Cinnamomum tamala

Botanical Name :Cinnamomum tamala
Family:  Lauraceae
Genus:  Cinnamomum
Species:  C. tamala
Kingdom:  Plantae
Order:  Laurales

Common Names:Malabathrum, ( Hindi: Tej Patta ) or Indian bay leaf also known as Malobathrum or Malabar leaf

Habitat :Cinnamomum tamala is  native to the southern slopes of the Himalayas  and the mountains of North Eastern India, extending into Burma.

Description:
Cinnamon trees belong to a large genus of some 250 species, most of which are aromatic. True Cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon and the south-eastern coast of India, while the closely related Cassia is native to China. Cinnamon and Cassia are both small tropical evergreen trees that grow up to 20 – 30 feet tall, with aromatic bark and leaves. Young leaves employ a typical trick of tropical trees to make themselves look unappealing to predatory insects by assuming a limp, reddish appearance, as if wilting. Once they mature they perk up and darken to a deep green. The leaves are elongated ovate with a pointed tip, shiny and dark green on the upper surface, lighter below. The inconspicuous whitish flowers grow in panicles, which later develop into bluish berries. The bark is reddish brown and smooth.

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The leaves, known as tejpat in Nepali, t?japatt? or tejpatta  in Hindi, Tejpat in Assamese and tamalpatra in Marathi and in original Sanskrit, are used extensively in the cuisines of India, Nepal, and Bhutan, particularly in the Moghul cuisine of North India and Nepal and in Tsheringma herbal tea in Bhutan. It is called Biryani Aaku or Bagharakku in Telugu. They are often erroneously labeled as “Indian bay leaves,” or just “Bay leaf” though the bay leaf is from the Bay Laurel, a tree of Mediterranean origin in a different genus, and the appearance and aroma of the two are quite different. This may lead to confusion when following Indian or Pakistani recipes. Bay leaves are shorter and light to medium green in color, with one large vein down the length of the leaf;photo while tejpat are about twice as long and wider than laurel leaves. They are usually olive green in color, may have some brownish spots and have three veins down the length of the leaf.photo True tejpat leaves impart a strong cassia- or cinnamon-like aroma to dishes, while the bay leaf’s aroma is more reminiscent of pine and lemon. Indian grocery stores usually carry true tejpat leaves. Some grocers may only offer Turkish bay leaves, in regions where true tejpat is unavailable.

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Main constituents
In the essential oil from the leaves, mostly monoterpenoides were found: Linalool (50%) is the major compound, whereas ?-pinene, p-cymene, ?-pinene and limonene range around 5 to 10% each. Phenylpropanoids appear only in traces: Newer work reports 1% cinnamic aldehyde and no eugenol, whereas older literature speaks of traces of both compounds.

Edible Uses:
In Indian and Sri Lankan cooking Cinnamon is used as a common spice, not only for sweets, but also as an integral part of the spice mixture known as ‘curry powder’. It is frequently mixed with honey and taken as tea, though the British found it more to their taste to add rum and lemon to the brew. Cinnamon is also an essential ingredient of ‘Chai’, the Indian spice tea, which was long rumored to have aphrodisiac properties. Probably the warming and fortifying properties of the various spices it is comprised of helped to kindle passions, especially among the willing.

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The bark is also sometimes used for cooking, although it is regarded as inferior to true cinnamon or cassia

Medicinal Uses:
Aromatic, carminative, stimulant, anti-microbial, anti-fungal

Despite the fact that Cinnamon has such a longstanding history of use, it is not very commonly employed for medicinal purposes today outside its native homelands. However, recent studies have been showing some interesting effects, which may renew this ancient spice’s popularity.

The ancients were aware of the differences between Cinnamon and Cassia. Dioscurides clearly distinguishes between the two species and describes both in detail. He recommends Cassia as an eye remedy. He also says that when taken internally it will act as an anti-inflammatory and will stimulate menstruation. In a sitzbad it will help to open the uterus. Of Cinnamon he says that it stimulates the urinary tract and can be used for problems of the kidneys, edema and urinary retention. He also recommends it for cough and congestion of the respiratory system.

In Ayurvedic medicine Cinnamon oil is used in external applications for rheumatism, aching joints and stiffness. It is also used for toothache and sore gums, much like clove oil. Aryuveda makes use of Cinnamon for the same purposes as Disocorides recommends: as a decongestant for the respiratory tract and urinary problems. It is a good addition to teas for coughs and colds and is sometimes used in steam inhalations for respiratory conditions. In India it is used at the first sign of a cold to prevent it from taking hold fully.

The essential oil component of Cinnamon has anti-coagulant properties, which helps to thin blood and improves circulation. (Caution is advised for those already on blood thinning medication). It also exhibits anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties. The anti-microbial action helps to preserve food and can be used in place of common food preservatives. It not only helps to prevent food spoilage by common bacteria, but also by yeasts. Cinnamon is one of the few herbs that can used to treat fungal growths like candida.

Cinnamon is a warming aromatic tonic that stimulates the digestive system and can help reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Recent studies have found it to be quite effective for ‘metabolic syndrome’ a ‘pre’ stage of insulin resistant type 2 diabetes. As little as 2 teaspoons of the spice have shown a marked effect in people who were not on insulin medication. It achieves this effect by delaying emptying of the stomach content after a meal, which prevents blood sugar peaks. It also sensitizes insulin receptors and inhibits an enzyme that inactivates these receptors, thus making a significant impact on glucose uptake. This is great news as Cinnamon can so easily be added to foods and drinks as part of a normal diet.

Another study has shown that Cinnamon can have a beneficial effect on cognitive function. It was shown that people who used Cinnamon prior to test situations performed better than the control group. They also appeared to process new information better.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malabathrum
http://www.sacredearth.com/ethnobotany/plantprofiles/cinnamon.php
http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/herb-entry.php?term=Malabathrum
http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Cinn_tam.html

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