Cinnamon Essential Oil
Other Names: Cinnamomum verum
Composition: Cinnamon oil can be produced from both the bark and the leaf. The two oils cannot be used interchangeably as they have varying chemical compositions. Cinnamon bark oil contains 60-75% cinnamaldehyde, whereas cinnamon leaf oil contains up to 95% eugenol. While the oils come from the same plant, the two products are extremely different. Cinnamon bark oil is often adulterated with cinnamon leaf oil and cassia oil, so confirmation of oil quality should be obtained prior to use in aromatic medicine. The uses in this handout refer to cinnamon bark oil.
Description and History: Cinnamon is a popular culinary ingredient and is used in herbal medicine to reduce insulin resistance and improve oral health. The uses in aromatic medicine are similar, though the oil should not be regarded as a cure-all for all forms of diabetes.
Cross-Reference List: Skin Infections
Antibacterial: In multi-oil studies, cinnamon (bark) EO consistently demonstrates efficacy against MRSA and similar microbes responsible for bacterial skin infections. In vitro studies also indicate that cinnamon EO works synergistically with pharmaceutical antibiotics in order to boost efficacy against gram negative strains of bacteria (Valcourt, et al, 2016). This understanding and use could, in fact, help prevent the need for second- and third-generation antibiotics, helping to prevent antibiotic resistance.
Gut Bacteria: However, a 2016 study confirms that cinnamon EO does harm gut health when ingested, as expected given its indication as an antibiotic (Dunn, Davidson, & Critzer, 2016). Therefore, while it is and can be quite beneficial for its indicated uses, care should be taken when ingesting oregano, just as one would with conventional antibiotics.
Contraindications: Cinnamon oil is not recommended for consumption by those who are pregnant or may become pregnant or those who are breastfeeding. Consumption should also be avoided by those under the age of 7. Those with liver conditions or alcoholism should avoid the consumption of cinnamon oil. Topical applications are not recommended for children and the elderly. Those with sensitive skin may experience side effects; see the note below.
Interactions: As the herb cinnamon may exhibit insulin-like activity, it has potential to interact with insulin treatments or other drugs that affect blood sugar levels when ingested.
Preparations: Cinnamon essential oil can be used in extremely small amounts for skincare products, particularly wash-off products such as a body scrub. For medicinal purposes, it can be added to a balm for wound care or first aid. The oil is used in small amounts for culinary preparations such as cinnamon candies and breath mints, but medicinal internal usage is not recommended without advanced study in aromatic medicine from an authorized institution with qualified instructors such as the Franklin Institute of Wellness.
Dose: Cinnamon essential oil can be used in skincare at dilutions up to 0.5% or in medicinal applications such as a balm at dilutions ranging from 2% to 10% for an otherwise healthy adult, depending on the other ingredients and the severity of the condition being treated. Stronger concentrations are used by professional aromatherapists with proper training in related applications.
Note: Cinnamon is irritating to the skin. Like most commercial antibacterial agents, it can cause stinging, burning, redness, and irritation, particularly when applied to damaged or infected skin. Maintaining proper dilutions will help to reduce, but not eliminate this side effect. Individuals with sensitive skin may prefer to avoid cinnamon oil and rely instead on a non-irritating agent to treat topical infections. While popular articles on social media advocate reducing the total cinnamon oil content to avoid irritation, such a reduction reduces and potentially eliminates altogether the efficacy. Achieving the proper dose is a requirement to achieving efficacy.
Dunn, L. L., Davidson, P. M., & Critzer, F. J. (2016). Antimicrobial Efficacy of an Array of Essential Oils Against Lactic Acid Bacteria. Journal of food science, 81(2), M438-M444.
Valcourt, C., Saulnier, P., Umerska, A., Zanelli, M. P., Montagu, A., Rossines, E., & Joly-Guillou, M. L. (2016). Synergistic interactions between doxycycline and terpenic components of essential oils encapsulated within lipid nanocapsules against gram negative bacteria. International journal of pharmaceutics, 498(1), 23-31.
Meet Dr Hawkins
Dr. Hawkins brings 20 years of expertise in the integrative health field to her role as Executive Director of the Franklin School of Integrative Health Sciences and the leader of our clinical research team.
She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Health from Union Institute and University, a Master’s Degree in Health Education & Promotion from the University of Alabama, a post-graduate certificate in epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a PhD in Health Research from Middle Tennessee State University, and is completing the post-doctoral Global Scholars Research Training Program at Harvard Medical School. She also holds certifications in numerous natural health fields including aromatherapy, aromatic medicine, herbalism, childbirth education, and labor support.