The Cinnamomum Species in China: Resources for the Present and Future

The Cinnamomum genus is widely distributed throughout the tropical and subtropical zones of Asia. Of the more than 250 species known, 41 can be found in China mainly throughout the Yangtze River basin in the southeastern and southern provinces. The distribution of Cinnamomum species in China can be seen in Figure 1.

Although the seeds of Cinnamomum species are rich in fats and oils that are used as sources of C-IO and C-12 fatty acids, it is the essential oils of this genus that are of interest to perfumers and flavorists. Many Cinnamomum oils of Chinese origin are of great importance. For example, oils such as cassia, sassafras and camphor earn foreign exchange as do a number of nautral isolates such D-borneol, D-camphor, L- and D-linalool etc., which are available from various organs of different Cinnamomum species. The species that have achieved economoic importance and those with potential will be discussed separately.

Cinnamomum camphora L.

The utilization of this species has a long history in China because the roots of this and other species have been water distilled to produce camphor for more than a century. Although in the 1920s natural camphor was mass produced from C. camphora in Taiwan by the Japanese, between 1930-1960 camphor production was developed in Guangdong, Guangxi, Jiangxi and Fujian provinces. Today, the so-called true camphor oil is produced by steam distillation of the wood and branches of C. camphora in the above noted provinces.

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