A Study in Identity Confusion and Confliction
By Jeanne Rose – Summer 2021
Introduction ~ Ravintsara #163, Cinnamomum camphora, is organically grown and not to be confused with Ravensara. Ravensara (Ravensara aromatica) and Ravintsara (Cinnamomum camphora) are two essential oils distilled from 2 very different trees, often misnamed from two separate botanical family, as well as two different countries. The leaves and wood of the tree are used for different essential oils and often also have different names. It is imperative that all who use essential oils, and any company that sells them, begin to label these oils using both common and scientific name, as well as part of the plant used, and country of origin.
NAMING AND DESCRIPTION ARE CONFUSING.
Naming & Background ~ Cinnamomum camphora, the tree, has different oils with different names depending upon whether you are talking about leaves or wood and whether you are discussing the tree from Madagascar or elsewhere. The leaves of the tree from Madagascar, CT cineole, are called Ravintsara and they are used in products as an application for fatigue, and postpartum infections. The essential oil from the leaves/stem, and bark has different therapeutic benefits. Often, it seems, when using the term C. camphora, camphor laurel, we are talking about the tree that grows in China and whose seeds have been studied as an anti-bacterial and whose wood is distilled and releases a solid, white, waxy substance called ‘camphor’.
Names and part and country as follows:
Cinnamomum camphora, CT cineole, leaves, Madagascar is Ravintsara oil
Cinnamomum camphora, CT linalool, leaves, China is Ho leaf oil.
Cinnamomum camphora, CT linalool, wood, China is Ho Wood oil
Cinnamomum camphora, CT linalool, wood and leaves, China is Shiu oil
Cinnamomum camphora, CT camphor, wood, China is called white camphor, yellow camphor, and other names.
Ravensara aromatica, CT methyl eugenol, leaves, Madagascar is Ravensara or Hazomanitra oil.
Ravensara aromatica, CT methyl chavicol, bark, Madagascar, is Anise wood oil aka Ravensara anisata.
Sometimes the leaves are picked with stems and when distilled, have that anise-scent of R. aromatica type anisata, bark, Madagascar is called Anise wood oil, and called Ravensara anisata. –– this from Material review 2005 [https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Hector-
Also, some scientific sources call this tree and another, Ravenala madagascariensis which is family Strelitziaceae, a palm-type tree. There is much confusion and Ravensara aromatica (the old name) is still confusing in the literature. Ravenala madagascariensis Sonn. (Family STRELITZIACEAE), a palm tree whose leaves are used for asthma and the stem used for hypertension.
I remember these essential oils by scent and even that has changed over the years.
Family ~ Family Lauraceae – Cinnamomum camphora – Ravintsara. The essential oil of leaves, Cineole type, from the Madagascar tree is commercially known as ravintsara. The leaves are steam-distilled and depending upon terroir there are different chemical families represented. The main ones are linalool and cineole. This tree with a common name of Camphor laurel has different names depending upon the six different chemical variants called chemotypes. These are camphor, linalool, 1,8-cineole, nerolidol, safrole, and borneol.
Countries of Origin ~ Ravintsara is a product of Madagascar.
Endangered – Probably, it depends upon to whom you are speaking and what plant and plant part they are discussing. Even in the scientific literature, often the plant part being discussed is missing as evidenced from many articles in the literature as well as any book discussing essential oils.
If you are using the leaves only of the R. aromatica, the tree itself is not endangered; however, if you are using the bark of this same tree [but called R. anisata], this tree is endangered.
General Description of Plant habitat and Growth and Confusion ~ I am unable to provide a proper description of the tree, only that at this writing this essential oil still causes confusion. “Obtained from the leaves of a tree (Cinnamomum camphora (L.) J. Presl), which was introduced from Taiwan as an ornamental tree and now grown widely in Madagascar and with increased demand from the international market. This essential oil has often been misreported and traded as ravensara, or Ravensara aromatica. The true ravensara (R. aromatica) essential oil is extracted from the leaves of an endemic species locally known as “havozo,’ or “hazomanitra, which means “aromatic tree” in the Malagasy language.”1
“Another source of confusion with Ravensara species is that R. aromatica and R. anisata (a synonym for R. aromatica) were considered different species producing different essential oils, whereas the plants were one and the same. Both essential oils come from the same plant, but the oil of R. anisata usually refers to the bark oil of R. aromatica (rich in methyl chavicol), while the essential oil of the true R. aromatica is extracted from the leaves. The species that was first described by Sonnerat was further renamed as R. anisata by Danguy.”2
PORTION OF PLANT USED IN EXTRACTION AND YIELDS ~ Ravintsara Essential Oil is steam distilled from leaves of Cinnamomum camphora CT cineole in Madagascar during the months of September through December. The bark yields another product. Always carefully analyze the odor of the essential oil as there are certainly different grades and scents. Wood, leaf, bark produce different essential oil by SD. See above.
Yield ~ I was unable to find the specific yield of essential oil of leaf of Cinnamomum camphora from Madagascar.
The chemical composition of R. aromatica bark is in all cases characterized by a high amount of methyl chavicol (83–98%), whatever the chemotype.
ORGANOLEPTICS ~ The organoleptic, physical, and chemical profiles of the essential oils of ravintsara (C. camphora) and ravensara (R. aromatica) oils showed that both essential oils can also easily be differentiated using chemical fingerprinting. It has been proposed that new standards for their botanical and essential oil authentication and species identification be written.
