Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum syn. Cinnamomum zeylanicum) is a tropical evergreen tree which grows up to 18 meters (60 feet) with a highly aromatic bark, shiny leaves and clusters of yellow flowers which are followed by bluish-white berries. It is native to Sri Lanka, India and Madagascar and cultivated in Jamaica and Africa. The plant originally occurred on the island of Sri Lanka in a wild state. The bulk of the bark gathered today however comes from cultivated plants. These cultivated plants are not permitted to grow into trees and are vigorously pruned to remain bushes with slender stems. A light amber oil is produced through steam distillation of the bark chips while a yellowish oil is produced through steam distillation of the leaves. Every two years the inner bark of new shoots is gathered and used in the form of sticks as a domestic spice. Both bark and leaf oils are used for their fragrance and therapeutic actions in nasal sprays, cough sprays and dental preparations. The leaf oil is used in soaps, cosmetics, toiletries and perfumes. Both are used in food flavouring, especially alcoholic and soft drinks.
Cinnamon blends well with anise, black pepper, cardamon, citrus oils, clove, elemi, fennel, ginger, lavender, rosemary, thyme, tea tree and frankincense. Both oils are highly odoriferous so use sparingly.
Psychologically cinnamon leaf has aphrodisiac, warming and stimulating properties and can be used for mental fatigue, lack of concentration, emotional coldness and fear. It is thought that it stimulates and refreshes the mind and eases tension. On the physiological level cinnamon leaf has analgesic, antispasmodic, antiseptic, emmenagogue, stimulating and warming properties and can be used for relief of respiratory infections, sore throats and bad coughs. As well as rheumatism and gout pains. Cinnamon leaf is also thought to be helpful with digestive complaints. The oil can also be diffused as a fumigant during infectious illness.
Traditionally Cinnamon has long been sought after as a culinary spice. Ground cinnamon is used in cakes and cookies (many Christmas cookies have cinnamon as one of their ingredients). Cinnamon sticks are used to add flavor to syrups and creams. Cinnamon can also be used in mulled wine, hot chocolate or coffee.
Contraindications: Cinnamon bark oil is a dermal toxin, irritant and sensitiser and should not be used on the skin or mucous membranes. Its use is not recommended. Cinnamon leaf oil is relatively non-toxic however great care should still be taken with regards to exposing the skin or mucous membranes to this oil. It is a powerful oil and should be used with care and in low dilutions. Avoid during pregnancy and with babies and children.