As we work our way into fall, we start to think about cold and flu season. For Aromatherapists this means looking at essential oils that enhance the immune system alongside dealing with symptoms of colds and flu. There are two essential oils that come to mind but are surrounded by confusion. They are Ravensara (Ravensara aromatica) and Ravintsara (Cinnamomum camphora), and although their names sound alike they are not related. I hope to bring some clarity to these oils.
Madagascar is the source for Ravensara, but also Ravintsara. Ravensara, distilled from the leaves of the plant, smells somewhat medicinal but a little sweet. Being antiseptic and antispasmodic, it helps open the lungs in cases of bronchitis, asthma, and respiratory infections. Because this oil is an antispasmodic that is easily tolerated on the skin, it can be applied for muscular aches and pains and sore joints.
Although Ravintsara is a source of camphor crystals, the essential oil does not contain camphor. Instead, its primary constituent is eucalyptol with an aroma similar to a type of Eucalyptus called Eucalyptus radiata. This softer-scented Eucalyptus is often used in blends with Ravintsara, such as one for sniffles at the first sign of a cold. Ravintsara is also useful during acute stages of the flu because of its strong antiviral properties and its ability as a nerve tonic. It kills viruses while raising overall energy, adding mononucleosis to the list of conditions it treats.
Although the two oils may seem to work in the same situations, they do have their differences. Ravensara is more gentle, although still extremely effective. Ravintsara can be less subtle and may cause safety issues in young children and asthmatics. So keep these things in mind when picking between the two. But remember, they are both go-to oils to have on hand to help keep you from getting sick.