Both cinnamon bark essential oil and cinnamon leaf essential oil come from the same genus of tree, Cinnamomum. Both types of essential oil can be made from several species of cinnamon tree. The most common one used by herbalists to make essential oils is Cinnamomum verum (once called Cinnamomum zeylanicum), also known as "True cinnamon." However, as the oils' names suggest, they are made from different parts of the tree.
After the trees are harvested, the leaves are removed to produce cinnamon leaf essential oil. The leaves go through a distillation process either with steam or carbon dioxide. The bark is peeled off, chipped, and distilled with steam or carbon dioxide to make the bark essential oil.
Both cinnamon leaf and bark essential oils contain cinnamaldehyde and eugenol as their main constituents. The leaf oil has higher levels of eugenol, and the bark oil has higher levels of cinnamaldehyde. Both contain trace amounts of 43 other chemical compounds.
Cinnamaldehyde gives cinnamon its trademark scent. Because both leaf and bark oil contain this compound, each has a strong cinnamon smell; bark oil contains more cinnamaldehyde, and has the stronger cinnamon aroma of the two. Aromatherapists describe cinnamon leaf essential oil as spicy, sweet and strong. Cinnamon bark essential oil is spicier, sweeter, and stronger than the leaf oil.
Medicinal and Household Uses
Because of its higher eugenol content, cinnamon leaf oil is valued as an analgesic, or pain-killer. The bark oil, higher in cinnamaldehyde, is recommended by herbalists for its antimicrobial and antiviral properties. Both are recommended for aromatherapy. Herbalists use cinnamon leaf oil, diluted in a carrier oil, as a topical treatment for pain.
Cinnamon leaf essential oil is usually less expensive than cinnamon bark essential oil. Because the oils in the leaves are easier to extract than the oils in bark, it takes a greater quantity of bark to produce a similar amount of oil, which leads to its higher cost.
Cinnamon bark essential oil is a strong irritant, and should never be applied directly to skin. Cinnamon leaf essential oil is also an irritant but, because it is milder, can be diluted in a carrier oil and applied to the skin. Both oils are not recommended for use on sensitive areas. Pregnant women should not use any kind of cinnamon oil.