Ceylon cinnamon a money spinner
The medicinal value of Sri Lanka’s cinnamon has widened the market
opportunities in the international market, said senior research officer
ITI K. R. Dayananda.
True cinnamon or Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnmaomum Zeylinicum) produced
only in Sri Lanka has a greater opportunity in this emerging market.
However, there are two challenges which have to be addressed
Firstly, the traditional fumigation method used in the industry has
to change immediately to meet international standards.
The sulphur residual level of our cinnamon is higher than the
European standards and today the market enjoys a temporary respite.
Secondly, true cinnamon has to be separated from cassia or Chinese
cinnamon because both are traded commonly as cinnamon. This is a
disadvantage for Ceylon cinnamon because cassia has a high percentage of
coumarin, a toxic substance, Dayananda said.
ITI conducted research on the coumarin content of Ceylon cinnamon and
the results were impressive, Dayananda said. This is the first
comprehensive analysis on Ceylon cinnamon for its coumarin content.
According to the general standard for food addictives issued by the
FAO and WHO Codex committee, the presence of substances of toxicological
concern including coumarin in natural flavours, spices and condiments
should not exceed the threshold limit. Moreover, coumarin in foods that
are ready for consumption should not exceed 2 ppm.
The ITI research, revealed that the coumarin content in commercial
cinnamon bark and bark oil was determined by gas chromatography.
They tested the samples submitted by leading exporters for
certification. According to 38 cinnamon bark oil samples tested the
maximum coumarin content detected was 100ppm and coumarin was not
detected in 39 per cent of oil samples tested.
Based on these results, the maximum coumarin content is within the
range of 1 ppm in the cinnamon bark (Oil content of bark is 17 per
cent.) The analysis of cinnamon bark samples gave the same results.
The maximum coumarin content in the cinnamon bark samples distilled
and tested was 30ppm. This is higher than the 2 ppm recommended.
However, since the daily intake of cinnamon is very small this is not
harmful. The coumarin content in cassia is more than 800ppm.
Dayananda said that the results of this study confirmed that Ceylon
cinnamon contains the least amount of coumarin compared to cassia and it
is within safe limits recommended by FAO/WHO guidelines.
Recent research has proved the medicinal and neutriceutical value of
cinnamon. Scientists have isolated and characterised several poly-phenolic
polymer compounds from cinnamon bark that could one day become natural
ingredients in products aimed at lowering blood sugar levels.
During a decade of efforts to find natural compounds that could help
maintain normal blood sugar levels, scientists tested several components
The newly characterised chemical structures are closely related to a
previously reported chemical derivative of cinnamon, Methyl Hydroxy
Chalcone Polymer (MHCP). Among many plant extracts only cinnamon showed
the highest insulin enhancing activity.
The poly-phenolic polymers in cinnamon bark have antioxidant effects,
which may provide synergistic benefits to people with various forms of
Today Ceylon cinnamon dominates the world market in terms of value
and it fetches a very high price compared to cassia. According to 2006
trade statistics, Sri Lanka has exported 10,685 tonnes of cinnamon and
earned $ 5,509 per tonne, a very high price compared to $925 per tonne
received for cassia.
However, a large quantity of cassia is coming to the market and it is
a close substitute. We can promote this advantage of low coumarin
content, to compete with cassia, Dayananda said.