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Ask an Aromatherapist: Are Cinnamon Leaf and Cinnamon Bark Essential Oil Interchangeable?

As the weather cools the warming spices of fall fill the air and wrap us in their rich scents. One of my favorites is cinnamon. When you purchase cinnamon essential oil you may see cinnamon bark and cinnamon leaf and since they have the same botanical name you may wonder are they interchangable?

Although these oils are both derived from the same plant (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) and both are good at fighting germs, are warming, and offer anti-spasmodic properties, they vary significantly in their oil chemistry and dermal limits.

Cinnamon leaf oil is phenol rich and contains a significant amount of eugenol and a smaller amount of the aldehyde cinnamaldehyde. Cinnamon bark oil, on the other hand, is high in cinnamaldehyde and contains smaller amounts of the eugenol.

Eugenol and cinnamaldehyde offer many wonderful benefits but both can be irritating to the skin and mucus membranes and need to be heavily diluted.

How does the chemistry affect the benefits and safety of each essential oil?

Eugenol rich cinnamon leaf offers anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, and anti-fungal benefits. Eugenol also has analgesic properties and has been shown to soothe aches for up to four hours and is used dentistry. It also has anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, and neuro-protective properties.

Since phenols such as eugenol can be irritating, eugenol rich oils such as cinnamon leaf oil must be used with care. It should be diluted well if used in a topical application. Tisserand & Young ("Essential Oil Safety") recommend a maximal dermal use of 0.6%- 1% (2 -5 drops per ounce of carrier). Other sources recommend no higher than 0.5% topically (2-3 drops per oz). Cinnamon leaf can be used as a potent antimicrobial in a diffuser blend and in very small amounts, well diluted topically. Phenols are potent and should be used with respect!

Eugenol is NOT recommended for use around children or babies NOR by people with impaired liver function or clotting disorders.

Cinnamon bark is aldehyde rich. It has been shown to be effective against E. Coli, Candida albicans, and S. aureus. Cinnamon bark has proven useful for gastrointestinal issues. It has been used to calm spasms, soothe nausea, stimulate appetite, and soothe aches associated with colds and flu.

However being aldehyde rich it can also be very skin irritating and must be well diluted and used with care when diffused. Tisserand & Young recommend a maximum dermal dose of 0.05% (about 1 drop in 40 mls or 1.35 oz based an aldehyde content of 75.7%). It is NOT recommended for use during pregnancy or around children under five. Given its low dermal limit, great care must be taken if used topically.

Energetically the oils vary. Cinnamon leaf is said to have an expansive energy and can help us stretch ourselves but feel as though we have a comforting safety net. Cinnamon bark is said to be nurturing and comforting like a warm blanket -- supporting us on a deep level.

It's interesting how essential oils derived from different plant parts of the same species can vary. Both oils would be great in diffuser blends to fight germs but each fight germs a little differently. Cinnamon leaf has been shown to be effective at soothing aches (eugenol has been shown to fight pain up to 4 hours) and cinnamon bark is useful for digestive issues. Both are powerful oils that can be very helpful during the fall and winter months and both must be used with caution due to their potential to irritate the skin and mucus membranes.

Cinnamon leaf would be a safer choice to use topically but make sure to keep it to only 2-3 drops per oz of carrier oil or cream.

Both oils are delightful in diffuser blends but a drop or two is all you need. Below is a diffuser blend I enjoy during the fall and winter months:

Fall Inspired Diffuser Blend

1 drop Black Spruce (Picea mariana) or other woodsy essential oil

2 - 3 drops Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis) essential oil

1 drop Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) essential oil

1 drop Cinnamon Bark or Leaf (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) essential oil

Add the essential oils to your diffuser and enjoy. This blend is energizing and offers support for the digestive and immune systems and a cozy scent that combines woodsy, warm, and sweet notes that you're sure to enjoy.

If you have questions about essential oils or how to use them contact Tricia

Aromatic blessings my friends.

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