Cinnamon may be synonymous with the holiday season, but there is so much more to this nostalgic, warming spice.
With the botanical names Cinnamomum verum or C. Zeylanicum, true cinnamon is native to the island of Sri Lanka as well as the Malabar Coast of India, Madagascar, the Comoros Islands, Burma, South America, and the West Indies.
While cinnamon is one of the most popular of spices, other ingredients harvested from the cinnamon tree—cinnamon leaf essential oil and cinnamon bark essential oil—are perhaps lesser-known than ground cinnamon or cinnamon sticks.
There are also two types of cinnamon: true cinnamon, and cassia, the second of which originated in Ethiopia and Arabia, and because it is cheaper, it is the cinnamon that is most often found in ground and stick form.
As far as the oils are concerned, it’s important to note that the two are very different. Essential oil from the cinnamon leaf is more common in aromatherapy because it contains lower concentrations of the volatile compound cinnamic aldehyde, which can irritate the skin.
While cinnamon leaf essential oil and cinnamon bark essential oil are both derived from the same tree, cinnamon leaf essential oil is the more versatile of the two because of lower cinnamic aldehyde concentrations.
Derived from the leaves of true cinnamon trees, cinnamon leaf essential oil is obtained through steam distillation of the leaves harvested from the trees and offers a wide range of health benefits.1
Cinnamon leaf essential oil pairs well with other spice oils, including black pepper, rosemary, cardamom, clove, and ginger; citrus scents such as bergamot, grapefruit, lemon, and orange; florals including lavender and ylang-ylang; and exotics like frankincense and tea tree oil.
The History of Cinnamon Leaf
Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices known to man, and in ancient times, cinnamon was more highly-prized than gold and was bestowed as a gift to the gods. The ancient Egyptians celebrated cinnamon through detailed hieroglyphics, and the oil pressed from cinnamon leaf was one of the most important ingredients in the embalming process for mummies, as they believed that preserving the bodies of their loved ones would allow the souls to live for eternity while increasing the likelihood of resurrection. 2
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As early as 1500 BCE, the Arabian spice trade controlled the distribution of cinnamon to Babylon, Egypt, and Rome and monopolized the trade by closely guarding the secret of where they sourced their cinnamon from.
It wasn’t until the Romans set out on their own expeditions about 1,800 years later that cinnamon was discovered in Sri Lanka, putting an end to the monopoly.
Both cinnamon and cassia are mentioned in the Bible—Moses used both oils as part of a holy anointing oil—and it was also used in incense and perfume.
After killing his second wife, Nero, the emperor of the city of Rome during the first century A.D., burned all the city’s cinnamon at the woman’s funeral ceremony, filling the city with the aroma of the sweet spice.
Throughout this time, cinnamon was also prized for its medicinal properties, in part because of its powerful antiseptic properties, which helped heal injuries during a time when few other alternatives were available.
Cinnamon leaves are rich in phytonutrients, but it is the volatile oil distilled from the leaves that offers the most powerful benefits.
Cinnamon leaf oil acts as an antiseptic, analgesic, aphrodisiac, and pain reliever. It has also been shown to help boost mood, relieve stress, increase energy levels, and support heart health. Some of the key compounds found in cinnamon leaf essential oil are highlighted below.
While eugenol is one of the main chemical components of clove oil, cinnamon leaf essential oil has a higher concentration of eugenol than even clove, making it a more powerful pain reliever.
Linalool is a skin-friendly monoterpene that works to encourage the production of vitamin E, an antioxidant that can take on free radicals that target collagen and elastin, the two main proteins in the skin.
Together, collagen and elastin make up the skin’s structural layer, and when damaged, the skin reveals the injuries through fine lines, sagging sallow skin, and wrinkles.
The main compound in cinnamon leaf essential oil, cinnamaldehyde is a natural pain reliever and also helps control inflammation. Cinnamaldehyde is also considered an aphrodisiac that benefits both men and women.
Cinnamon, but not the essential oil, is also a good source of antioxidants, manganese, fiber, calcium, iron, and vitamin K. 3
Uses for Cinnamon Leaf Essential Oil
Boosts Mood and Reduces Stress
Two compounds found in cinnamon leaf essential oil—eugenol and cinnamaldehyde—both increase levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, helping relieve stress, anxiety, and nervous tension. 4
Improves Cognitive Function
Deepak Chopra suggested in his book What Are You Hungry For? that two of the compounds found in cinnamon—cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin—may help prevent damage to the brain caused by oxidative stress that causes a protein known as “tau” to act irregularly.
Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara found that cinnamaldehyde protected the brain from damage by preventing the protein from tangling, which is often seen in Alzheimer’s patients. 5
Both the eugenol and cinnamaldehyde in cinnamon leaf essential oil help give the oil pain-relieving properties that can ease muscle pain and headaches. MONQ’s relieve blend helps alleviate aches and discomforts.
