What Spice Was Sri Lanka Famous for in Ancient Times?

Sri Lanka, an island nation situated in South Asia, was once known as the “Spice Island” due to its rich abundance of spices. The country has a long history of spice cultivation and trade, dating back to ancient times. In this article, we will explore the spice that made Sri Lanka famous in ancient times.

The Spice That Made Sri Lanka Famous

The spice that put Sri Lanka on the map was none other than Cinnamon. Known for its sweet and warm flavor, cinnamon has been used in cooking and medicine for thousands of years. In ancient times, it was a highly prized commodity that was worth more than gold.

Cinnamon Cultivation in Ancient Sri Lanka

Cinnamon cultivation in Sri Lanka dates back to over 2,000 years ago. The spice was mainly grown in the central hills of Sri Lanka, where the climate and soil were ideal for its growth.

Cinnamon trees are small evergreen trees that grow up to 10-15 meters tall. The bark of the tree is what is harvested to produce cinnamon.

In ancient times, cinnamon harvesting was a labor-intensive process. The bark had to be carefully peeled off from the tree and then rolled into thin quills or sticks. These quills were then dried and transported across the world via sea trade routes.

Use of Cinnamon in Ancient Times

Cinnamon was highly valued by many ancient cultures for its medicinal properties as well as its sweet flavor. It was used by the Egyptians as a perfuming agent during embalming rituals, while the Greeks and Romans used it as a remedy for various ailments such as coughs and sore throats.

In addition to its medicinal uses, cinnamon was also used in cooking. It was added to sweet dishes such as cakes and pastries to give them a warm and spicy flavor. It was also used in savory dishes such as stews and curries to add depth and complexity to the flavor.

Cinnamon Trade in Ancient Times

Cinnamon became a highly sought-after commodity in ancient times, and Sri Lanka became the main source of cinnamon for the world. The spice was traded across the world via sea routes, with traders from as far as Europe and China coming to Sri Lanka to purchase it.

The demand for cinnamon was so high that it led to the colonization of Sri Lanka by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British. These colonial powers sought to control the cinnamon trade in Sri Lanka, leading to centuries of strife and conflict on the island.


In conclusion, Sri Lanka was famous for its production of cinnamon in ancient times. This spice was highly valued for its sweet flavor and medicinal properties and was traded across the world via sea routes.

Cinnamon cultivation played a significant role in shaping Sri Lanka’s history, leading to centuries of colonization and conflict on the island. Today, Sri Lanka continues to be a major producer of cinnamon, exporting it across the world for use in cooking and medicine.