Saro essential oil is obtained from the steam distilled leaves of Cinnamosma fragrans. This small, evergreen and aromatic tree is endemic to Madagascar and classified in the Canallaceae family. This relatively small family (nine species in four genus) is distributed around the world between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn—it is most happy in a tropical environment. Overall; C. fragrans is a tropophyte, meaning it is adapted to climates with heavy rain periods followed by droughts. Apropos of this, Saro offers its flowers to pollinators in the spring (September into November) in order to bear fruit during Madagascar’s rainy summer.
Cinnamosma fragrans, which is delightful to say and rolls right off the tongue, is also known as “Sakarivohazo,” “Mandravasarotra,” and from there you get “Saro.” Saro’s local name is “Mandravasarotra” which literally translates to “which keeps bad things away” or “annihilates diseases.” Indigenous use of C. fragrans ranges from preparation of the roots for coughs, asthma and dysentery; leaves for wounds and abscesses, and a remedy for poisoning. The leaves are prepared by some for antioxidant boosts. The plant overall is used for diseases of the nervous system. This is no means an exhaustive list of Saro’s “ethno-botanical” uses. Saro seems to be a veritable, stand-alone medicine chest for Malagasies.
Many people compare Saro’s aromatic essential oil to tea-tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) and Ravintsara (Cinnamomum camphora(leaves)) and I disagree. True, I do get a feeling of Melaleuca ericifolia from the oil, and am overall reminded of the Myrtaceae family in general. Truth be-told, I am reminded of Agonis fragrans (Fragonia) quite a bit as well as Laurus nobilis from the Lauraceae family—yet Saro stands on its own—it’s not fair to compare it to other oils as with any other essential oil. This is the fun part—several chemical components are shared across the aromatic plants, then some are unique to families or possibly to a genus. No matter: each plant writes and lives out its own poem.1
From an aromatherapy perspective saro is anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-infectious, analgesic, expectorating, decongesting and immune-stimulating. Overall it shines in supporting respiratory health (as a prophylactic and when an infection is present) and overall immunity. It is an all-around anti-microbial and uplifts the mind in a rather quieting way—it is not over-stimulating and rather comforting. Indeed, Saro is comfort for the soul.
Following are indications & properties to consider regarding Saro essential oil:
- Immune: Antimicrobial (antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral), anti-parasitic, anti-infectious, immune-modulator
- Musculoskeletal: Cramp/spasm, aches & pains
- Respiratory: Infections (overall ENT), sinusitis, congestion, mucus, preventing infection
- Emotional: Lethargy, shock, lack-of vigor, uplifting, clearing, refreshing, energizing, comforting
Chemistry Highlights: Saro is well represented by 1,8 cineole (sometimes nearly 60% depending on the year/location) and supported by monoterpenes (of note: limonene, sabinene and alpha & beta pinene) and monoterpenols (of note: linalool, alpha-terpineol, terinene-4-ol). There are several trace components in the oil—an overall chemical profile may have well over 50 components.
Is Saro Essential Oil Safe?
Saro essential oil is generally regarded as safe (GRAS). Although it is high in 1,8 cineole—which should be used with great care around children and asthmatics and never around babies—I find this oil’s overall chemical make-up to be balsamic, calming and soothing. The oil may oxidize readily; observe good storage practices. Should the oil oxidize, do not use it for therapeutic use; add it to your arsenal of cleaning products instead.
Blending with Saro Essential Oil:
Saro starts off fresh, crisp and bold with eucalyptol dominating the air. It is clean & penetrating. The aroma profile is anti-septic yet balsamic and cooling on the throat and lungs. Smooth, warm and sweet notes step in once the initial camphoraceous impact dissipates. The uplifting aldehydes and sweet esters finally emerge with a gentle, fruity-citrusy-candy Rosalina-meets-laurel feeling. The end is light-powder; quiet with a bit of rosy-linalool lingers like a light, soft comforter. A smile.
