Wednesday, 13 November 2019 10:18

Health benefits of Spices to Human Body

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Spices have been used for culinary and medicinal purposes for centuries. Spices are usually used in foods and beverages for enhance flavor, aroma and color, but they can also protect from acute and chronic diseases. There are some scientific evidence that spices contain anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and glucose and cholesterol lowering activities. Frequent consumption of spicy foods can reduce the risk of death from cancer and ischemic heart and respiratory system diseases. Sri Lanka is the most famous country to the spices. So Sri Lanka is called as “Land of Spices”. Major export spices are cinnamon, black pepper, clove and nutmeg.

Ceylon cinnamon or true cinnamon (Cinamomum zylanika) is indigenous to Sri Lanka. Cinnamon is a highly delicious spice and also it has been prized for its medicinal properties thousand years. Cinnamon contain lot of anti-oxidants such as polyphenol which protect human body from oxidative damages caused by free radicals. Some anti-oxidants that contain in cinnamon have anti-inflammatory effect. Cinnamon has an ability to reduce the level of LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) and triglyceride level in blood while remaining HDL (High Density Lipoprotein). It helps to reduce risk of getting heart diseases. Cinnamon can improve sensitivity to the hormone insulin so cinnamon has a blood sugar lowering property. There are scientific evidences which cinnamon has potential to cancer prevention. Cinnamon has ability to reducing cancer cells and some chemicals in cinnamon toxic to cancer cells, causing cell death.

Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is one of the most commonly used spice. Black pepper not only a spice, it used in ancient Ayurvedic medicine for thousands years due to high concentration of potent, beneficial plant compounds. Black pepper contain piperine. Animal studies has shown that piperine has an ability to improve brain function. And also piperine may help to improve blood sugar metabolism. Therefore black pepper helps to reduce blood sugar level. High cholesterol levels in blood directly associated. Scientific studies have shown that black pepper has potential to reduce blood cholesterol level. Active compound in piperine, may have cancer fighting ability. Black pepper may increase the absorption of essential mineral nutrients such as calcium and selenium.

Clove also known as Syzygiyum aromaticum an evergreen plant and major export spice in Sri Lanka. The flower bud of the clove tree use as the spice. In fact most of animal studies found that the compounds in clove may be beneficial for the human health. Clove provide important nutrients such as manganese, vitamin K and vitamin C. Clove contain some anti-oxidants reduce the oxidative stress, which can contribute to the development of chronic diseases. Clove contain eugenol. Eugenol may be beneficial to the liver health by reducing the risk of getting fatty liver. Some compounds found in clove, may help to regulate blood sugar.

Nutmeg is made from the seed Myristica fragrans plant. It is a most popular spice in world wide. Most commonly nutmeg is used for its flavor than the its health benefits. Nutmeg contain powerful compounds that may help to promote overall human health and prevent from diseases. Like other spices nutmeg also contain anti-oxidants which reduce oxidative stress. Some animal studies have shown that nutmeg may have the property to enhance sex drive and performance. Bacteria like Streptococcus mutance and Aggregatibacter actinomycetecomitans can cause to gum diseases and dental cavities. Nutmeg has powerful anti-bacterial effect against these bacteria.

Written by :
Ms. E G Prasadika Sanjeewani Somarathna
Department of Food Science and Technology (Reading),
Faculty of Agriculture
University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka.

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Sunday, 09 June 2019 07:26

Ceylon Cinnamon Vs Cassia

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Cennamomum zeylanicum blume’ the plant which is indigenous to Sri Lanka produces the True Ceylon Cinnamon which is proved by it’s own name. Ceylon Cinnamon cannot originate from elsewhere in the world and has a higher demand because of that factor. So, true to its name, this small island has an authentic variety of Ceylon Spices which is well renown in the globe. Among those Spices Ceylon Cinnamon plays the major role and has some superior features which uplifts its value among other Spices and other substitutes like Cassia (Chinese Cinnamon) which competes and misleads people with Cinnamon. Moreover Ceylon Cinnamon is much less majorly found than Cassia Cinnamon in the context of the global market. It’s beyond dispute, however, that there’re discernible differences between the two. Let us explore the significant dissimilarities as our topic at the top.

First let’s focus the Visible Characteristics between Ceylon Cinnamon & Cassia Cinnamon.
- When it comes to colour Ceylon Cinnamon has a tan brown whereas Cassia Cinnamon has a reddish dark brown.
- And the texture of Ceylon Cinnamon is thin, feels like a paper and forms multiple layers when rolled after drying. But Cassia Cinnamon has a rougher thick bark which forms few layers when rolled up or has a visible empty cavity.
- Also Cassia Cinnamon is bit tougher to grind than Ceylon Cinnamon because of the difference of the fragility between them.

Now to the Flavour and the Taste.
- The authentic taste in Ceylon Cinnamon is delicate and sweet with a pleasant aroma when eating or using as a flavouring agent. In contrast, Cassia Cinnamon has same kind of aroma but the pungency and Spicy flovour is little bit higher than Ceylon Cinnamon.

