Ravensara mostly refers to an essential oil distilled from leaves from trees in the Laurel family that are specifically from Madagascar. Most often you’ll see the oil listed as ravensara aromatica or it may also be called clove nutmeg oil, though it contains neither cloves nor nutmeg. It has a sweet scent, which some people compare to a less strong version of eucalyptus, and others compare to the scent of rosemary.
The essential oil has been gaining popularity in various aromatherapy treatments for health purposes. Companies selling the product claim that it is an excellent anti-viral agent, and when used in vaporizers it can help clear congestion of the sinuses and the respiratory system in general. There are some studies that suggest ravensara aromatica, which may also be called agatophyllum aromaticum, has some potential carcinogens, though some manufacturers selling the oil say it is safe for children. Most versions of ravensara contain a small amount of methyl eugenol, which has been found to have carcinogenic properties when tested on rats.
It’s hard to know, with lack of testing, whether using ravensara in a vaporizer would create this risk. Most companies that produce the product say it should not be applied directly to the skin, and needs to be mixed with another oil since it is in highly concentrated form. The product should not be taken internally and is instead mostly used in aromatherapy applications.
Like many of these neutraceuticals compounds, it’s hard to know if they are safe and effective since they lack much in the way of double blind clinical studies that would prove they will work or should be used. The recommendation that such oils are safe for children is not based on traditional laboratory science, and parents should perhaps consult their children’s pediatricians prior to employing ravensara or any other aromatherapy methods.
Most Western medicine has trended strongly against using vapor oils or vapor rubs on skin in recent years, especially right below the nose. Nevertheless, numerous companies use this aromatic oil in cream preparations that are intended to be rubbed on the chest to help with coughs and colds. When used in cream preparations the quantity of ravensara is much lower than it is in essential oil formulations.
It should be noted that independent organizations that advocate the use of any essential oils maintain some pretty good rules about them. They should be kept away from children who may be attracted by their smells and drink them. They are also highly flammable, and require safe handling and care. Moreover, some recommend that essential oils be avoided during pregnancy or if you suffer from asthma.