Indian cassia (known as tejpat in Hindi), is a small to moderately sized evergreen tree, known botanically as Cinnamomum tamala Nees (Fig. 8.1). The leaf of this tree is a spice having a warm, clove-like taste and a faintly pepper-like odour. It is very popular among the people of northern India and since antiquity has been used as an essential flavouring agent in the preparation of many vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. It holds in Indian cookery the same status as that of 'bay leaves' (Laurus nobilis) in Europe.

C. tamala, occurring mostly in the tropical and sub-tropical Himalayas and extending to north-east India up to an altitude of 2000 m, is the main source of the spice tejpat which is commercialised. It also grows in Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar. However, whilst conducting an ethnofloristic census of Cinnamomum species in north-east India during 1994—1997, Baruah and Nath (1998) came across the leaves of a total of five taxa of Cinnamomum, (C. tamala, C. bejolghota, C. impressinervium, C. sulphuratum, and one unknown Cinnamomum sp.) all used as the spice tejpat by the people in the region (Baruah and Nath, 1998; Baruah etal., 2000). The essential oils of C. tamala collected from different geographical locations have been investigated. Apart from the common occurrence of eugenol type essential oil (Gulati, 1982), linalool, cinnamaldehyde and linalool-cinnamaldehyde, predominating type oils from the leaves of the species have also been reported (Gulati etal., 1977; Sood etal., 1979; Bradu and Sobti, 1988; Nath etal, 1994b). Likewise, cinnamaldehyde and eugenol type essential oils have been reported from C. impressinervium from different geographical origins (Kya and Min, 1970; Nath etal., 1994c). In contrast, linalool, citral-geraniol and methyl cinnamate type oils have been reported from C. sulphuratum, another species native to north-east India that is also used as tejpat (Nath etal., 1994a; Baruah et al, 1999, 2001). Only linalool type essential oil has been reported so far from the leaf of C. bejolghota, another species traded as tejpat (Baruah etal., 1997; Choudhury etal., 1998). The present chapter will give brief accounts on C. tamala and other species used as Indian cassia or tejpat in north and north-east India (for botanical aspects refer to Chapter 2).

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