I was aware of some confusion in the aromatherapy world regarding the differences between Ravensara and Ravintsara, but it wasn’t until I decided to figure it out once and for all just how much confusion there was. WOW. It’s enough to make you want to just blend the two together and call it a day!
It is a problomatic situation worth looking into since Ravensara essential oil is still being sold as either Ravensara aromatica or Cinnamonum camphora. They both come from the Lauraceae botanical family but are two different essential oils with completely different chemical make-ups and aromas. So why is there so much confusion? After doing a bit of research, I will attempt to lay it out here as simply as I can.
Ravintsara is a large evergreen tree believed to have originated in China but was introduced to Madagascar in the mid-nineteenth century. This is where some of the confusion with Ravintsara begins…and we haven’t even gotten to Ravensara yet! Because the Ravintsara tree was introduced to another country, and therefore a different growing region, various chemotypes (resulting in different chemical properties) exist. The two most common chemtoypes are Cinnamonum camphora ct 1,8 cineole commonly sold as Ravintsara or Ho Leaf (from Madagascar) and Cinnamonum camphora ct linalol which is commonly sold as Ho Wood (from China, Japan and Sri Lanka). Adding more to the equation is the part of the tree the different oils are distilled from. Ravintsara or Ho Leaf essential oil is distilled from the leaves while Ho Wood is distilled from the twigs/wood of the tree, resulting in chemical and aromatic differences. Ravintsara’s aroma is camphoraceous & fresh like Eucalyptus (although according to one source, it lost its ability to produce any trace of camphor once the tree was introduced to the climate of Madagascar) and Ho Wood being more floral, fresh, sweet & woody. Between it’s floral and woody aroma and high linalol content, Ho Wood is more like Rosewood essential oil for the immune system & emotions. Ravintsara or Ho Leaf Cinnamonum camphora ct 1,8 cineole is the one you want for the flu virus, respiratory issues or allergies.
Now to make an already confusing situation even more so, ravensara is the Latinization of the Malagasy word ravintsara…meaning”good leaf.” But Ravensara essential oil actually comes form a completely different source: the Agatophyllum aromaticum tree in Madagascar. It was discovered in 1792 by the French naturalist & explorer Pierre Sonnerat who gave it the the botanical name of Ravensara aromatica. Again, two different essential oils are produced from this tree: the oil distilled from the leaves is called Ravensara aromatica and the oil produced from the bark is Ravensara anisata. The oil from the leaves is what should be sold as Ravensara essential oil. It’s aroma has a bit of an aniseed or licorice-like odor while its components make it a strong anti-viral and good for inflammation.
Phew! Got it? Good.
The Healing Trail: Essential Oils of Madagascar by Georges M. Halpern, MD PhD
The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy by Salvatore Battaglia