Ravensara vs. Ravintsara
Updated: Mar 3
With much appreciation to Marge Clark, owner of Nature’s Gift, for her permission to share this informative article on our BLOG.
" There has been much confusion over the years with the essential oils of Ravensara and Ravintsara. The years of literature written on the subject only deepen the confusion. Never have I seen more contradictions about the chemical analysis of these essential oils. After researching every bit of information available, I've decided that in many cases, when an authority wrote about one of the oils, they were often describing the other."
"I'd like to thank Beverley Hawkins, principal of the West Coast Institute of Aromatherapy, Michel VanHove of Cevenat Sarl, Tony Burfield of Cropwatch, Sylla Sheppard-Hanger of the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy, and Kathy Duffy, instructor par excellence, for helping me reach clarity. I've waded through, and present, a LOT of information about the two oils, but if you are interested primarily in which oil to use for which circumstances, we'll cut to the chase immediately." Marge Clark
Therapeutic Recommendations Which one should I purchase? (Because this is the basic bottom-line question for the end-user wishing to maintain health and well-being.)
For years we have used true Ravensara (Cryptocarya agathophylla) oil for all the uses recommended by the authorities cited, whether they were describing true Ravensara. Ravensara aromatica has been considered a synonym for Ravensara since 2012. Or, the oil now recognized as Ravintsara oil distilled from the leaves of Cinnamomum camphora and is sometimes known as Ho Leaf Oil. The oil from the bark of this tree is commonly called Ho Wood.
For healthy adults, who wish to remain so, I would continue to buy and use true Ravensara (Cryptocarya agathophylla) for treating shingles, herpes, and other viral ailments or for diffusion to kill airborne viruses. HOWEVER, if I were dealing with children, pregnant women, or nursing mothers, I would substitute the gentler and safer Ravintsara (Cinnamomum camphora).
For personal use, in the future, I will probably use a blend of Ravensara (Cryptocarya agathophylla) AND Ravintsara (Cinnamomum camphora) in my diffuser.
For respiratory or bronchial problems, it seems self-evident that RavINTsara, with its high component of 1,8-cineole, would ease breathing. (In the past, we've received rave results from practitioners using our Ravensara (Cryptocarya agathophylla) to assist cases of whooping cough. Hindsight being 20/20, I would use Ravintsara (Cinnamomum camphora) for this situation.)
I have received an unpublished case study in an elementary school where the use of Ravensara (Cryptocarya agathophylla) in an aloe vera gel as a "hand cream" three times a day dramatically lowered the absenteeism rate in the classrooms studied. For use like this, I would use RavINTsara (Cinnamomum camphora) with school-aged children, both because it may be safer for small children and because it is less apt to be a skin irritant.
(But, if I EVER develop shingles, I will use our traditional, high estragole Ravensara (Cryptocarya agathophylla) in Calophyllum oil. Based on years of successful feedback, we know that it quickly eases pain and inflammation. "If it isn’t broke, don't fix it.")
What I know for certain about the two oils:
Ravensara (Cryptocarya agathophylla) is distilled from the tree's leaves and contains small amounts of methyl chavicol (estragole), sabinene, and alpha-terpinene with a large percentage of limonene, and VERY little 1,8-cineole.
This is the Ravensara (Cryptocarya agathophylla) essential oil we have imported and made available for over a decade. We have personally used and recommended it as our most powerful antiviral essential oil. We have a tall stack of grateful testimonials from clients who have used it, blended with Calophyllum inophyllum oil, to ease the pain and inflammation of shingles. It has been successfully used to assist all forms of herpes, again, blended with Calophyllum inophyllum oil.
We have successfully used it to repel attacks by viral ailments. We have supplied it to hospitals, doctors, nurse aromatherapists, various aromatherapy teachers, and students. There are some contraindications to using any oil high in methyl chavicol. Estragole is a suspected carcinogen, and I have seen it listed as a possible hepatoxic. Limiting use with children or pregnant or nursing mothers seems appropriate. Also, true Ravensara aromatica can be a skin irritant. Although I have seen it recommended in as high a ratio as a 50% dilution, I would strongly question the wisdom of such a potent dilution.
Ravintsara is distilled from the leaves of Cinnamomum camphora in Madagascar. This is a very different species than the camphor trees grown in Asia. Rather than being high in camphor, it is high in 1,8-cineole eucalyptol, the plant chemical that gives the various eucalyptus oils their penetrating aroma. True Ravintsara (Cinnamomum camphora) essential oils contain at least 45% 1,8-cineole, rather than the approximately 5% found in true Ravensara (Cryptocarya agathophylla) oil.
These two oils are clearly very different aromatically and in chemical composition.
Ravensara anisata is sometimes described as a separate species of tree. However, based on all the evidence I have been able to find, it is more apt to be distilled from the BARK of Ravensara (Cryptocarya agathophylla). It is much higher in methyl chavicol than the leaf oil from the same tree, sometimes as much as 50% methyl chavicol.
The Confusion? For well over a decade, various well-respected aromatherapy authors and teachers have recommended using Ravensara (Cryptocarya agathophylla) as an antiviral. Not surprising since our experience has shown that Ravensara
(Cryptocarya agathophylla) is, in fact, a powerful virus preventative.
