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Cinnamon - Festive Spice

November 2018, posted by Emma

Which aromas conjure up Christmas for you? Regardless of when I smell them the scent of certain spices are guaranteed to fast-track me to mid-December, like stepping into an aromatic Tardis. Taking centre stage in my festive aromatic spice rack is cinnamon.

This spice is firmly rooted in history. The Ancient Egyptians used it as an embalming ingredient for mummifying their dead and added it to Kyphi, the famous and somewhat mysterious perfume used for both religious and medicinal purposes. Cinnamon is mentioned in the Bible’s Old Testament and was traded along the Silk Road, the ancient commerce route established by the Chinese Han Dynasty. Hailing from Sri Lanka, India and South East Asia Cinnamon was prized as a valuable commodity by Arab traders, the Greeks, Romans, Portuguese and Dutch, amongst others. By Medieval times soldiers returning from the Crusades are rumoured to have landed on British shores carrying exotic spices in their luggage. Slowly cinnamon, this highly prized and once extremely valuable spice, became a key ingredient of European festive cuisine. Today, Christmas just wouldn’t taste, or smell, the same without it.

Essential oils are extracted from the bark and leaf of Cinnamomum zeylanicum (verum). The bark oil is not recommended for use in aromatherapy as it is too strong a skin sensitiser and irritant. The leaf oil may be used, though caution should always be applied. It is rich in the compounds cinnamaldehyde (an aldehyde) and eugenol (a phenol), responsible for the skin alerts mentioned above.

Many of us can happily tolerate low dilutions of cinnamon on the skin. Just a couple of drops added to a massage blend can help warm chilly hands and feet. Keeping these extremities warm can be a challenge at this time of year, so I welcome cinnamon’s assistance in keeping my clients’ tootsies cosy. The leaf oil can also support the immune system, always useful in winter when bugs abound and we often don’t look after ourselves enough - inhalations are particularly useful here. The Christmas festivities, loved as they are by many, can take their toll on our energy and emotions; cinnamon’s warming fire is a lovely antidote to low energy, frazzled nerves and seasonal despondency.

So as you tuck into your mince pies and sip your mulled wine this Christmas give thanks for this rather special spice, which has charmed` us with its aromatic and therapeutic magic since ancient times.

Festive Room Fragrance (it's a winter bug fighter too!)

If you make yourself a ‘stock bottle’ of this blend you’ll be ready to add a few drops to your burner or diffuser at a moments notice.

Essential oil Single diffuser use (10 drops) / Stock Bottle (approx. 2.5ml)
Ginger (Zingiber officinalis) 4 drops / 24 drops
Mandarin (Citrus reticulata) 3 drops / 18 drops
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) 2 drops / 12 drops
Clove Bud (Eugenia caryopbyllus) 1 drop / 6 drops

Cozy Toes Balm

Keep your feet snuggly with this warming foot massage balm.

50ml dark glass jar
25g Cocoa butter
15g Shea Butter
10g Walnut oil
10 drops Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
8 drops Black Pepper (Piper nigrum)
3 drops Coriander Seed (Coriandrum sativum)

Wash and sterilize your jar. Melt your vegetable fats. First, pop the cocobutter in a bain-marie (a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl). Once melted add the shea butter and the wax. Resist stirring – if you stir you’ll loose some of your fats on the side of your bowl. When the fats and wax fats are all liquid carefully remove the pan from the heat and add the walnut oil. Pour the mix into your jar. Add your essential oils – stir quickly and thoroughly. Cover and leave to set before tightening the lid (you can speed up this bit by popping your jar in the fridge). Once set, massage a little balm into your feet and enjoy its warm, spicy glow.

Warming & Cleansing Infusion

A friend of mine gave me the following recipe. It was her Mother's cure for all colds and flus. Coupled with a light diet, it works wonders.

Put in a mug
1 cinnamon stick
2 clove buds
pour boiling water and leave to infuse for 10 mns
add half a lemong juice and 1 tea spoon of honey and enjoy
Repeat 2 to 3 times a day

This is delicious and makes you want to be ill just for the excuse to drink it. Also very good when feeling down and tired as an immune booster.

Emma Charlton


• Bataglia S (2003) The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy (second edition), Brisbane: The International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy
• Ecole Lyonnaise De Plantes Medicinales, Patrice De Bonneval and Cathy Skipper (date unknown) Aromatic Medicine, integrating essential oils into herbal practice (Volume 1), Lyon: Herbalists sans Frontieres
• Hyslop L (2015) Where do Christmas spices come from?, accessed 06/11/18, available from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/grow-to-eat/where-do-christmas-spices-come-from/
• Lawless J (1995) The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, Dorset, Massachusetts & Victoria: Element
• Mark J (2018) Silk Road, accessed 06/11/18, available from https://www.ancient.eu/Silk_Road/
• Mojay G (2015) Aromatherapy & Oriental Medicine Reference Notes (ITHMA course text, unpublished)
• Peace Rhind J (2012) Essential Oils (second edition), London & Philadelphia; Singing Dragon
• Tisserand R & Young R (2014) Essential Oil Safety (second edition), Edinburgh, London, New York et al: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier