The tree is native to Sri Lanka and is cultivated in South India for its aromatic bark. It is also found to a limited extent in eastern India.
It is a moderate sized tree. The bark is smooth, light pinkish brown and thin, with a strong, pleasant smell and spicy, burning taste. The leaves are opposite or sub-opposite, glabrous, thinly to stiffly coriaceous and oval to lanceolate; the flowers are yellowish green, in axillary panicles; the fruits are ellipsoid to oblong-ovoid and dark purple. The bark constitutes the Cinnamon of commerce.
It contains a significant amount of a mucilaginous substance, which consists mainly of a water extractable L-arabino-D-xylan and an alkali-extractable D-glucan. The bark also contains the diterpenes, cinnzeylanin and cinnzeylanol besides tannins1.
The bark is reported to have shown mutagenic activity in rec -assay in Bacillus subtilis (Ehrenb.) Cohn strains H17 and M45. Thus it may have associated carcinogenic action. The dried bark in the crude form, its water-heated and water-macerated residues, and petroleum ether and chloroform extracts, showed mutagenic activity, whereas water-heated and water-macerated filtrates did not show the activity. In another study, the petroleum ether and chloroform extracts showed a cytotoxic effect on the stable monolayer cell lines from a human mouth carcinoma, and also on the stable suspension cell lines from a mouse lymphoid leukemia2.
Externally the bark is used in neuralgia, rheumatism and toothache. It is aromatic, astringent, stimulant, expectorant and carminative. The oil from the bark shows potent antibacterial and anti-fungal activity.
- Chugtai & Khan, 18; Gowda & Sarthy, Carbohydrate Res, 1987, 166, 263; Kya & Min, Union Burma J Life Sci , 1970, 3, 197; Isogai et. al., Agric biol Chem , 1976, 40, 2305; 1977, 41, 1779.
- Ungsurungsie et. al., Food chem Toxicol, 1982, 20, 527; 1984, 22, 109; Chulasiri et. al., Int J Crude Drug Res, 1984, 22, 177.