Why Choose Ceylon Cinnamon over Cassia Cinnamon?
- “Coumarin” the main chemical compound in Cinnamon plays the major role when it comes to health benefits as well as to side effects. Consuming Coumarin over a long period of time can cause some serious health problems and a prior negative impact to the kidneys and liver. So that the amount of Coumarin containing in Cassia Cinnamon is significantly higher than Ceylon Cinnamon.
- It is also believed that Ceylon Cinnamon could help lower the blood sugar level a little and gives a good support to diabetic patients to stop their medications.

How about the Price?
- Because of the above factors we can deduce that Ceylon Cinnamon has a superior quality and an authentic value which increases it’s demand among the people across the globe than Cassia Cinnamon. Hence Ceylon Cinnamon is 10 times or more expensive than Cassia Cinnamon.

That shows how Ceylon Cinnamon ranked as one of the best selling spice in the world over the years and the little island called Sri Lanka (Ceylon) is the only country which produces True Ceylon Cinnamon to the World Market. Because of that significant differences between Ceylon Cinnamon and Cassia Cinnamon, Both Ceylon Cinnamon buyers and consumers should seriously consider the above mention factors to differentiate the True Ceylon Cinnamon than Cassia Cinnamon.

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Sunday, 20 October 2019 07:23

Spice Island

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Lets start with the questions "What is a Spice?" , What is this well known "Spice Island"? And why this small island known as Spice Island?

What is a Spice?

A spice is a plant part that are ultimately loaded with vast variety of flavors than most other ingredients used in cooking and many more purposes. Whereas spices tend to derive from fruits, roots, seeds, flowers, stems, bark and herbs always comes from the leafy part and most of them are usually dried to a recommended condition. Majority of flavor compounds in spices oil, rather than water soluble they are stored within bubbles of oil. Spices are kind of an engineering output which has a structure to keep those oils locked away and will be released only if the plant is damaged or attacked by an infection. After the bubbles rapture and the oil is exposed to air, the flavor compounds evaporates into gases. This reaction is happening in all meal dishes and in other products that are made using spices.

And now to the second question. What is this well known Spice Island?

A tiny, beautiful island in the Indian Ocean which has a great history of trade for centuries around the world, also called as the "Pearl of Indian Ocean", and later known as Ceylon, Serendib and yes now Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is a tropical country located near to the equator which has a huge variety of bio diversity around the country with few world heritages. Because of it's unique location it has been gifted with a valuable soil, a vast bio diversity, and appropriate weather conditions to grow crops throughout the year. Past the traders who have visited Ceylon has traded spices and many more products through silk route which are originated and produced only in Sri Lanka. Moreover Sri Lanka is known as a Agricultural Country which has a huge production of agricultural products to the world.

Finally to the third and the last, Why this small island known as Spice Island?

At the second paragraph I have mentioned that Sri Lanka aka Ceylon is a Tropical country with an appropriate weather all around the year to cultivate crops. Because of that, many Sri Lankans were farmers that grew many kinds of crops throughout the year. Spices has played a major role among those crops in few parts of the country. A well known spice around the world, Cinnamon or Ceylon Cinnamon or True Ceylon Cinnamon is a native plant to Sri Lanka and and only grown in Sri Lanka for decades. From 1600 BCE, Ancient Egyptians used a type of cinnamon as a spice which was bought from African traders and no one knew whether it is Cinnamon or something else until the Portuguese found cinnamon trees growing in Sri Lanka in the early 1500s. And the trade moved with the invasions of Dutch and British for centuries over control of the territory and lucrative trade. Cinnamon was the main and the best spice from the spices from Sri Lanka among the traders and buyers around the world which was the reason to became as the Spice Island among the world population. Also Sri Lanka was a leading producer of Ceylon Black Pepper, Cloves, Nutmeg and Mace, Vanilla, Cardamom and many more. We at KAgroo produce authentic Sri Lankan spices to the local and world market with the highest quality.

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Wednesday, 18 March 2015 07:21

How Ceylon Cinnamon was produced and graded.

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Cinnamon is the dried bark of the perennial tree of Cennamomum zeylanicum of the Lauraceae family. True Cinnamon is native to spice island (Sri Lanka). Cinnamon is originally grown wild in central hill country of Sri Lanka. The history of cinnamon dates back to about 2800 B.C where it can be found referenced as Kwai in Chinese writings . But cinnamon is even mentioned in the Bible when Moses used it as an ingredient for his anointing oil in ancient Rome. Cinnamon was a precious spice in the west during 14th - 15th centuries and it’s primary use was to preserve meat and to retard the growth of bacteria. By that time the real cinnamon was produced in only the place, named as Ceylon or Spice Island. Portuguese traders made their way to Ceylon in the 15th century, enslaved the natives and had the control of the trades from Arabs. Since 1815 the British took the control of the island and cinnamon trade too was moved to their hands.

The best historical evidence about the Cinnamon trade in Sri Lanka is found in up country Dutch agreement (Hanguranketha Agreement) signed in 14th February 1766 between the former King of Sri Lanka Sri Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe and the Dutch government. Sri Lankan Cinnamon also known as Pure Ceylon Cinnamon is considered as the True Cinnamon, which is broadly used in both sweet and savory food and beverages industries all around the world, and only grown in Sri Lanka.