Maintains Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
Cinnamon has been shown to help improve insulin response, thereby lowering blood glucose levels, reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
According to studies, cinnamon mimics the effects of insulin, which encourages the cells to take in blood glucose for energy, removing it from the blood. 7
Prevents Free Radical Damage
Researchers have found that compared to other herbs and spices—all rich in antioxidants—cinnamon is second only to clove when it comes to fighting free radical damage.
Promotes Weight Loss
According to a study appearing in the journal Metabolism, the cinnamaldehyde in cinnamon leaf essential oil may help boost metabolism, potentially leading to weight loss.
Supports Heart Health
Cinnamon leaf essential oil is packed with antioxidants, including glutathione, which has been shown in animal studies to help strengthen the heart, but that’s not the only heart benefit cinnamon has to offer.
In other studies, cinnamon has been shown to help reduce cholesterol levels, which can keep blood pumping smoothly throughout the body by preventing the accumulation of plaque along the sides of blood vessels. 8
Maintains Digestive Health
Cinnamon is one of the world’s most common digestive aids and has been used in both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines. Cinnamon has been used to ease digestive woes including gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn.
Supports Respiratory Health
The antibacterial properties in cinnamon leaf essential oil may support respiratory health by maintaining healthy immune system function. If an illness, such as cold, flu or bronchitis does strike, the antioxidants found in the cinnamon leaf can help speed healing.
Cinnamon also helps control inflammation in the throat and lungs, making it easier for the body to expel mucus, easing coughing and congestion. 9
The aroma of cinnamon leaf essential oil can boost libido in both men and women, making it the perfect oil to put in a bedroom diffuser if you’re hoping for romance.
Cinnamon was once used as a food preservative before refrigeration as a way to prevent food spoilage and bacterial growth.
In a study that appeared in the International Journal of Food Microbiology, researchers determined that the compounds found in cinnamon leaf essential oil might help prevent E. coli outbreaks.
As part of the study, researchers found that cinnamon leaf essential oil prevented the growth of bacteria for at least two months when added to refrigerated carrot broth.
Studies have shown that the compounds found in cinnamon leaf essential oil may prove beneficial in repelling a wide range of pesky household insects, including black ants, mosquitoes, cockroaches, and flies.
To take advantage of the benefits, spray cinnamon leaf essential oil diluted in the water around the house. It can also be sprayed on mattresses and sheets to kill bed bugs.
How To Use Cinnamon Leaf Essential Oil
Because cinnamon leaf essential oil is milder than cinnamon bark essential oil, its uses are much more versatile—it can be used in a number of ways to provide health benefits.
Aromatically, cinnamon leaf essential oil can be used in a vaporizer to help ease the symptoms of congestion or bronchitis or in a diffuser to help encourage a boost in libido or relieve stress. For an on the go option, try using a portable essential oil diffuser like Sexy, Healthy, or Love MONQ.
As a massage oil, it can be missed with a carrier oil like almond or coconut oil and massaged onto the affected area to relieve pain. It can also be added to a warm bath to provide relaxation or relieve muscle pain.
Cinnamon leaf essential oil can also be mixed into creams or lotions to improve the effects of the product, as well as to hand soap for additional antibacterial benefits.
A few drops of cinnamon leaf essential oil can also be added to tea, especially if you’re looking to promote weight loss.
Safety and Precautions
Although cinnamon leaf essential oil is milder than the oil derived from cinnamon bark, it should still be avoided during pregnancy and should be used in moderation.
Always make sure to conduct a patch skin test after diluting the essential oil with a carrier oil to ensure that the oil does not result in an allergic reaction.
Cinnamon Leaf Fun Facts
- Late comedian Mitch Hedberg knew the power of cinnamon and used it in one of his deadpan bits. “I like cinnamon rolls, but I don’t always have time to make a pan. That’s why I wish they would sell cinnamon roll incense. After all, I’d rather light a stick and have my roommate wake up with false hopes.”
- Lip plumpers—a natural alternative to collagen injections or other fillers—often contain cinnamon oil, since the cinnamaldehyde in it can cause temporary swelling.
- When Arabs first brought cinnamon to the world market, they created a tale to keep rival traders away from their supply, telling them the exotic spice could only be gathered from the nests of the mythical phoenix, which were heavily guarded by bats and winged serpents. The fables worked for more than two centuries, allowing the traders to have a lock on the cinnamon market.
- Cinnamon sticks are also referred to as quills.
Whether you’re looking for stress relief or an overall boost to your health and well-being, one of your favorite spices in the kitchen has the potential to become one of your favorite oils in your essential oil collection.
Try using it topically or aromatically to see what works best for you, and enjoy the benefits that this aromatic, beneficial essential oil provides.