold and chills (gou zhi).
Cinnamon bark has antiflatulence, antinausea, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, digestive, and warming properties. It also stimulates the circulatory system. Cinnamon bark is taken internally most frequently for colds, colic, diarrhea, flatulence, gastritis, indigestion, nausea and vomiting. In traditional Chinese herbal medicine, cinnamon bark is additionally prescribed for angina, arthritis, chills, edema (water retention), kidney ailments, and rheumatism.
Cinnamon bark is available as dried or powdered herb and in capsules, teas, and tinctures. Commercially prepared cinnamon tea (alone or in combination with other herbs) is widely available. Follow the manufacturer's or your practitioner's directions.
Culinary Uses:
Bark is used to flavor curries, baked foods, candy, soft drinks, chewing gum, and condiments. An ingredient of Chinese "five spices", with anise, star anise, cloves, and fennel seeds. Fruits, known as "cassia buds", resemble cloves in appearance and are also widely used for flavoring.
Economic Uses:
Cassia oil contains 80-90 percent cinnamaldehyde, used mainly in medicines, baked goods, candy and cosmetics.
Do not take cinnamon bark medicinally if you are pregnant, nursing or trying to conceive. Overconsumption of cinnamon bark may cause breathing changes, convulsions, and dilated blood vessels.
Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited Pp 169-170
The Modern Herbal Primer by Nancy Burke Copyright©2000 Yankee Publishing Inc. pg 136