In Spice Island, Cinnamon seems to have originated in the central hills where seven wild species of cinnamon occur in Kandy, Matale, Belihulloya, Haputale, Horton Planes and the Sinharaja Forest range. Presently cultivation concentrated along the costal belt from Negombo to Matara it has also made inroads to Kalutara and Rathnapura.

Then we can find different varieties of Ceylon cinnamon. There are eight cinnamon species in Sri Lanka. Among them only Cinnamomum zeylancium blume is grown commercially in tradition. There were several types of cinnamon categorized based on taste of the bark, “Pani -Miris Kurundu “ was the best with sweet - Pungent taste and “Miris-Kurundu”, “Sevel Kurundu” are the others. Currently ten cinnamon accessions have been identified based on yield and quality performances and best two lines, named as “Sri Vijaya” and “Sri Gamunu” were released.

During the harvesting time, the branches are chopped off and entire tress are cut down. The outer bark is peeled off revealing an inner bark, the cinnamon, which curls into a quills as it dries. First harvest of cinnamon can be taken after three years of planting and two harvests can be taken per year. Harvesting is done when the bark colour of the stem turn in to brown and stick diameter is about 3 - 5cm. Branches and leaves are removed from harvested sticks before peeling and harvested stem should be peeled on the same day. During peeling outer skin is scrapped and rubs the bark with a brass rod to be loosened bark from the hard wood. Then peel the bark, part by part, with a special knife and peeled bark is allowed to dry under sun for few hours and when rolling of the bark starts, pieces of bark are connected together and to make a pipe like structure and the standard length of the tube is 42 inches. The hollow of the tube is filled with small pieces of stem and the tubes are left for indoor drying for about 4-7 days. While Ceylon Cinnamon sticks are all made the same way, they are graded according to colour, density, blemishes, essential oil content and other factors .True Ceylon Cinnamon sticks are golden in color and is made up multiple thin slivers of cinnamon bark rolled into a cigar shaped cinnamon sticks. Each individual True Ceylon Cinnamon stick is handcrafted and hand rolled with immaculate skilful technique to perfection. Peeling cinnamon is an art and each cinnamon stick is carefully hand rolled to different cinnamon grades. Ceylon cinnamon sticks are also known as quills. After harvesting and drying, Cinnamon quills curl while the much harder Cassia has a single scroll like curl. Ceylon Cinnamon (True Cinnamon) has a tan color compared to the dark red brown of Cassia Cinnamon. In Sri Lanka, minimal foxing is called “Malkorahedi” while heavy foxing is called “Korahedi”. Whether a cinnamon sticks is called “Malkorahedi” Or “Korahedi” is based on the extent of the foxing patches. Each grades of cinnamon has certain foxing specifications.

According to the spice council of Sri Lanka SLS-81 standard Cinnamon can should have a maximum moisture content of 15%. Ideally it should be less than this, the essential oils in cinnamon sticks which determines the aroma, is specified at a minimum of 1%. Cinnamon quills, with standard lengths and diameters are made out of Ceylon cinnamon - grown and manufactured solely in Sri Lanka. Ceylon Cinnamon is categorised into four major grades as Alba, Continental, Mexican and Hamburg based on the diameter of the quills, where the most expensive (Alba) has a 6mm diameter quill.
Ceylon Cinnamon Grades
- Alba : It is a prized grade of Ceylon cinnamon that is by – far the most expensive. It is slender and brittle and abounds with a sweet taste, pleasant aroma and a powerful flavour.
- SPL : The 2nd best quality after Alba which has a better taste with an absolute taste.
- C5 : This grade of Ceylon Cinnamon is highly sought after its character, taste, smell and excellent flavour.
- C4 : This grade is in highly demanded for its smoothness, exquisite fragrance, pale, tan yellow colour and sweet taste. 16mm in diameter.
- M5 : It is relatively rougher in texture and thinner in appearance.
- M4 : This is made up of chosen parts of high quality cinnamon.
- H1 : Comprise the finest and the most expensive portions of the rough cinnamon bark. Most popular in the South American market.
- H2 : Comprise the sorted portions of the rough cinnamon bark. Thicker than H1 grade. Consists of golden yellow cinnamon quills of high quality.
- Quilling No 1 & No 2 : This grade consists lager a smaller quillings respectively which are collected as a rest of cutting and bailing cinnamon

It is the story of True Ceylon Cinnamon from the day of planting to the final product in Sri Lanka.

Written by :
Ms. H P D Thathsarani,
Higher National Diploma in Agriculture Production Technology (Reading),
Aquinas College of Higher Studies, Sri Lanka.

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About KAgroo

We at KAgroo, are focusing on producing and exporting highest quality Spices, Herbs, Essential Oils, Oleoresins and Other Value Added Products.

From The Blog

  • Spice Island
    Spice Island Lets start with the questions "What is a Spice?" , What is this well known "Spice Island"? And why this small island known as Spice Island? What is a Spice? A spice is a plant part that are ultimately loaded with vast variety of flavors than most other ingredients used…
    Written on Sunday, 20 October 2019 07:23