[ Cinnamon Sins ] ~ from Monterey Bay Herb Co
For most people, the scent of cinnamon conjures warm memories of gooey sweet buns fresh from the oven on a crisp morning, or stirring a steaming cup of mulled wine with a cinnamon stick before an evening fire.

There was a time, however, when the mere mention of the spice struck fear into the hearts of men and its pursuit provoked treachery, murder and war. Fortunately, modern day indulgence in cinnamon is just as sinfully decadent but a world apart from the depravities of the past.

[ Cinnamon Sins: Lore of Yore ] ~ from Monterey Bay Herb Co
[ Cinnamon Sins: Ancient & Noble Beginnings ] ~ from Monterey Bay Herb Co
a. ancient &
noble beginnings

Cinnamon is an ancient spice. It is referenced in the Bible, listed as an ingredient in embalming formulas in ancient Egyptian writings and is described in a 5,000-year old herbal reputedly penned by Shennong, an emperor of Chinese mythology also known as The Divine Farmer and considered the father of Chinese herbal medicine (not to mention the guy who gave us tea). Roman nobles guarded their cinnamon stash as closely as they did other valuables, while their emperor, Nero, sought absolution for allegedly causing the premature death of his young wife, Poppaea, by ordering all of the city's reserves of the spice to be burned upon her funeral pyre.

Although cinnamon was a symbol of social status and mobility in the ancient world for thousands of years, it would not become a commodity of high demand in the world beyond the Mediterranean until the 16th century. In the 1,500-plus years that would span between the time that a mad emperor sacrificed a year's worth of cinnamon to invoke forgiveness for murder and the day anyone anywhere could casually sprinkle the ground spice on their morning bowl of oatmeal, many capital and cardinal sins would be committed in the name of cinnamon.

god of the dead
left scarab
carvings in stone
called 'heart scarabs'
were placed on the mummy
up right
cassia may have been one of
the spices mixed into a
formula used to wash the
body for mummification or
used inside as a sort of
"stuffing" for the body to
retain its shape
down right cinnamon powder
b. tall tales of
spice escapades

Up until the Middle Ages, the Arabs held a monopoly on the cinnamon trade, the market price of which was driven by deliberately restricted supplies delivered via challenging land routes and wild stories of how the spice was obtained to discourage competition. These tales ranged from great stores of the spice being protected by venomous snakes to giant birds using cinnamon quills to build their nests atop mountains impossible for any mortal human to ascend.

The deceitful strategy worked well for several hundred years, until the Venetians took control of the trade in the 14th century, followed by an enterprising Portuguese explorer named Dom Vasco da Gama, who found an ocean passage route directly to India by sailing around the Cape of Good Hope. The quest for cinnamon was about to be taken to a new level with a focus on a remote island off the southeast coast of India, a place previously speculated about but remained elusive to Spanish explorers — pais de la canela, or “the country of cinnamon.”

cinnamon sticks
[ Cinnamon Sins: Tall Tales of Spice Escapades ] ~ from Monterey Bay Herb Co
[ Cinnamon Sins: A Population Enslaved, A Corporation Born ] ~ from Monterey Bay Herb Co
c. a population enslaved,
a corporation born

With European demand for cinnamon now at its peak, Portuguese traders ruthlessly secured their control of shipping routes and a significant source of the spice by conquering the Kingdom of Kotte, the center of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). For the next 100 years, island residents would serve as slaves, wandering Venetian merchants would mysteriously disappear and a fair number of the 200-plus sunken ships residing around the coast of the island today would meet their watery fates during this time period.