Ravintsara – Cinnamomum camphora CT cineole, leaves, Madagascar
Color – colorless
Clarity – clear
Scent Intensity – 6
Taste – bitter and aromatic
Tenacity – very good
Description of scent – The leaf oil is herbaceous, woody, spicy, and green and more suitable to therapeutics than perfumery.
Aroma Description – Ravintsara has an odor much like Eucalyptus due to the same chemical component of Cineol. It is pleasant and refreshing, fruity, herbaceous, and spicy. Waft the scent enough times to remember it by its odor.
GENERAL PROPERTIES of Ravintsara CT cineole
Properties of Ravintsara ~ This essential oil is considered anticatarrhal, decongestant, and expectorant. It is helpful and useful for rhinitis, pharyngitis, bronchitis, and sinusitis (by inhalation).
BLENDING RAVINTSARA FOR PURPOSE ~ This robust and pleasant oil is best used in blends for the respiratory system and in massage blends, to refresh and uplift the body. It blends well with herbaceous oils such as Rosemary and Marjoram, the citrus oils such as Lemon and Bergamot, and spicy oils. Included in this list are some resins and some grasses such as Frankincense and Palmarosa. Try very tiny amounts in perfumery to make the perfume sparkle.
>Formula for rhinitis ~ For perennial allergic rhinitis (PAR), the essential oils of Ravintsara, Geranium, (Pelargonium graveolens), Eucalyptus and Niaouli, used together, release their decongestant, tonic, and anti-infectious properties, and can be used in a base of saline solution and rosemary hydrosol, and provide great benefits in case of a blocked nose, (loss of sense of smell), and irritation of the ear, nose, throat (ENT) tract.3
1 oz Rosemary hydrosol
+ 1 oz double strength saline solution*
+ 3 drops Ravintsara (Cinnamomum camphora, CT cineole, leaves, Madagascar is Ravintsara oil
+ 1 drop each of (Frankincense or Rose Geranium), Niaouli, and Eucalyptus.
Place all in a 2 oz nasal spray bottle, shake vigorously to use.
*[Double strength saline solution is made by bringing to a boil 1 cup of water covered for 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Add 1 t. salt and a pinch of baking soda. Stir until dissolved. Store in the refrigerator no more than 2-days.]
>Another formula for rhinitis is the inhalation of a combination of EO that include Sandalwood, Ravensara aromatica, and Frankincense.2
>Sore throat Formula ~ For the beginning of a sore throat, I have used Ravintsara, a drop on a sugar cube, to slowly dissolve in my mouth. I have found this to be very helpful.
HERBAL ~ A tea of the leaves of Cinnamomum camphora in Madagascar is used for fatigue and post-partum infection.
Chemistry and Components ~ We have discussed this in the beginning. It is important for the consumer to look at the GCMS; if you want Ravintsara it must be from Madagascar and have high levels of cineol, 50-70%. The scent will help guide you. I have seen a product called this name (from a well-known essential oil company) that had a high percentage of linalool and that is NOT Ravintsara but Ho Leaf oil.
Key Uses ~ Ravintsara is the oil of the Respiratory system. Just like the citrine in the opening photo, ravintsara is a powerful cleanser.
- Searching for the Real Ravensara (Ravensara aromatica Sonn.) Essential Oil. Perfumer & Flavorist, vol. 30, Jan-Feb 2005
- “Effect of inhalation of aromatherapy oil on patients with perennial allergic rhinitis: a randomized controlled trial,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2016, Article ID 7896081, 7 pages, 2016.
- Effect of the Use of Intranasal Spray of Essential Oils in Patients with Perennial Allergic Rhinitis: A Prospective Study • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32961531/
This examination of the latest information about the essential oil Ravintsara
was sponsored and supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals.
Ravintsara exploration written by Jeanne Rose 2021
Moderation in All Things.
Be moderate in your use of essential oils as they are just not sustainable for the environment.
Be selective and more moderate in your usage.
Use the herb first as tea or the infusion. —JeanneRose 2014
Ravensara aromatica Sonnerat is a tree endemic to Madagascar. The essential oil extracted from the leaves is used in aromatherapy. Previous chemical studies have generated some confusion about the chemical composition of this essential oil. To eliminate this uncertainty, we undertook a systematic evaluation of the chemical composition of essential oils from leaves of this species. The study focused on 28 individual samples formally identified as R. aromatica. The essential oils were obtained by hydrodistillation and analyzed by GC and GC–MS. It was possible to distinguish four groups of trees through principal components analysis and agglomerative hierarchical clustering analysis of the seven chief molecules identified in their essential oils. Two groups were characterized by a prevalence of compounds with an aromatic structure: methyl chavicol (representing more than 90% of the essential oil) in the first group and methyl eugenol (74–82%) in the second group. The predominant compounds of the other two groups proved to be of the monoterpene type: α-terpinene (25–28%) and limonene (15–22%) in the third group, while sabinene (25–34%), linalool (7–21%) and terpinen-4-ol (6–12%) were the primary constituents of the essential oils in the fourth group. The importance of these results for the commercial production of the essential oils from this species is discussed. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Intraspecific chemical variability and highlighting of chemotypes of leaf essential oils from Ravensara aromatica Sonnerat, a tree endemic to Madagascar. By Hanitriniaina Sahondra Andrianoelisoa, Chantal Menut, Philippe Collas de Chatelperron, Jérôme Saracco, Panja Ramanoelina, Pascal Danthu