While you may associate cinnamon with the scent of the holiday season, this warming spice does more than add a delightful flavor to your winter desserts.
Cinnamon bark essential oil is a highly versatile essential oil that can be used aromatically, topically, and internally. Cinnamon bark essential oil can be used to help reduce germs, support digestion, ease discomfort from sore or tight muscles, and more.
Origins of Cinnamon
The use of cinnamon—botanically known as Cinnamomum verum or Cinnamomum zeylanicum— goes back thousands of years. Its botanical name is derived from the Arabic word "amomon," which means "fragrant spice plant." 1
The true cinnamon tree is a member of the Lauraceae family and is native to Sri Lanka. Now, it is also cultivated commercially in India, Java, Brazil, Vietnam, Madagascar, Zanzibar, and Egypt. It is a small, tropical evergreen tree that can grow up to 30 feet in height and has aromatic bark and leaves.
The term "cinnamon" can also refer to C. aromaticum , which is also known as cassia. Most of the cinnamon you find in the grocery store these days is actually cassia instead of true cinnamon. This is because cassia is less expensive. 2
Although cinnamon is readily available in any grocery store today, this was not always the case. In ancient times, cinnamon was a highly-prized aromatic spice.
Cinnamon in History
Cinnamon was imported to Egypt from China as early as 2000 BCE. It is also mentioned in multiple passages of the Bible. In Exodus, for example, Moses used cinnamon, cassia, myrrh, sweet calamus, and olive oil to create a holy anointing oil.
In the first century AD, Pliny the Elder wrote that 350 grams of cinnamon were equal in value to over 5kg of silver. Additionally, ancient Egyptians used cinnamon in the embalming process, and physicians in medieval times used cinnamon to ease discomfort from colds.
After Roman Emperor Nero murdered his wife, he ordered every bit of cinnamon in the city to be burnt. This amounted to an entire year’s supply of the spice. Cinnamon was also commonly used on funeral pyres in Rome.
During the Middle Ages, the source of cinnamon was a mystery. Arab traders were the first to introduce this spice to the west. They did a remarkable job of hiding the true origin of this commodity and controlled the trade of the spice for nearly 3,000 years.
Portuguese traders finally discovered the source of cinnamon at the end of the 15th century and took over for 100 years. 3
Dutch traders eventually took control of cinnamon trade in the late 16th century, followed by the British in the late 17th century. By this time, cultivation of the true cinnamon tree began to spread to other places. Cassia bark became more widespread and coffee, sugar, tea, and chocolate began to become more popular than traditional spices.
There are two different types of cinnamon essential oil, both distilled from C. zeylanicum . Cinnamon leaf essential oil is steam distilled from the leaves of the true cinnamon tree. On the other hand, cinnamon bark essential oil is distilled from the bark.
The resulting oil is reddish in color and has a warm, spicy scent. Cinnamon bark essential oil is known to wellness benefits. This is all due to its composition, which includes:
- Cinnamyl acetate
The main component of cinnamon bark essential oil is cinnamaldehyde, which has powerful antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Caryophyllene and eugenol are both anti-inflammatory and can assist with tension and soreness.
Linalool is an ally against stress and has been shown to support restful sleep.
Cinnamon bark essential oil is high in cinnamaldehyde, while cinnamon leaf essential oil is high in eugenol. Because of this, cinnamon bark essential oil is a lot harsher on the skin. If using it in topical applications, be sure to use extremely low concentrations of the essential oil and higher concentrations of a carrier oil like almond, coconut, or jojoba oil.
Additionally, cinnamon bark essential oil is more potent, has a stronger smell, and is more expensive than cinnamon leaf.
Uses for Cinnamon Bark Essential Oil
Cinnamon bark essential oil is highly revered in aromatherapy due to its versatile properties. It can be used to support proper immune function, support oral health, and relieve sore muscles.
Prevents Infections and Boosts Immune System Function
The antibacterial and antifungal properties of cinnamon bark essential oil help protect the body against harmful pathogens and can help boost immune system function.
One study tested the antibacterial properties of 21 different essential oils against six different bacterial species. The results of this study showed that of all the essential oils tested, cinnamon essential oil showed the highest levels of antibacterial activity. 5
Another study tested the anti-fungal activity of cinnamon essential oil against three different species of Candida. The results showed that cinnamon essential oil exhibited a strong anti-fungal effect against all three strains. 6
To benefit from these properties, diffuse cinnamon bark essential oil throughout the home. You can also use this oil to create a natural disinfectant for smooth surfaces in the home. Not only will it reduce germs, it will also reduce odors and make your home smell lovely.
Supports Healthy Digestion
Cinnamon has been used since ancient times to support digestion and associated discomforts. The carminative properties of this essential oil help to relieve occasional bloating and flatulence, and using this oil both aromatically and topically can help with everyday discomforts.
Mix a few drops of cinnamon bark essential oil with a carrier oil and gently massage onto the lower abdomen. You can also diffuse it throughout a room.
Supports Oral Health
Although clove essential oil is well-known for its ability to support oral health, cinnamon essential oil’s antibacterial properties make it a great alternative.
In a 2011 study, both cinnamon and clove essential oils were tested against oral microbiota. The results of the study showed that cinnamon essential oil was actually more effective than clove essential oil. 8
Relieves Everyday Discomforts
Cinnamon bark essential oil is great to have during the winter months when joints and muscles begin to feel tight. Add a drop or two to a carrier oil, then gently heat and massage onto sore areas.
A 2016 study studied the effects of cinnamon essential oil on mice. The results showed that the cinnamon essential oil exhibited properties similar to that of popular over-the-counter pain medications. 9
Alleviates Stress and Promotes Relaxation
Cinnamon bark essential oil is known to relieve feelings of stress and promote peace and relaxation. The aroma is warm and uplifting and is even believed to promote sexual arousal.
To relieve stress and allow yourself to feel warm and relaxed, breathe in the therapeutic properties of cinnamon essential oil through a room diffuser or portable aromatherapy diffuser.
How To Use Cinnamon Bark Essential Oil
- Mix a few drops of cinnamon bark essential oil with water in a spray bottle to create a natural disinfecting spray for surfaces.
- Diffuse cinnamon bark essential oil throughout the home to deodorize the air and rid the air of germs.
- Heat up a drop of cinnamon bark essential oil mixed with a carrier oil and use as a relaxing massage oil.
- Diffuse a mixture of cinnamon bark, clove, and orange essential oils to fill the home with a festive scent.
Safety and Precautions
When used with caution, cinnamon bark essential oil is safe for topical, aromatic, and internal use. Always be sure that you are purchasing pure, undiluted and, preferably, organic essential oils, and never use an oil in a way that isn’t recommended by its vendor.
Cinnamon bark essential oil is known for causing skin sensitivity, so this oil should always be diluted before using topically. Always conduct a patch test before applying over larger areas of the skin to avoid irritation. This essential oil may also be irritating to the nasal passages, so it isn’t recommended to sniff it directly from the bottle.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, avoid the use of essential oils unless directed by a doctor.
Never use an essential oil in place of a prescription medication or to treat a chronic condition.
If stored correctly in a cool, dark place, cinnamon bark essential oil should last approximately four years. 11
Cinnamon bark essential oil blends well with black pepper, ginger, clove, cardamom, bergamot, frankincense, geranium, grapefruit, lavender, lemon, melaleuca, wild orange, and ylang-ylang essential oils.
By blending this essential oil with other oils, you can extend its health benefits and create a mixture that suits your particular needs.