By the mid-17th century, and with the aid of the neighboring Kingdom of Kandy, the Dutch seized control of the Galle harbor at Ceylon, eventually displacing the Portuguese and securing the entire Malabar Coast to push the former out even further. In compensation for this eviction, the Dutch continued to occupy the kingdom and dominate the cinnamon trade. As a result, the already established Dutch East India Company became the largest company known to the world at that time and the first to finance its operations by offering shares with dividends equaling a 40% return on investment. It was a very successful and profitable commercial enterprise, to say the least. That is, until the British showed up.

d. and the winner is…

When the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War between Great Britain and the Dutch Republic ended in 1784, the former took hold of Ceylon, where the production and export of cinnamon by the British East India Company climbed to a thousand metric tons by the mid-19th century. While the war over cinnamon was ultimately won by the British, the victory was bittersweet since cultivation of the spice in other parts of the world made its novelty and price decline. The popularity of cinnamon also found competition from another newly discovered and possibly even more sinful commodity: chocolate.

By 1800, there was also an increased demand for Cassia cinnamon, a variety produced in Indonesia that has a stronger aroma and flavor than the “true” Ceylon cinnamon. Historically, cassia is the less expensive of the two and is the type most often found in supermarkets today. In contrast, the milder and slightly sweeter Ceylon cinnamon is the variety preferred for baking and topping off hot chocolate or coffee.

[ Cinnamon Sins: A Bittersweet Success ] ~ from Monterey Bay Herb Co
cinnamon forms
the next
big thing
up right
Galle Clock Tower,
Sri Lanka
c 1707
down left
cassia is a
less expensive
Cinnamon Sins
[ Cinnamon: Uses - Usual and Unusual ] ~ from Monterey Bay Herb Co
e. six cinnamon uses
(you've probably never thought of)
cinnamon sachet

Fill a large muslin bag with eight 1-inch cinnamon sticks, ½ cup whole black peppercorns and ½ cup whole cloves. Hang in the closet to keep clothes smelling fresh and to deter moths.

natural facial foundation

Mix ground cinnamon with arrowroot powder to create a natural bronzer or foundation.

swizzler stick

Use cinnamon sticks to sweeten and stir your favorite hot beverage at the same time.

aromatic garland

String bay leaves, cranberries and cinnamon sticks together to create a rustic garland.

floral crafts rejuvenator

Freshen floral displays and wreaths with a few drops of cinnamon essential oil.

room spray

Combine a few drops of cinnamon essential oil with 2 ounces of witch hazel extract or vodka and use as a room spray or a personal “skeeter” repellent.

sizes and suggestions

Browse, pin or be inspired by our cinnamon chart and buying guide.

click to enlarge
this graphic

down right cinnamon pamphlet
f. seven cinnamon recipes
(5 for your mouth & 2 for your face)
mocha rum balls

The best thing about these deeply delicious rum balls is that they're a no-bake treat. Also...did we mention rum?
mocha rum balls recipe

spiced fig jam

Figs may be original to the Mediterranean region, but they are the perfect fall fruit. With a flavor and texture somewhere between pear and apple, they lend themselves to jam without the need for pectin.
spiced fig jam recipe

twice as nice pears

Use Bosc or Bartlett pears for this recipe. If you leave the stems intact they look rather rustic and artsy while swimming in their pools of spiced honey at serving time.
twice as nice pears recipe

apple cider & cinnamon mini muffins

These spicy little muffin morsels are also affectionately known as "donut" holes because of their size and how quickly they disappear!
apple cider & cinnamon mini muffins recipe

zesty zucchini bread

Still pulling zucchini out of the garden? Making bread is a classic way to use up the vegetable; making it spicy turns a hum-drum quick bread into something memorable.
zesty zucchini bread recipe

chocolate, cinnamon, and honey facial mask

If you experience occasional break outs or rosacea, this formula is for you. While cinnamon targets surface bacteria, chocolate and honey moisturize and reduce redness from irritation.
chocolate, cinnamon, and honey facial mask recipe

spiced aftershave

Here's one for you, fella! Wear this invigorating formula as a cologne or splash on after shaving to help close pores and leave a light, spicy fragrance.
spiced aftershave recipe

cinnamon apple
[ Cinnamon Sins: Seven Cinnamon Recipes ] ~ from Monterey Bay Herb Co