Cinnamon is well-known for its health benefits and strong flavor, which brings warmth to both sweet and savory dishes alike. What many people don't know, however, is that the components of cinnamon that create its taste and smell are part of its essential oil.
By harnessing Cinnamon EO, you can bring all the benefits of the world's favorite spice into your home easily and flexibly.
There are multiple species of Cinnamomum, or cinnamon trees, though the two most common are C. verum and C. cassia.
Cinnamomum verum is commonly called true or Ceylon cinnamon. It is indigenous to Sri Lanka, the Malabar Coast of India, and Myanmar, and is cultivated in South America and the West Indies. Its Latin name was recently changed, and Ceylon cinnamon is often still labeled as C. zeylanicum.
Cinnamomum cassia, typically referred to as cassia cinnamon or simply cassia, is native to China. Because of its stronger flavor, cassia holds up better in high-temperature environments and is preferred for baking. The vast majority of commercially produced cinnamon nowadays is cassia.
The essential oil is extracted from the inner bark of cinnamon trees. The bark contains 0.5-1% essential oil, the components of which give cinnamon its distinctive smell, taste, and therapeutic qualities. The compound cinnamaldehyde, in particular, plays a large role.
History + Traditional Medicinal Uses
The history of cinnamon is rich--for millennia it was considered a gift fit for kings! Both cinnamon and cassia are recorded as frequent religious and political offerings as far back as the ancient Greeks.
Because it was so valuable, the traders who brought cinnamon to the West were very secretive about its source. The Greeks--including Aristotle--believed that cinnamon sticks were collected by cinnamon birds, who used them to build their nests, and that harvesting the sticks was a dangerous and mysterious task. This belief persisted until 1310.
Later, the Dutch East India Company took control of Sri Lanka and started to cultivate cinnamon trees for the first time. They established Ceylon cinnamon as true cinnamon, and jealously guarded the cinnamon supply, which was the most profitable spice that they traded.
Historically, cinnamon was most commonly used for religious ceremonies, flavoring, and preservation. Traditional medicinal uses also included chewing sticks to improve bad breath and promote dental health and drinking cinnamon tea to aid digestion.
Benefits of Cinnamon Essential Oil
One study, which tested the antibacterial activity of 21 essential oils, found that cinnamon EO was the most effective at knocking out both gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria.
This strong potential activity lines up with the traditional uses of cinnamon as a preservative. Cinnamon was an important part of the ancient Egyptian’s embalming process, and people have used spices to preserve food since the spices were first discovered.
Diabetes + Cholesterol
The impact of cinnamon on blood glucose and cholesterol levels is uncertain. One research team found that ingesting cinnamon had no effect on AC1, blood glucose, or lipid parameters in diabetic patients. However, other researchers have found the opposite: that cinnamon capsules can reduce blood glucose, triglycerides, and total cholesterol, and that cinnamon might improve outcomes for diabetic patients.
Multiple studies have found that cinnamon spice may have strong antioxidant properties exceeding those of 25 other spices. That is another quality that might explain its historical use as a food and body preservative.
Multiple small studies have found that cinnamon oil might inhibit the growth of cervical cancer and melanoma tumors. Another team found that cinnamon EO might suppress angiogenesis, a mechanism that tumors use to quicken growth. However, these studies were very small and few, and much more research is necessary to pin down whether cinnamon could be used as a treatment.
The EPA has approved cinnamon EO for use in certain herbicides due to its relative harmlessness to human health and effectiveness at eradicating some pests, such as nematodes.
How to Use
Diffuse cinnamon essential oil to add warmth to your space, and consider blends to promote vitality or holiday spirit.
Apply cinnamon oil topically to cleanse and enliven skin.
DO NOT ingest cinnamon essential oil unless it is a formula specifically designed for consumption.
Cinnamon essential oil can cause a rash, redness, or itch when applied topically or (for very sensitive individuals) diffused. Always dilute cinnamon in a carrier oil before applying to the skin. Some individuals also experience irritation in the mouth, nose, esophagus or throat when diffusing cinnamon.
Always spot-check essential oils before topical application to check for sensitivity and limit diffusing time. Essential oils, although natural, are very potent substances with the potential for unforeseen side effects.
Cinnamon cassia essential oil may also contain a dangerous chemical, coumarin. Coumarin is a naturally occurring substance in both cinnamon and cassia, although it is negligible in true cinnamon while cassia can contain up to 1% coumarin. Coumarin is dangerous to the liver, so if you consume or topically apply cassia cinnamon be careful to limit your exposure.
There is a potential for drug interactions with cinnamon essential oil. Anticoagulation drugs, in particular, may be a risk.
DIY Holiday Potpourri
I love using my diffuser to set the atmosphere, but that’s not the only way to get the healing aroma of essential oils into a room. Essential oil potpourri serves as a multisensory decoration--it smells great and is super cute!-- that is great for setting up your holiday home. They also make great gifts!
My favorite blends are Cinnamon, Clove, Ginger, and Cardamom for a pumpkin pie scent, or Cinnamon, Orange, Bergamot, and Vetiver for an earthy and energizing aroma.
- Cinnamon sticks + other potpourri ingredients such as: orange slices, star anise, dried herbs, apple slices, vanilla beans, pinecones, pine branches, rosemary sprigs, or flowers
- Cinnamon EO
- Any other preferred essential oils
- If you are using fresh ingredients, dry them.
- Arrange your potpourri ingredients in a cute jar or bowl. If you are gifting this potpourri, be sure that the jar can still be closed. A mason jar works well.
- Apply 4-5 drops of your chosen essential oils to create a strong and pleasant fragrance.
- Reapply oils every week or two, as needed.