Like bay, cinnamon belongs to the family Lauraceae. The trees, native to Sri Lanka but now found in many other countries such as Brazil and Madagascar, are around 40 feet (12 meters) tall when they reach maturity. Cinnamon is a spice of age-old use. The trees are cultivated to form several stems at a time, and when the bark of the young twigs turns brown, the stems are cut. Cinnamon ‘sticks’, familiar to most cooks, are made from the inner and outer bark of these stems dried and rolled together. Cinnamon is a favored ingredient in cookery both in the East and in the West. Its sweet, spicy taste makes it suitable for baking and puddings as well as for savory dishes. Medicinally, cinnamon has a long history in Eastern medicine where it is used to treat fever and menstrual problems among other things.
There are two different oils extracted from the tree. Cinnamon leaf oil has some use in aromatherapy, but cinnamon-bark oil is a strong irritant, high in toxicity and should not be used. Cinnamon leaf oil is extracted from the leaves and young twigs of the tree by steam distillation. Commercially, it is used in the food and drinks industry in some sweets and carbonated drinks, and in the pharmaceutical industry it is used in cough medications and dental preparations.
Aromatherapists can use cinnamon-leaf oil in massage to relieve rheumatism, and it can also be beneficial in the treatment of digestive disorders. It is a stimulant and is used to treat circulatory problems. It can also be of benefit to those who are suffering from nervous exhaustion.
Suitable methods of use
- Massage (well diluted)
Cinnamon leaf oil is a skin irritant. Use very well diluted and in moderation. Warning: Do not confuse cinnamon leaf oil with cinnamon-bark oil, which is unsuitable for aromatherapy.