Warm, spicy, fragrant, powerful, even dangerous? What comes to mind when you think of cinnamon essential oil? Even as a potentially sensitizing and irritating oil, we shouldn't make the mistake of avoiding cinnamon altogether. There are many benefits of this classic spice and essential oil.
In this article, you will learn all about:
- Cinnamon Essential Oil Sources
- The History of Cinnamon Use
- Top 5 Cinnamon Oil Uses
- Cinnamon Oil Blends and Applications
Cinnamon Essential Oil Sources
While we know cinnamon as simply sticks, powder, or oil, there is much more to it than a simple cinnamon source. The flavorful “sticks” we know are derived from the inner bark of a Cinnamomum tree, of which there are many different varieties. In fact, cassia essential oil comes from a cinnamon tree – Cinnamomum cassia. This is a cheaper version of cinnamon and doesn't contain the heath benefits that cinnamon does, even though it has a pleasant smell and is nice for aromatherapy.
As always, variety effects composition, and cinnamon essential oil most commonly comes from the Cinnamomum zeylanicum tree. From there, either the inner bark or the leaves can be harvested for distillation. This should be indicated as either “cinnamon bark” or “cinnamon leaf” on your bottle of essential oils.
And yep, you guessed it: the bark and leaf oils have their own composition, as well.
- Cinnamon bark essential oil, on the other hand is steam distilled from cinnamon bark, is reddish/ brown in color and contains mostly cinnamaldehyde (63.1-75.7%) and much less eugenol (2.0-13.3%). It's a known sensitizer and irritant.
- Cinnamon leaf essential oil, for example is steam distilled from cinnamon leaves, is yellowish in color and contains high amounts of eugenol (68.6–87.0%) and some cinnamaldehyde (0.6-1.1%). It's not a sensitizer like cinnamon bark is, though it's still a known irritant.
Cinnamon leaf is typically more heavily filled with eugenol – used to relieve pain and inflammation and fight bacteria – while the bark is comprised more of cinnamaldehyde and camphor – potent as an antioxidant and antidiabetic. (1)
History of Cinnamon Use
One of the oldest and most beloved spices, cinnamon was prized in ancient times as a costly and decadent substance, usually burned for its aroma. Biblical mentions include cinnamon as a “choice spice” and part of the holy anointing oil of Exodus.
Further east, cinnamon was used in medicinal preparations in the Ayurvedic model of medicine. It was thought to be “warming” and was used as an antimicrobial treatment or protective substance.
Over time, the spice trade waned and culinary preparations became standard, at least in the Western world. The ability to distill essential oils specifically has opened up another avenue of use for us, and extensive research on this ancient spice has confirmed both aromatherapy uses and medicinal whole-spice uses.
Top 5 Cinnamon Essential Oil Uses
Because the leaf and bark oils work differently, I'll note where one is preferred over the other. The safest use for essential oil is aromatic, via sprays and diffusion or inhalation methods. Some internal and topical use can be utilized as well, though, as long as you carefully dilute and use appropriate amounts. With that in mind, here are the top 5 uses for your cinnamon essential oil.
1. Antibacterial Strength
Cinnamon oil is well known as antibacterial, and that is translating to varied uses as researchers begin to think outside of the box. In 2015, a couple of interesting studies were released for uses of cinnamon's antibacterial strength.
The first combined antibiotic doxycycline with isolated components of 3 essential oils, one of which being cinnamon – with all three components (carvacol, eugenol, cinnamaldehyde) found in both cinnamon leaf and bark oils. The combination had a synergistic effect, which could imply some answers to the problem of antibiotic resistance! (2)
The second addressed an issue on our minds for awhile now, that of oral health with natural products. Cinnamon oil on its own was protective against an array of oral bacterial colonies. The oils didn't contain prominent levels of cinnamaldehyde, indicating a potential preference toward leaf oil. (3)
A much earlier study had confirmed more traditional uses for this antibacterial oil – relieving bacterial respiratory conditions. Of the essential oils tested in 2007, cinnamon and thyme rose to the top as most effective against respiratory infections. (4)
Indications: Diluted into alcohol for mouthrinse blends, cleaners, hand sanitizers, room diffusion, respiratory blends for inhalation.
