By Hwaa Irfan
The Cedarwood Tree is an evergreen conifer which takes on a distinctive conical shape, and is often used to create hedges. The tallest of this species, the Thuja occidentalis can grow up to 70 ft. Known in English as Arbor Vitae, the Tree of Life, Cedrus, featherleaf cedar, or white/yellow cedar, it is the native to Pennsylvania, U.S., and Canada with a preference for damp soil. They have two types of leaves, which can be awl-shaped, or obtuse, but both have flattened glands which emit a fragrant turpentine smell. The tree also bears tiny flowers as well oval shaped cones that have blunt scales arranged in rows of three. The cones are male and female, with the male cones being 1mm in diameter, and the female cones 1-2cm long. The male cones shed pollen from March – April, and the female cones shed seeds from September – October. The old bark of the tree sheds every year. Unfortunately the Cedarwood tree is one of the fruits of the earth that has been used for and is being considered as a candidate for carbon sequestration/biomass to provide – alternative fuel.
Known as Lebensbaum in German, Livsträ in Danish, and Zerav zapadni in Czech, the Cedarwood of Lebanon (Cedrus libani), which can be also found in Syria and Turkey, has had many sentimental poetic and prosaic pieces written about it and a long sacred history e.g. Prophet Musa/Moses ordered the Hebrew priests to use the Lebanon cedar for the purpose of circumcision, and leprosy and Prophet Ash-iyah/Isaiah described the Cedar of Lebanon as a metaphor for the world. Cedrus is from the Arabic Kedron meaning power in English. In certain indigenous American circles, the wood serves a sacred function as an incense, to help clear the energy field of a person. The Ojibwa Indians used the inner bark of the young twigs to make a soup, and for medicinal purposes.
Today there are many today there are many types of Cedarwood essential oils, all with their own distinctive therapeutic qualities depending on which specie the oil is extracted from, and which part of the tree. One can find the oils labeled as cedar leaf oil/thuja oil, which is steam distilled from the fresh leaves of Thuja occidentalis, and is used as an insect repellent, and in the perfume industry. There is also Cedarwood Essential oil Atlas (from Algeria), Cedarwood Essential oil Chinese, Cedarwood Essential oil Himalayan, Cedarwood Essential oil Texas, and Cedarwood Essential oil Virginian. Each one belongs to a different variety of Cedarwood, for example the Virginian belongs to a different species, the Juniperus virginiana, and is toxic!
Cedarwood essential oil is extracted from the leaves and the twigs. It has a camphor-like quality. A yellow-green colored oil is extracted from the leaves, and is used as a vermifuge. A 15-year
15-year-old tree will yield 50% more essential oil than a 30-year-old tree. When buying cedarwood check for the variety/specie to ensure you are getting what you want. The scent is fruity, but with a camphoraceous aroma, and has a yellow-amber color and is of a viscous consistency.
The constituent thujone is the main medicinal property of cedarwood essential oil so ensure that the oil you intend to buy has been extracted through distillation, and is not percolated with pure water, the process of which reduces the thujone content greatly. Thujone in itself contains ethanol, which if extracted for the purpose of biofuel would make the oil ineffective therapeutically in many areas.
Adulteration is common through mixing different varieties and species of Cedarwood, which compromises the therapeutic effect.
Cedarwood essential oil contains many properties all of which have not been identified, and they include:
- A-eudesmol (heart of the wood)
- B- eudesmol (heart of the wood)
- Occidol (heart of the wood)
- Occidiol (heart of the wood)
- Thujone (fresh leaves)
- D – thujone
- Isothujone (fresh leaves)
- Carvotanacetone (fresh leaves)
- Origanol (fresh leaves)
- Origanes (fresh leaves)
- Myrcen (fresh leaves)
- Camphen (fresh leaves)
- Tannic acid
- Valerianic acid
The constituent thuja has been found to be a powerful tonic to the immune system, stimulating antibody production, and an antiviral. High in sesquiterpenes, they oxygenate the body at the cellular level, releasing toxins, and increasing blood circulation. Also, in clinical tests, a fraction of thujone has been found to stimulate spleen cells where there has been cell-death.
Both thujone and fenchone stimulates the heart muscle. The oil in general has been found to arrest epithelioma and condylomata cancers, and extreme cases prolong life.
The oil has a fruity, but with a camphoraceous aroma, which is refreshing yet calming.
- · Antiseptic
For glossary see It All Makes Good Scents
The sesquiterpenes in cedarwood essential oil makes it a powerful decongestant for the lymphatic system, which makes the oil a good candidate for cellulite reduction. As a strong diuretic, the oil acts to detoxify the body, removing uric acid which may cause irritation in cases of rheumatism, gout and arthritis.
As a stimulant the oil increases blood circulation, stimulates the lymphatic system into proper action the affect of which is to bring warmth to the body. It also stimulates the bile, gastric juices, peristalsis, the heart and the brain. The oil stimulates the immune system via the blood platelets, leucocytes, and erythrocytes, and in clinical tests has been found to do the same with the cells of the spleen, where damage has occurred.
The astringent properties act to contract blood vessels, gums, muscle tissues, scalp, and nerves, which has a cooling effect when ingested. By contracting the skin and the muscle tissues, one feels more alert and fit. By contracting the blood vessels, any hemorrhaging that is taking place is slowed down.
As an emenagogue the oil helps to promote menses in cases where it has been suppressed, and relieved an abdominal cramp, feeling of nausea, and fatigue that ensues with menses. It supports the female reproductive system by stimulating the pertinent hormones.
- Sebhorrhoea, wounds
- Loose teeth, contract gums
- Colds, coughs, severe bacterial infection of the ears, nose and throat
- Fungal infections
- Delayed menses, cystitis,
- Difficulty urinating
- Anxiety, nervous tension
- Contracts, tissues, skin, and blood vessels
- Excess water, salts, fats, toxins
- General debility, weak immune system, poor blood circulation
- Acne, greasy skin, growths of the skin and mucous membrane
- Dandruff, hair loss,
Poisonous cases of fatalities have resulted from use of the oil as abortifacient , but most of the toxicity occurs with the fresh leaves. The thujone in thuja oil can cause irritation of the stomach lining, which can lead to spasms, convulsions, and gastroenteritis. Because of its peristaltic and abortifacient properties, this oil is not suitable for pregnant women, and those who suffer from epileptic fits.
In general 1 to 10 drops depending on the condition, 3 times daily, but avoid excess!
For post-natal catarrh, and nasal polypi, 3 drops in a hydrastic spray will halt further production of catarrh, and contract the growth, which will then eventually drop off.
Applied to senile gangrene leads to drying of the surface, and overcoming any offensive smell.
Burfield, T. “The Anatomy of Adulterations.” http://www.abundantlifeessentials.com/adulteration.htm
“Cedar, Yellow.” http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/c/cedyel41.html
Duke. J. “Thuja Occidentalis.” http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/duke_energy/Thuja_occidentalis.html
Ellingwood, F. “Thuga. Thuja Occidentalis.” The American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy.” http://www.henriettesherbal.com/eclectic/ellingwood/thuja.html
Naser, B et al. “Thuja Occidentalis (Arbor Vitae): A Review of it’s Pharmaceutical, Pharmacological and Clinical Properties.” http://ecam.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/2/1/69