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Ravintsara (Cinnamomum camphora)

Cinnamomum camphora is a subspecies of the ‘True Camphor tree’, originally from Japan. It was introduced into Madagascar in the 19th century and eventually became a part of the wild population. Cinnamomum camphora trees have different properties depending on the environment in which they grow – these are known as chemotypes. Cinnamomum camphora cineoliferum (the ‘cineol chemotype’) yields a cineol-rich oil and is known as Ravintsara.

It’s important not to confuse this oil with Ravensara (Ravensara aromatica) This native tree  takes its name from the Malagasy word “ravintsara” which means ‘good leaves’. Due to the similarity in the names of these two oils, various people have referenced them incorrectly, leading to a certain amount of confusion.

Aroma and chemistry

Ravintsara has a fresh, clean, cineol-like aroma, reminiscent of Eucalyptus or Rosemary. It can be a little camphor-like (kind of medicinal) however the high content of cineol gives a lighter, sweeter aroma.

The main chemical components are:

  • 1,8-cineol
  • Sabinene
  • alpha and beta-pinene
  • Terpeneols

Despite the plant being a type of camphor, the camphor content in the oil is little to none.

Properties & Uses

Ravintsara has a good clearing effect and is particularly useful for supporting the respiratory system. However in comparison to oils such as Eucalyptus and Rosemary it is gentle and less penetrating. It is also said to have relaxing properties which is interesting, since oils that contain high levels of 1,8-cineol are often said to have a stimulating effect. These properties are of benefit for the emotions and also in maintaining free body movement.

Related species and their essential oils

Just of interest, here are all the different oils from the Cinnamomum genus and the wider Lauraceae family.

Firstly, the camphor oils:

Other species from the Cinnamomum genus:

And oils from the wider Lauraceae family:

Click the link to find out all about Ravintsara, Cinnamomum camphora, including uses, recipes and blends.