2. Antidiabetic Potential
We know that cinnamon as a whole spice can be used for anti-diabetic purposes, helping to lower fasting blood sugar levels. (5) Further research is diving into the way this works, and some studies have found specific compounds of cinnamon are responsible for the effect – compounds also found in the essential oil.
For example, cinnamaldehyde in animal models has been observed reducing glucose levels and normalizing responses in circulating blood. (6) In 2015, researchers found cinnamic acid to improve glucose tolerance and potentially stimulate insulin production. (7)
These results are promising, and it will be interesting to see how it ultimately plays out. Diabetes affects a large swath of the population, and natural remedies are needed now more than ever.
Indications: One or two drops diluted in a lipid and included in recipes; inhalation or diffusion; whole-spice culinary inclusion.
3. Antifungal Synergy
Especially with such a strong and potentially irritating essential oil like cinnamon, blending and dilution are important. Fortunately, the oils seem to work even better that way. A 2013 study demonstrated the effects of synergy on fungal infections, with the lavender and cinnamon blend performing the best. (8)
Incidentally, lavender soothes what cinnamon may irritate! When creating your blends, use small amounts of cinnamon to enhance the other oils in the combination for an overall effective result.
Indications: Topical fungal infections, diffusion and sprays for in-home fungal growth.
4. Gut Health Protection
Traditional medicinal uses of cinnamon essential oil include protecting the digestive system. The whole spice is still indicated for this purpose, but aspects of the essential oil are finding their way into studies on this topic, as well.
Eugenol, for example, found in the cinnamon leaf oil, was the subject of a study in 2000. It was found to have a protective effect on the mucosal lining against ulcers and lesions. (9) More recently, in 2015, both eugenol and cinnamaldehyde were explored as additives in animal feed for intestinal protection. (10)
Both cinnamon leaf and bark oils could be utilized here, though the leaf is much milder in taste and should contain the eugenol content that is recurring in studies.
Indications: One or two drops diluted into a lipid and added to recipes; whole-spice use in culinary preparations.
5. Cancer Fighting
Last, but certainly not least, is cinnamon essential oil's ability to fight cancer. Eighty studies to date have investigated cinnamaldehyde's ability to inhibit tumor cell proliferation via trigger cancer cell apoptosis (“programmed cell death”) and other mechanisms and the research is clear: cancer patients should be encouraged that natural solutions truly do exist! (11)
Cinnamon Oil Blends and Applications
For all of its known benefits, cinnamon oil is also known as a sensitizer. The oil should always be diluted carefully, as much as a 1:200 ratio when used topically and never more than a drop or so in a full recipe. Remember that oil and water don't mix, so dilution should happen first in a lipid like coconut oil or another carrier oil.
Use cinnamon oil in:
- Cleaners and sprays with clove and citrus
- Respiratory diffusions with eucalyptus and frankincense
- Culinary preparations with sweet orange
- Highly diluted topical treatments with ginger and lavender
Dilution is the key to unlock the many benefits of cinnamon oil!
Safety & Drug Interactions
Are you sure you're using essential oils safely and effectively? Are you confused by dilutions and conversions?
Let me help you by taking out the guesswork. Download my FREE dilution chart guide HERE!
When it comes to drug interactions and contraindications, there are literally textbooks devoted to the study of essential oil safety and, as a trained researcher and doctor, I think it’s important to note that there is virtually no research out there discussing how essential oils interact with drugs in long-term human clinical trials. This means that essential oil safety is still a wild frontier in the science community and no one really knows (for certain) how essential oils will interact with drugs or your body.
Nonetheless, properly diluting your essential oils is fundamental to safety and effectiveness because they are highly concentrated plant compounds. To help you along your journey, I have a created an easy-to-use dilution guide that you can download for FREE to make sure that all of your topical applications are safe and effective for the entire family.
CLICK HERE to download my free Essential Oils Dilution Chart!
As with as medicine and natural therapies, this is only a guide and be sure to discontinue use if any adverse reactions occur and consult your physician immediately.