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Cinnamomum cassia Presl.

Family : Lauraceae

Other names : Bastard cinnamon; canel; canton cassia; Chinese cinnamonDescription

Cassia is a spice consisting of the aromatic bark of the Cinnamomum cassia plant of the family Lauraceae. Similar to true cinnamon, cassia bark has a more pungent, less delicate flavour and is thicker than cinnamon bark. This ancient spice was known to the Chinese as early as 3000 BC and mentioned in the Bible. It was used by the Pharaohs and came into Europe over the spice routes from the East.


Cassia is a native of Burma and is a small, evergreen laurel like tree growing to a height of 3m in warm tropical conditions. It has yellow flowers and the brown, immature fruit is snugly held in a cuplike, hard, wrinkled, grayish-brown calyx (the whole commonly called a bud). They vary in size but ordinarily 11 mm long, including the calyx tube. The upper part of the bud may be about 6mm in diameter. Cassia bark is pealed from stems and branches and set aside to dry. Some varieties are scraped. While drying, the bark curls into quills. The colour varies from light reddish brown for the thin, scraped bark to gray for the thick, unscraped bark. Ground cassia is reddish brown in colour.

Aroma and flavour

Cassia from China is less aromatic than that from Vietnam and Indonesia. Cassia from all the three countries possess a sweet, aromatic, and pungent flavour. Vietnamese, or Saigon, cassia is particularly highly esteemed.

It contains from 1 to 2 percent oil of cassia, a volatile oil, the principal component of which is cinnamic aldehyde (85-90%). The leaf oil from this species also contains a high percent of cinnamic aldehyde. The oleoresin of cassia usually contains 25-40% volatile oil.

Culinary use

Cassia bark is used as a flavouring in cooking, especially in savory dishes and particularly in liqueurs and chocolate. It is an ingredient in mixed spice, pickling spices. It is good with stewed fruits. Southern Europeans prefer it to cinnamon, but, in North America, ground cinnamon is sold without distinction as to the species from which the bark is obtained.

Medicinal and other use

Cassia buds, the dried, unripe fruits of C.cassia and C.loureirii, have a cinnamon-like aroma and a warm, sweet, pungent taste akin to that of cassia bark. The whole buds are added to foods for flavouring. The cinnamic aldehyde is a good antifungal agent. The volatile oil is used in some inhalants, in tonics and as a cure for flatulence, sickness and diarrhoea.

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