There are a number of potential sources of confusion in the aromatherapy pharmocopeia, but one that really stands out as an ongoing problem is the distinction between ravensara and ravintsara.
At first glance, you would most likely assume that ravintsara is just an alternative spelling for ravensara, or vice versa. It’s obvious from some of the information online about these two oils that this assumption has resulted in the wrong descriptions of uses in certain places, so there’s no need to be ashamed if you’re one of those that has fallen into this trap. I freely admit that I originally believed the same thing. But it’s not true.
I’ve always advised that anyone using essential oils or herbs for medicinal purposes should pay more attention to the scientific or Latin name than to the English one. Different places have common names for particular herbs and plants that may be used for a completely different species elsewhere. Oils are extracted from these plants, and it’s not surprising of they end up being labeled with the common name local to the place where the oil was extracted. This case is just one example of the difficulties that can arise when the common, rather than the scientific name is used for identification.
So let’s try and clear this up.
Ravensara essential oil is extracted by steam distillation from the leaf of Cryptocarya agathophylla (syn. Agathophyllum aromaticum, Ravensara aromatica and R. anisata). It is also sometimes called clove nutmeg oil. Another essential oil, Havozo, is extracted from the bark of the same plant.
Ravensara essential oil is not often used, as most of the oil bearing this English name is in fact ravintsara. However, Nature’s Gift recommends it for treating shingles, herpes and other viral infections, either topically or in a diffuser. It is often used with calophyllum for external use.
Ravintsara essential oil is an extract of Cinnamomum camphora- but only from trees grown in Madagascar. The scientific name on the label must say “Cinnamomum camphora ct. 1,8-cineole” to indicate it is the correct extract. If you find a Cinnamomum camphora oil which does not have “ct. 1,8-cineole” on the label, then it is some type of Camphor or Ho oil, which is toxic and not to be used under any circumstances.
Ravintsara is best used to ease breathing in asthma, coughs (including whooping cough), colds and other respiratory problems.