Saro essential oil blends well with so many oils: Lemon (Citrus limonum), Red mandarin (Citrus reticulata), Petitgrain (Citrus aurantium var. amara), Elemi (Canarium luzoncium), Benzoin (Styrax tonkinensis), Sandalwood (Santalum sp.), Black spruce (Picea mariana), Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea), Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martinii), Rosmarinus officinalis ct verbenone, Peppermint (Mentha x piperita), Thymus vulgaris ct. thymol or ct. linalool, Labrador tea (Ledum groenlandicum), the Lavenders (Lavandula sp.) and many more. My advice is not to necessarily pair Saro with other oils high in 1,8 cineole as it already has a grand representation of that powerful component.
Creating Wellness Products With Saro
Breathe: Respiratory & Immunity Support Stock Blend
5ml bottle (approx. 130 drops)
60 drops Saro (Cinnamosma fragrans)
40 drops Ledum (Ledum groenlandicum)
30 drops Bitter Orange Petitgrain (Citrus aurantium var. amara)
**Usage suggestions: Create a stock bottle and add 1-2 ml of the blend to a nebulizing diffuser; diffuse 5 to 10 minutes a day for 14 days to support immunity during cold and flu season (or, add 10-15 drops to a water diffuser and diffuse on a timer for 14 days). Add 25 drops to an aromatic inhaler and use daily to support respiratory health.
Cooling Aches and Pains Blend
2 ounce bottle with flip top
3 Tbsp Aloe Vera Gelly (Click here for an example)
1 Tbsp Lavender hydrosol (Lavandula angustifolia) (Optional)
25 drops Saro (Cinnamosma fragrans)
25 drops Spike lavender (Lavandula spicata)
10 drops Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
**Usage suggestions: Apply a thin layer on target sites and massage into the skin. Use as needed.
Sensual & Warming Massage Oil
2 ounce bottle with flip or pump top
1.5 fl oz of Jojoba oil
0.5 fl oz of Sesame oil
Option: Use 2 fl oz of vanilla infused jojoba and don’t add the sesame seed oil
12 drops Sandalwood (Santalum sp.)
10 drops Saro (Cinnamosma fragrans)
1 to 2 drops Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)
**Usage suggestions: Add a small amount to your palms and warm the oil by rubbing your hands together and massage into the skin. Use for special occasions.
An Invitation to Pause: Calm & Comfort Blend
12 drops Saro (Cinnamosma fragrans)
8 drops Red mandarin (Citrus reticulata)
5 drops Benzoin (Styrax tonkinensis)
**Usage suggestions: Add the entire blend to an aromatic inhaler, a 2 ounce spritzer with distilled water or to a 10 ml roller ball applicator with your choice of carrier oil. Use as needed, especially when you feel the need for comfort and time to find a gap for quiet joy.
Have you noticed how many of the aromatic plants live in challenging and unique climates—like Saro does in Madagascar? How they synthesize chemical components using sunlight to help them thrive and adapt to these conditions? It requires specific allocation of energy for a plant to create a specialized metabolite such as an essence. Can you imagine how exhausting and resource intensive this may be for a plant? It’s probably similar to when we decide to focus our energy on one activity for primal survival (e.g., working, buying groceries) versus another for enrichment (e.g., reading, creating, dancing, spending time with loved ones). Those enrichment activities are vital to our well-being—just like a plant. I know you love these precious plants as much as I do. When we love the oil we also love the plant and the special place it calls home.
Thank you for taking the time to spend time with Cinnamosma fragrans and me.
Sources of note:
1Some research indicates there are sesquiterpene components unique to C. fragrans
Behra, Olivier, et al. “Saro (Cinnamosma fragrans Baillon) Essential Oil: Application in Health and Medicine.” African Natural Plant Products: New discoveries and Challenges in Chemistry and Quality, Juliani et al, ACS Symposium Series, American Chemical Society: Washington, DC, 2010, Chapter 26, 485-494 Vol. 1021.
Quero, Anthony, et al. “Sesquiterpene composition of Cinnamosma fragrans: A Malagasy Endemic Plant Used in Traditional Medicine.” May 2016, www.sciencedirect.com, 1/8/2019, Elsevier.