I wrote in an earlier post about an essential oil I picked up: Ravintsara (cinnamomum camphora). I couldn’t really get this oil out of my head so I have been doing some research. As usual there is plenty of misunderstandings between different oils, popular names, botanical names and the chemical properties. What continues to confuse me are the different Latin names but this is what I have found:
Ravensara, (Ravensara aromatica / Ravensara anisata – Lauraceae family) Is a a leafy evergreen tree 18 to 20 meters high with a reddish-grey bark indigenous to the moist forests of Madagascar, in Malagasy called Havozo. The essential oil is steam-distilled from the stem-bark (Ravensara anisata) or the leaves & branches (Ravensara aromatica)
The main chemical constituents of R. aromatica are: 1,8 cinèole (up to 49%). The main chemical constituents in R. anisata are: anethole (approx. 85%) and methyl chavicol. This makes these two oils completely different. Ravintsara (Cinnamomum camphora – Lauraceae family) is steam-distilled from the leaves. It is also high in 1,8 cinèole.
The problem is that I cannot find any information on the Ravintsara (c. camphora). All info I can find reverts back to Ravensara aromatica/anisata. So the question is; Is it really the same plant? Or is it a mixup of the names? One source states: “Cinnamomum camphora is also named Ravintsara in Madagascar; hence Ravensara camphora is seen on price lists mistakenly as ravensara but no true species exist; various qualities abound”.
So you see the confusion around essential oils; this is why it is so important to make sure that the oil you buy is good quality and has a Latin (botanical) name on the label. In the case with the Ravensara, I would go for the botanical name Ravensara aromatica.
to be continued…when I have more information.
Essential oils come from many different plants. They all have a Latin or botanical name. It is extremely important that this is clearly stated on the label. Common names can be highly deceptive and confusing. Besides, the Latin name is global, so language makes no difference. The plants also belong to different families which have a botanical or Latin name. An example: The botanical name of Eucalyptus is Eucalyptus globulus and it belongs to the family Myrtaceae.
Let’s take cedarwood; there are plenty of different species called cedarwood and they all have different botanical names, they even belong to different families:
- Cedrus atlantica is the essential oil mostly used for aromatherapy. It is mild and safe to use. It belongs to the family Pinaceae.
- Cedrus deodara (Himalayan cedarwood), Cedrus libani (Lebanon cedarwood) both belong to the family Pinaceae.
- Juniperus virginiana (red cedarwood) belongs to the family Cupressaceae which means it is an entirely different species. Not enough is known about this essential oil so it is safer to use Cedrus atlantica.
- Thuja occidentalis (cedarleaf) also belongs to the family Cupressaceae. It is toxic and should never be used in aromatherapy.
So you see why the latin botanical specification is so important, only then will you know that you are getting what you are looking for. It is not as complicated as it may seem, all different essential oils are not readily available to the wider public, so it is not necessary to know them all. But if you want to buy an oil; make sure you know the Latin name, and here is the reason why:
I am always on the look-out for new labels/brands of essential oils and 2 days ago I found a brand I haven’t seen before. The oil I bought was wrong in every way possible:
- The label stated the oil to be Ravintsara (or Ravensara) with the Latin name of: Cinnamomum camphora, and here are the facts:
- The latin name of Ravensara is Ravensara aromatica.
- Cinnamomum camphora is the latin name of Camphor.
- They both belong to the same family; Lauraceae. The properties of the 2 essential oils are very different and cinnamomum camphora should be used with care.
- The label of the oil I bought stated that it could be used neat; 4 drops directly on the skin. I tried 1 drop and had a red itching patch on my arm. ( And I am not very sensitive)
The morale of this? Train your nose, it will be your best guide. Buy essential oils only from trusted, well-established brands. Make sure that the brand has the distinction of aromatherapy, since the demands for quality are higher in this area. Don’t be afraid to question and demand information.