Cassia Cinnamon, or cinnamomum cassia, is made from the bark of an evergreen tree of the same name. The cassia cinnamon tree is thought to be native to China. Bark is taken from the tree and dried. During this drying process, the outermost layer of the bark is removed, leaving a thinner inner layer. This layer naturally curls as it dries. Cassia cinnamon is more pronounced in flavor compared to other varieties. The bark tends to be thicker as well. Because of this bold flavor and harvesting processes, it is the most popular cinnamon to be sold.
For centuries, cassia cinnamon had been used for medicinal purposes. It’s strong scent and flavor was thought to aid in shortening the common cold. Cassia cinnamon was used to help improve menstrual cramps, increase the appetite, and enhance digestion. Use of cinnamon for these purposes have been proven scientifically.
However, more recent research has suggested that cinnamon can have beneficial effects. It may help regulate blood sugar and aid in cholesterol reduction. Because some studies conflict with each other, more research is necessary to determine true positive effects. The compound, coumarin, contained in cinnamon has been linked to liver damage when consumed in large amounts. More reason to consume cinnamon as a delicious spice rather than as a medicine.
The rolled-up bark is what we would refer to as whole cinnamon, or cinnamon sticks. It has a warm, deep flavor with a spicy fragrance. In the United States, the aromatic scent of cinnamon is often synonymous with autumn and upcoming the holidays. Whole cinnamon sticks are often used as an agent to infuse flavor in a dish by way of steeping in liquid. When used during the cooking process, they add flavor to beverages such as coffee or tea, and add warmth and richness to soups, stews, and oatmeal.