Cinnamon Essential Oil
Cinnamon–the meaning of which is sweet wood–is a spice that comes from inside the bark of a tree. Although the tree is native to Sri Lanka–producer of the highest grade of cinnamon–India and Brazil also grow cinnamon trees for commercial purposes. A similar tree–the Cassia–is native to China. In ancient times, cinnamon from these regions of the world was considered a valuable trade commodity.
Cinnamon was first grown in Southeast Asia, with its use noted as early as the 1500s. It has a long history of use in India and Sri Lanka, playing a significant role in Indian and Chinese cultures spanning hundreds of years.
Cinnamon was used for both practical and exotic purposes, including use as an ingredient in love potions. The ancient Greeks used cinnamon oil for incense in their temples. In addition to using it in their embalming potions, the ancient Egyptians used cinnamon to treat a wide range of physical ailments.
Harvesting the Plant Material to Extract Oil
Cinnamon trees can grow to be 45 feet in height, but those that are harvested for commercial use generally are not left to grow taller than six feet. Grown on commercial plantations, the trees are cut–a process known as coppicing–so that they look more like bushes. This increases the yield and makes harvesting the plant materials easier.
Although cinnamon oil is extracted from both the leaves and bark of the tree, higher amounts of oil are obtained from the leaves through the process of distillation. But it’s the bark oil that has anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties. The bark oil also produces the sweet, spicy aroma.
Use As an Ingredient in Skincare Products
Cinnamon contributes to healthy skin by increasing circulation, which not only improves skin health, but also reduces the signs of aging. Cinnamon essential oil and pastes moisturize the skin and are used to treat chronic skin conditions such as eczema and acne. However, since skin can be sensitive to cinnamon, it’s important to test it by first applying it to a small area.
You should also avoid applying skin care products containing cinnamon oil near the eyes or mucous membranes lining the mouth or nose. Keep in mind that essential oils are highly concentrated and potent. That’s why you need to use only a small amount.
According to folklore, cinnamon has many potential health benefits. Cinnamon oil is rich in minerals and contains antioxidants, natural antibiotics, and anti-inflammatory and antiseptic agents. While these properties make it a useful complementary therapy for a range of common illnesses and injuries, you should consult with your doctor before undertaking any alternative treatment.
Some people use cinnamon to help lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels. While studies show mixed results, some research suggests that cassia cinnamon (known as Chinese cinnamon) may help lower both blood pressure and blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Caution: Note that cassia cinnamon taken in large doses or in combination with certain pharmaceutical drugs can increase the risk of liver damage.
While many Eastern civilizations have long used cinnamon to treat cold viruses and the flu, some studies suggest the potential of alternative therapies, such as herbal medicines, in helping to fight off these illnesses. Although more research is needed, certain components found in medicinal herbs and spices may also lower the risk of cancer by acting as pro-inflammatory inhibitors; preventing normal cells from changing into cancer cells; preventing the growth of cancer cells; or reducing tumor proliferation.