141. Cinnamomum cassia, Blume.—The Cinnamon Cassia.

Botanical name: 

Cinnamomum aromaticum, Nees.
Sex. Syst
. Enneandria, Monogynia.
(Cassia-bark. Oil of Cassia, E.—Cassia lignea, and Cassia buds, offic.)

History.—It is highly probable that the bark, now called cassia lignea, was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans; but we cannot positively prove this. the barks termed by the ancients cinnamomum (κιννάμωμον) and cassia [Psalm xlv. 9.] (κάσσια), as well as the trees yielding these substances, are too imperfectly described to enable us to determine with precision the substances referred to. The cassia tree is called in Chineso Kwei (Qui). Cassia lignea is called Kwei Pe, or Cassia skin; while Cassia buds are termed Kwei Tsze, or Cassia seeds. Cinnamon is called Yuh Kwci (vulgarly Yoke Qui), or Precious Cassia. It is not a product of China.

Botany. Gen. Char.—Vide Cinnamomum zeylanicum.

Sp. Char.—Leaves opposite, sometimes alternate, oblong-lanceolate, triple-nerved; the nerves vanishing at the point of the leaf. Petioles and younger branches silky-tomentose. Stem arborescent (Blume). [Ann. of Phil. vol. x. 1817.]

Hab.—China; cultivated in Java.

The tree known in Ceylon as the Dawul Kurunda was erroneously supposed by Linnaeus to be the source of cassia bark, and hence he termed it Laurus Cassia. The Dublin College has been led into the same error. Many years since, Mr. Marshall [Bijdrag] stated that the bark of Dawul Kurunda was not aromatic like cinnamon, but had the bitter taste and the odour of myrrh.

This tree is the Litsaea Ceylanica of recent botanists. [C. G. Nees, ab Esenbeck, Syst. Laurinarum, Berol. 1836; also Dr. Wight, in Jameson's Journal, vol. xxviii. Edinb. 1840.] Mr. Marshall declares [Annals of Philosophy, vol. x. 1817.] that in Ceylon it is never decorticated, and that the coarse cinnamon (i. e. cinnamon procured from thick shoots or large branches of Cinnamomum zeylanicum) "has been imported into England, and sold under the denomination of cassia." It has been erroneously inferred from this statement that the cassia lignea of European commerce was merely coarse cinnamon; but if this were the case, it would be somewhat remarkable that cassia lignea is not imported from Ceylon. It is not at all improbable that coarse Ceylon cinnamon may have been sold in the London market as cassia lignea; but this by no means establishes the identity of the two barks. Such an occurrence can now scarcely happen, seeing that all cinnamon (coarse as well as fine) exported from Ceylon pays a duty of 3s. per lb., while the value of cassia lignea in bond is about 6d. per lb.

In the Pun tsaou (a Chinese herbal) is a drawing of the Cassia tree. It is represented growing on a hill, and as having a very crooked and knotted stem.

Description.—Two substances are believed to be obtained from this species; namely, the bark called cassia lignea, and the flower buds termed cassia buds.

1. Cassia lignea (cortex cassiae) is regarded on the continent of Europe, and in America, [In the American pharmacopoeia, both cinnamon and cassia lignea are included under the name of cinnamon.] as a sort of cinnamon. In English commerce, it is always distinguished. It is imported in chests. It resembles cinnamon in many of its qualities. It is made up in bundles, which are tied with slips of bamboo. It has the same general appearance, smell, and taste as cinnamon; but its substance is thicker, its appearance coarser, its colour darker, browner, and duller; its flavour, though cinnamomic, is much less sweet and fine than that of Ceylon cinnamon, but is more pungent, and is followed by a bitter taste; it is less closely quilled, and breaks shorter, than genuine cinnamon (see ante, p. 390). It is imported from Singapore, Calcutta, Bombay, and Manilla.

1. China cassia lignea (sometimes called China cinnamon) is the best kind. It is usually imported from Singapore, rarely from Canton direct. Mr. Reeves [Trans. Med. Bot. Society for 1828, p. 26.] says vast quantities of both cassia buds and cassia lignea are annually brought to Canton from the province of Kwangse, whose principal city (Kwei Lin Too), literally the city of the Forest (or Grove) of Cassia trees, derives its name from the forests of cassia around it.

The Chinese themselves use a much thicker bark (which they call Gan Kwei Pe), unfit for the European market. Mr. Reeves informs me that they esteem it so highly as to pay nearly 10 dollars per lb. for it. A very fine quality is occasionally met with, and commands the enormous price of 100 dollars per catty (1 ⅓ lb.) A specimen of it, with which he has kindly furnished me, is straight, semi-cylindrical, 11 inches long, rather more than an inch wide, and about one-sixth or one-eighth of an inch thick. Externally it is warted, and covered with crustaceous lichens. Internally, it is deep brown. Its odour and flavour are those of cassia. Mr. Reeves also informs me that the best cassia lignea is cut in the 3d or 4th moon, the second sort in the 6th or 7th moon.

