It’s officially fall in the northern hemisphere and that means cold and flu season is coming up fast.  One of the most effective antimicrobial essential oils is Cinnamon Bark.  It’s fortunate that the warm spicy sweetness of cinnamon also happens to be a favorite seasonal fragrance.

I had to split this post into two parts when I realized that explaining what to look for when buying cinnamon EO was turning into a post of it’s own.  So part 1 will explain buying a Cinnamon Bark EO and part 2 will talk about the properties and uses of the oil.

Cinnamon  vs.  Cinnamon Bark  vs.  Cinnamon Leaf  vs.  Cassia 

The botanical name Cinnamonum zeylanicum is applicable to EO’s labeled as Cinnamon, Cinnamon Bark, and Cinnamon Leaf.  So… what’s the difference?

The names Cinnamon and Cinnamon Bark are sometimes used interchangeably to refer to EO distilled from the bark of the Cinnamonum zeylanicum tree.  Cinnamon Leaf EO comes from the same tree but since the leaf  is distilled instead of the bark, it’s less expensive, less fragrant and doesn’t have the same antimicrobial power as Cinnamon Bark EO.

The botanical name for Cassia is Cinnamonum cassia.  I have seen Cinnamonum cassia being labeled and sold as Cinnamon.  Technically this is correct because it’s in the cinnamon genus so it is a type of cinnamon.  However when one is looking for Cinnamon EO generally we want Cinnamonum zeylanicum.  Using the name Cinnamon Bark instead of  just Cinnamon is one way to help consumers identify the right essential oil.

What To Look For 

To complicate matters, Cassia and Cinnamon Leaf are often used to adulterate the far more expensive Cinnamon Bark.  So even when the label info checks out, the EO might not be what you think.  Here are some things to look for if you aren’t sure about what a supplier is offering:

  • Make sure the label says Cinnamonum zeylanicum.
  • Cinnamon Bark should smell very close to the way Red Hots or Atomic Fireball Candies smell.
  • True cinnamon has a clean sweetness at the center of the hot spiciness.
  • Cassia is spicy but is slightly pungent with a syrupy note, it is distinctly different from cinnamon.
  • Cinnamon Leaf smells like watered down cinnamon with a leafy green top note.
  • Cinnamon Bark will typically cost 3-4 times the amount of Cassia or Cinnamon Leaf.

Finally it’s important to note that cassia is often sold as cinnamon in the spice aisle.  If you’ve only ever bought cinnamon from the grocery store it’s very likely it is cassia, not cinnamon.  I say this because using the cinnamon from your spice cabinet might not be the best reference for the scent of real cinnamon.  If you’re not sure, go to a specialty shop or an Indian grocery to find real cinnamon spice.  Once you’ve smelled both, you’ll never confuse cassia with cinnamon.

Check back next week for Cinnamon Bark Part 2.  We’ll talk about the ways to use this amazing EO.

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