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"Libraries: The medicine chest of the soul."
Library at Thebes, inscription over the door
Cinnamon is an aromatic oil which has been used for thousands of years; cinnamon is commonly associated with culinary use but it also has medicinal properties in aromatherapy.

Ancient Medicinal Use of Cinnamon

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) was traditionally used in the East for common complaints such as cold, menstrual difficulties, flu, rheumatism and digestive problems; the Chinese recorded medicinal use of cinnamon bark in 2,700 B.C.  Cinnamon is also mentioned in the Bible.  It was later listed in Dioscorides' De Materia Medica, perceived to be an extensive reference of medicinal plants of that particular time in history.

The ancient Egyptians used cinnamon as a foot massage oil; other uses by the Egyptians included use of cinnamon as a remedy for excessive bile.  Traditional use of cinnamon also included use as a sedative for birthing mothers and as an ingredient in mulled wine; cinnamon was a traditional ingredient of love potions and incense.

Cinnamon Leaf v. Cinnamon Bark Oil

Cinnamon essential oil is extracted from a tropical evergreen of the Lauraceae botanical plant family that is native to Sri Lanka, South India, the Comoro Islands, Indochina and Madagascar.  The tree produces two very different oils by steam distillation; cinnamon bark oil is obtained from the dried inner bark of the tree whereas cinnamon leaf oil is obtained from the leaves and twigs.

It is important to distinguish between the two variations of cinnamon oil, as although both essential oils are toxic, cinnamon leaf oil is considered to be considerably safer to use in aromatherapy.  Cinnamon bark oil has a spicy smell whereas cinnamon leaf oil is said to smell like cloves; cinnamon bark oil is usually more expensive than cinnamon leaf oil.

The Chemical Make-Up of Cinnamon Oil

Cinnamon bark oil is primarily composed of the chemical component of cinnameldehyde whereas cinnamon leaf oil is primarily composed of the chemical component of eugenol.  Cinnamon bark oil is considered to be the greater skin irritant as its chemical components make it a dermal toxin; cinnamon leaf oil, although relatively non-toxic, could produce a reaction due to some presence of the chemical component of cinnameldehyde in the oil.

The Use of Cinnamon Oil in Aromatherapy

Cinnamon leaf oil has a number of medicinal properties for which it is used in aromatherapy; cinnamon leaf is anti-bacterial, anti-infectious and carminative.  It is also antiseptic, an astringent and anti-spasmodic.  Cinnamon leaf can be used for cystitis relief, depression, stress, constipation, indigestion, flatulence, rheumatism and poor circulation.

Cinnamon leaf oil can be used to help menstrual difficulties and to stimulate contractions in child birth; 
cinnamon is an emmenagogue, which means it is capable of bringing on the onset of menstruation, and therefore it is advisable not to use cinnamon in pregnancy.  However, cinnamon is helpful in relieving menstrual cramps when used in a hot compress.

Other Uses of Cinnamon

Both cinnamon leaf and cinnamon bark oil are used in the fragrance industry and can also be found in nasal sprays, dental preparations and cough syrups; both types of cinnamon oil are found in food flavorings, alcohol and soft drinks.  Cinnamon leaf oil is used in soaps, perfumes and toiletries.


- Caddy, Rosemary 1997 Essential Oils in Color UK: Amberwood Publishing Ltd
- Davis, Patricia 1999 Aromatherapy An A-Z UK: Vermilion
- Lawless, Julia 1995 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils UK: Element

This article was written by Sharon Falsetto and appeared in its original format on Suite101 as Cinnamon Essential Oil.

It is expressively prohibited to copy or use this article in any way unless written permission is given by the author Sharon Falsetto.  If it is discovered that copyright laws have not been complied with, legal action will be pursued by the author Sharon Falsetto.

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