By Hwaa Irfan
The bark and leaves of the Cinnamon Tree is one of the longest used medicinal and culinary plants stretching back into antiquity. Known as qurfa in Arabic, kanela in Basque, yuhk gwai in Cantonese, Anoater dua in Fante, Darusita in Sanskrit, and dar chini in Farsi. The Queen of Sheba gave cinnamon to King Solomon. The ancient Greeks used cinnamon oil as an incense in their temples, while ancient Egyptians used the oil for massage of the feet, and for excessive bile.
The evergreen Cinnamon Tree is of the Lauraceae family of the plant kingdom, the same as Bay Leaf, and Camphor. Native to Sri Lanka, southwest India, and the Caribbean, it grows best in sand with a little bio-matter where there is shelter, constant rain, heat with a stable temperature. It used to be wild up until the late 1700s, but can grow up to 30 feet high as a cultivated tree. The tree bears a thick bark, strong branches, and green-orange speckled young shoots, bearing the typical leaves of a laurel tree, which become almost leathery when mature. The tree is adorned by small white – mauve flowers that bear an oval shaped fruit. The characteristic curling of the cinnamon quill occurs while the bark is drying.
It is cultivated for commercial use mainly by Africa, Brazil, India, Jamaica, Madagascar, Mauritius, Vietnam, but the quality most esteemed in aromatherapy is from Sri Lanka. The oil has a warm, earthy but spicy aroma with an undertone of camphor. It is almost clear (yellow-brown), but if distilled purely from the leaves the oil is pale yellow in color with an odor of musk.
Adulteration is not uncommon with cinnamon essential oil. Sometimes clove leaf oil, fractions of cinnamon oil: eugenol, cinnamaldehyde are added, which changes the balance of nature’s chemistry thus affecting the therapeutic value. Sometimes, other varieties of cinnamon are added like Cassia oil, or with pure cinnamon leaf oil is replaced by clove oil, bay oil, synthetic eugenol, synthetic cinnamaldehyde or even petroleum based derivatives, so watch out for brand name, consistency (it should watery), color, and aroma! As sometimes cinnamon bark essential oil and cinnamon leaf essential oil are sold separately, look out for a richer scent for the bark oil, which has a more brown pigmentation, whilst the leaf oil is sharper in smell, and a pale yellow in color.
Cinnamon essential oil includes:
- Benzyl benzoate
- Trans-cinnamic acid
- Linalool (leaf)
- Safrol (leaf)
- Oliogomeric procyanidins
- Furfurol (bark)
- Cymeme (bark)
- Vitamins A and C
The constituent Cinnamaldehyde/cinnamic aldehyde acts as an antiseptic, and a stimulant, but it is an irritant to the skin. Research at the National Taiwan University found that cinnamaldehyde is also proactive in the killing of mosquito larvae. Research in the Netherlands at the University of Groningen found cinnamon oil effective in preventing the bacteria staphylococcus epidermidis from forming a film on medical devices.
Cinnamon essential oil has an uplifting heartening aroma. The therapeutic properties identified so far are:
- Antiseptic (bark, leaf)
- Aphrodisiac (impotence)
- Stimulant (bark)
- · Stomachic
- · Tonic
- · Vermifuge
For glossary see It All Makes Good Scents
Cinnamon oils have been used for several years in dental medications, and as a germicidal agent in toothpaste. As a stimulant, both the oil of the bark, and the leaf helps to maintain healthy blood circulation, heart, digestive, menstrual, and nervous system. It is also a stimulant the brain as discovered by the 2004 research carried out by Dr. P Zoladz of the Wheeling Jesuit University, U.S. boosting brain activity, as well as relieving nervous tension and short term memory loss, and that just smelling cinnamon enhances cognitive processing of the participants of the study. As a stomachic, the oil improves the digestion, and eases atonic dyspepsia by increasing the digestive process. As a carminative the oil is effective in the treatment of diarrhea. In Vibrational medicines/energy-based medical systems like Ayruvedic medicine, and traditional Chinese medicine, the warmer qualities are noted in the treatment of ailments like colds, and flu.
- Colic, diarrhea, flatulence, worms
- Coughs, respiratory infections
- Tones the skin, lice, scabies
- Arthritis, rheumatism
- Depression, nervous exhaustion, stress, slowness in processing tasks
- Sluggish glandular system, poor blood circulation, sluggish digestive system
- Disinfects the air, mosquito repellent (kills larvae)
The leaf oil is less toxic than the bark oil, but taken in high doses, the oil stimulates contractions in labor, is an irritant to the skin and mucous membrane, and can cause convulsions. As an emmenagogue it should avoided by pregnant women, and as a spasmolytic it should be avoided by those on medication for epilepsy.
It can be used in Vapour Therapy for the treatment of respiratory tract infections/irritations, nervous tensions, inflammatory disorders, chills, improved cognition, disinfect the air, as an air freshener.
8 drops can be added to a bath before adding water for impotence, inflammatory, depression, arthritis, muscular aches and pains, delayed menses.
It can be added to a carrier oil, to use for massage in the case of gastrointestinal spasms, and rheumatism, poor blood circulation, sluggish glandular system.
It can be added to water as a dental wash for dental abscesses, and throat infections.
It can be added to fresh ginger tea for colds and flu.
Burfield, T. “The Anatomy of Adulterations.” http://www.abundantlifeessentials.com/adulteration.htm
Price, S. “Practical Aromatherapy.” Thorsons Publ. 1987.
“Ceylon Cinnamon.” http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Cinn_zey.html
Felter, H. W. and Lloyd, J.U. “Cinnamomum Oleum.” King’s American Dispensatory. http://www.henriettesherbal.com/eclectic/kings/cinnamomum_oleu.html
Lavabre, M. “Aromatherapy Workbook.” Healing Arts Press, Canada. 1990.
Nuryastuti, T, et al. “Effect of Cinnamon Oil on icaA Expression and Biofilm Formation by Staphylococcus epidermidis “ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2772433/