Cinnamon is a spice first referred to by that name sometime around the 15th century (originating from the Hebrew "quinnamon") and which was previously called Cassia (from the Hebrew "q'tsīʿāh"). Around the 17th century, it was briefly referred to as "canel" or "canella". The spice itself, however, has been in use since ancient times, with evidence that the ancient Egyptians were importing it as early as 2000 BCE. Cinnamon was gifted to the god Apollo at his temples. It was also gifted to Hellenistic rulers of Egypt, and the Egyptian incense kyphi was made from cassia, cinnamon, henna, mastic, mimosa, and mint. Cinnamon was also used in the embalming of mummies. Pliny the Elder mentions using cinnamon to flavor wine.
The exact source was often kept secret by suppliers from ancient buyers, to protect their source from invasion as well as to protect their prices from too much competition. The Greek historian Herodotus thought cinnamon and cassia came from Arabia where it was guarded by dragons. The cinnamon was then collected by Cinnamon Birds to use the sticks in their nests on the face of sheer cliffs, where Arabs then overfed them until the nests broke off the cliffs to be collected. This mystery remained hidden to western Europe through the middle ages.
Today, different cinnamon species are recognized as different species. Cassia is the species Cinnamomum cassia and is the most commercially popular cinnamon for its much stronger flavor and ability to hold up to baking. Cinnamomum verum, previously known as Cinnamomum zeylanicum, is known as "true cinnamon" and has a more subtle flavor more suited for teas as the flavor will cook out. Blood thinning agent coumarin is less present in true cinnamon than in cassia.
In food, cinnamon is often combined with chocolate, apples, and sugar (especially for use on toast or cereals) as well as various alcohols. Eastern cuisines often use it for both savory and sweet dishes, where as Western cuisine largely uses it for sweet dishes. The U.S. and Canada especially consider it a winter season spice.
Cinnamon has a long, long history in traditional medicine, but these claims have been under-researched. (Jessica swears by Abuelita chocolate tablets -- which contain cinnamon -- for her cramps. She has also made a 50/50 preparation of cassia and cramp bark for the same purpose, packed into small pills. Cassia has also become a super popular remedy for high blood pressure and high blood sugar.) More than 1g a day can lead to coumarin toxicity, however.
To grind cinnamon bark, you will need a coffee or spice grinder with a metal blade or a microplane zester. Spice grinders with ceramic burrs will be damaged by the very hard, woody bark. It's very difficult to grind true cinnamon with a mortar and pestle, and impossible to grind cassia this way.
Possible correspondences: Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Apollo, Asia, blood, gifts, Hellenistic Egypt, luxury, regency, Sri Lanka, sweets, temples, treasure, winter, world wide.