In India and Europe, cinnamon was a popular aphrodisiac and antiseptic. Often fought over, it was the reason for the Portuguese seizing Ceylon in 1505, the Dutch later taking the country from them, and the British grabbing it next. Today, cinnamon is grown in Madagascar, Africa, Indochina and Sri Lanka. When this large, subtropical tree is two years old, it is harvested twice a year for 30 years. Small amounts of the oil spice up Oriental perfume blends. Eugenol isolated from the bark oil is turned into synthetic vanilla.
Extraction: Distilled from the leaf or bark, cinnamon has a sweet, spicy-hot fragrance. The hotter, more expensive bark is composed of 40-50 percent cinnamaldehyde and 4-10 percent eugenol. It is reddish-brown. The leaf is 3 percent cinnamaldehyde and 70-90 percent eugenol.
Medicinal Action: Cinnamon helps stop menstrual cramps, indigestion, diarrhea, and genital and urinary infections. It increases sweating, and creates heat when used in a liniment.
Emotional Attribute: The smell relieves tension, steadies nerves and invigorates the senses. In very small amounts cinnamon can be an aphrodisiac.
Considerations: Both bark and leaf oils can irritate mucous membranes, but the bark oil is more hazardous. Use sparingly. Dermal irritant.
Cassia (C. cassia) –This less expensive cinnamon substitute comes from China as kuei pi, where it is medicine, seasoning and incense. It flavors cola drinks and lemonade, and scents Yardley’s famous “Brown’s Windsor Soaps.”
Ceylon Cinnamon (C. verum) –From Ceylon, this antibacterial oil flavors mouthwashes, foods and drinks. Caution: it can be a skin irritant.
Camphor (C. camphora) –Unlike harsh mothballs (which are synthetic), the leaves and bark of “true” camphor are pleasant: woodsy with a hint of cardamom. The “fragrant” camphor from Formosa is even more pleasant, closely resembling rosewood. Long popular in China, where statues of Buddha were carved from camphor wood, camphor hydrosols in wine were digestive tonics, and chicken is still flavored by steaming it over camphor leaves. We’ve distilled the leaves of “fragrant” camphor into hydrosols for room fresheners and facial astringents. The Chinese harvest it by topping instead of felling the trees, although demand declined with the introduction of synthetic camphor in 1949. The odor counters shock and depression, and focuses one’s attention. Arabs say it reduces sexual desire. Camphor is excellent for lymphatic massage, but it is also a heart stimulant, so use cautiously. White camphor can be used safely in small amounts, but don’t use the more toxic brown or yellow camphor produced from heavier parts of the oil.
Borneo (Borneol) Camphor (Dryobalanops aromatica) –Used against plague and serious digestive infections, Marco Polo called borneo camphor the “balsam of disease.” The Chinese burn the incense during funerals and important ceremonies. They also use it to treat wounds, sprains, infectious disease and nerve pain, as well as nervous exhaustion. It is distilled from an exudation of the mature trees. Younger trees produce a pale-yellow liquid camphor, not readily available.