In the early '90s, in a paper presented at Purdue University, Sylla Sheppard-Hanger wrote, "For many years now, in the aromatherapy market, there has been trading of Ravensara (Cryptocarya agathophylla), typically high in 1,8 cineole. "She concludes: "So far, therefore, the species of both Ravensara
Cryptocarya agathophylla and Cinnamomum camphora and their oils offered on the current aromatherapy remain confusing. There is a definite need for certified botanical materials samples to distill and analyze. We can conclude from this research project that the typical chemistry of what is being sold on the market, as Ravensara aromatica, is consistent but variable. More research is obviously needed, and as this is obtained, additions to this report will be published. As far as aromatherapists are concerned, care should be taken in the use of these oils because as yet there remains to be any formal safety testing by an internationally acceptable agency."
However, in 2004 Dr. Arthur Tucker analyzed a sample of our true Ravensara (Cryptocarya agathophylla) and found only 5.68% of 1,8-cineole, as well as high percentages of estragole. He wrote in his comments: “Aromatic ravensara is distilled from the leaves of Ravensara (Cryptocarya agathophylla) and is high in estragole (methyl chavicol). This oil matches the few reports of the leaf oil of this species.”
Years ago, Olivier Behra, Madagascar producer and conservationist, wrote the following: "For aromatic Ravensara, the botanical name is Cryptocarya agathophylla whereas the Ravintsara botanical name is Cinnamomum camphora. The main component of ravintsara oil is the 1,8-cineol. If I remember right, it must not be less than 40%. Our ravintsara production 1,8-cineol is 50–58%."
From the International Journal of Aromatherapy, Vol 11. Number 1, edited by Robert Harris: Cinnamomum camphora is not indigenous to Madagascar. The tree was introduced onto the island during the middle of the 19th century. This tree is native to China, Japan, and Taiwan. Interestingly enough, there are several different subspecies or chemotypes of this tree. The essential oil distilled chemical profile will be very different depending on where the tree was grown. Cinnamomum camphora grown in Taiwan and Japan is known as Formosan Ho Oil, Ho Oil Taiwan, or Japanese Ho Oil and has linalool (80–85%) as its major constituent. Production of the linalool type oil is paramount in Japan, but in India and Sri Lanka, the camphor type remains the most important. Cinnamomum camphora cultivated in Madagascar contains high levels of cineole and no camphor. This is the oil that we are interested in. To avoid any confusion, this oil should be labeled Cinnamomum camphora ct. 1,8-cineole. Ravintsara has strong antiviral and antimicrobial properties while being an excellent nerve tonic as well. It is also considered to have respiratory and immune-boosting properties. Its aroma is pretty strong, camphorous, and eucalyptus-like.
Ravensara (Cryptocarya agathophylla), when discovered in 1782 by Sonnerat, was named Ravensara aromatica. In 1950 Danguy described a species named Ravensara anisata because of its aniseed odor. Recent studies have shown that R. aromatica and R. anisata are technically the same species, and Ravensara aromatica has been chosen as the correct botanical name. One possible reason for thinking that these were two different species is that the essential oil produced from the bark of Ravensara aromatica is very different from the essential oil produced from its leaf. The oil obtained from the bark is Havozo and has a strong aniseed odor due to high levels of methyl chavicol and sometimes anethole. When De Medici examined Ravensara anisata in 1992, he found that methyl chavicol was its main constituent at around 90%. Although his study did not identify whether it was the leaf or bark oil that he examined, based on later information, it is thought that the sample he analyzed most probably came from the bark. This oil is not generally used in aromatherapy. Ravensara (Cryptocarya agathophylla) has different chemistry to Cinnamomum camphora ct 1,8-cineole with sabinene, myrcene, 1,8-cineole, linalool, and limonene as its major components. It is strongly antiviral and recognized as a general tonic and an anti-stress remedy. In addition, it is considered effective for detoxification and digestive complaints, and stress. It has a very much softer aroma than Cinnamomum camphora ct 1,8-cineole, and this has been described as licorice-like with an earthy citrus back note."
In 2004, Tony Burfield, author of "Natural Aromatic Materials: Odours and Origins," wrote: However, the Ravensara leaf oils from Madagascar, or perhaps Mauritius, which aromatherapy essential oil sellers invariably sell. This is can be steam distilled from the heavily exploited evergreen tree ‘havozo’ Ravensara aromatica (syn. Agatophyllum aromaticum as discussed above) and is principally composed of the monoterpene hydrocarbons a-pinene, sabinene, myrcene, limonene, & the azulene: iso-ledene.
However, an introduced species of Cinnamomum camphora from Formosa is also confusingly called “ravensara” by oil sellers, and even worse, it is often incorrectly described as Ravensara aromatica. It is this species that corresponds to Behrer’s “Ravintsara” above. As the plant has adapted to the Malagasy climate, it has lost the ability to produce camphor, and the oil is mainly composed of sabinene (13–15%) and over 50% of 1,8-cineol.
Conclusions This can be complex, but if you walk away with the idea that commercially traded Ravensara oils are generally distilled from the leaves of Ravensara (Cryptocarya agathophylla) or a naturalized Ravintsara (Cinnamomum camphora) species, then you are not going far wrong. I discuss further complexities and Lawrence’s suggestion of chemotypes for Ravensara aromatica in my book but let's leave it there for now!"
We hope this information sheds some light on a very confusing subject!