2. Malabar cassia lignea.—This is brought from Bombay. It is thicker and coarser than that of China, and is more subject to foul packing; hence each bundle requires separate inspection [Milburn's Orient. Comm.]. It may, perhaps, be coarse cinnamon; for Dr. White states that the bark of the older branches of the genuine cinnamon plant is exported from the Malabar coast as cassia.

3. Manilla cassia lignea.—This, I am informed, is usually sold in bond for continental consumption. I have received a specimen of bark ticketed "Cassia vera from Manilla," the epidermis of which was imperfectly removed.

4. Mauritius cassia lignea.—This is occasionally met with.

2. Cassiae buds (flores cassiae immaturae; clavelli cinnamomi) are not contained in any of the British Pharmacopoeias. They are the produce of China, and are probably procured from the same plant which yields cassia lignea. Mr. Reeves tells me that he has always understood and has no doubt that both cassia buds and cassia lignea are obtained from the same trees. The buds are gathered, he informs me, in the 8th or 9th moon. Dr. T. W. C. Martius [Pharmacognosie, S. 213.] says "that, according to the latest observations which the elder Nees has made known, cassia buds are the calyces (Fruchtkelche) of Cinnamomum aromaticum, about one-fourth of their normal size. It is also said that they are collected from Cinnamomum duke (Nees), which is found in China." Cassia buds bear some resemblance to cloves, but are smaller, or to nails with round heads; they have the odour and flavour of cassia lignea or cinnamon. The exports from Canton in 1831 were 177,866 lbs., and the imports into Great Britain in 1832 were 75,173 lbs [M Culloch's Dict. of Comm.]. In 1840, 6,406 lbs. paid duty. Cassia buds have not yet been analyzed; their constituents are similar to those of cassia lignea; they yield a volatile oil by distillation, and contain tannic acid.

Composition.—Cassia lignea was analyzed by Bucholz, [ Parliam. returns, No. 50, Sess. 1829; No. 367, Sess. 1832; No. 550, Sess. 1833.] who obtained the following results: Volatile oil, 0.8; resin, 4.0; gummy (astringent) extractive, 14.6; woody fibre with bassorin, 64.3; water and loss, 16.3 = 100.0.

Chemical Characteristics.—Sesquichloride of iron renders decoction of cassia lignea dark green, and causes a precipitate (tannate of iron). Gelatine also produces a precipitate (tannate of gelatine). If tincture of iodine be added to it, a blue colour (iodide of starch) is produced. By this cassia lignea may be distinguished from genuine cinnamon (see ante, p. 389).

Physiological Effects.—Similar to those of cinnamon. Sundelin [Heilmittel. Bd. ii. S. 119, 3tte Aufl.] regards it as being more astringent.

Uses.—Are the same as those of cinnamon.

Administration.—Dose, grs. x to ʒss.

1. OLEUM CASSIAE, E.; Oil of Cassia; Oil of Chinese Cinnamon.—(Obtained from cassia lignea by distillation with water.)—Its properties and composition are similar to those of oil of cinnamon, before described (see ante, p. 391). Its odour and flavour, however, are inferior to those of the latter. Its colour is usually pale yellow. Nitric acid converts it into a crystalline mass. Its effects and uses are similar to those of oil of cinnamon. It is employed in the preparation of Aqua and Spiritus Cassiae.—Dose, gtt. j to gtt. iv.

2. AQUA CASSIAE, E.; Cassia Waters— (Cassia bark, bruised, ℥xviij; Water Cong. ij; Rectified Spirit f℥iij. Mix them together, and distil off one gallon.)—Used as an aromatic vehicle for other medicines. It is usually prepared from the oil in the same way that cinnamon water is commonly made.

3. SPIRITUS CASSIAE, E.; Spirit of Cassia.—(Cassia, in coarse powder, ℔j; Proof Spirit Ovij. Macerate for two days in a covered vessel, add a pint and a half of water, and distil off seven pints.)—Dose fʒj to fʒiv. It is usually prepared by adding oil of cassia to proof spirit.

4. TINCTURA CASSIAE, E.; Tincture of Cassia.—(Cassia, in moderately fine powder, ℥iijss; Proof Spirit Oij. Digest for seven days, strain, express the residuum strongly, and filter. This tincture is more conveniently made by the process of percolation, the cassia being allowed to macerate in a little of the spirit for twelve hours before being put into the percolator.)—Dose fʒj to fʒij. Used as an adjuvant to tonic infusions.

The Elements of Materia Medica and Therapeutics, Vol. II, 3th American ed., was written by Jonathan Pereira in 1854.