Cedarwood Essential Oil; A Myriad of Uses, History, Quotes, Prayers & Interesting Info

Cedarwood; another one of my favorite essential oils offers a unique myriad of uses promoting concentration, calmness, emotional release, positivity, balance, sexuality enhancement, focus, security, emotional strength, caring and endurance. No wonder it was a favorite among the Native Americans, and because it is so prevalent, the cost is great too.

Uses: Cedarwood essential oil is beneficial in controlling odors and in respiratory infections. Cedarwood essential oil may be antiseptic, calming, and a diuretic. Cedarwood essential oil helps with urinary track infections (particularly cystitis and urethritis), hair loss, anger, nervous tension, cellulite, tuberculosis, bronchitis, acne, dandruff, catarrh, dermatitis, psoriasis and fungal infections. Cedarwood essential oil also is helpful for greasy skin, arthritis, rheumatism, congestion, coughs, sinusitis, poisoning, stress-related conditions, meditation, and clearing mental cobwebs. Cedarwood essential oil may help in adding balance and control in our lives. Cedarwood essential oil may stimulate lymph circulation, regulate nervous system and stimulate the immune system. Cedarwood essential oil may act as a sedative.

Constituents: contains alpha- and gamma- atlantone, p-methyl-3-tetrahydroacetophenone.ß- himachalenes , Deodarone and deodardione

There are many types of Cedarwood, and all have many wonderful uses.

Cedarwood, or Thuja Tree is known by many names. The family name is Coniferae but the common names include Arbor Vitae, Tree of Life, American Arbor Vitae, Cedrus Lycea, Western Arbor Vitae, False White Cedar, Hackmatack, Thuia du Canada and Lebensbaum. And those are just a few of the names in the cedarwood family.

I found the following write up about Cedarwood that really says it all…courtesy of White Lotus Aromatics:


“Every part of the earth is sacred to my people… every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every light mist in the dark forest, every clearing… and every winged creature is sacred to my people. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The fragrant flowers are our sisters; the deer and mighty eagle are our brothers; the rocky peak, the fertile meadows, all things are connected like the blood that unites a family.”-Attributed to Chief Seattle, Duwamish, 1854

Dear Friends-
I hope that each day is bringing you many new avenues of discovery and awakening. It is a fine time of year as the earth comes to life and shares her many facted botanical gems with us. Myriads of colors, textures and scents invite one to explore her treasured realm. If one becomes very small, one can slip into that sublime place where one sees things from inside out instead of outside in. If even for a moment we see the world from that perspective it can brighten up our hearts considerably.
Today I will endeavor to share a few thoughts about some of the grand evergreen beauties of the USA in Canada. If all goes well a few newsletters will be dedicated to Thuja, Spruce, and Fir. We will start with Thuja which is also called as Arbor Vitae or the Tree of Life. Thuja plicata is referred to as Western Red Cedar and Thuja orientalis is know as White Cedar. These are the two main species of Thuja which are extracted for absolutes and distilled for essential oils. They have played a major role in the life of the Native American peoples and hopefully we can enter their world and see things from the vantage point of folks who lived in close association with nature for thousands of years and deeply appreciated and respected the world around them. The beautiful absolutes and essential oils of the Cedar, Spruce and Fir when inhaled can act as an open sesame into the world inhabited by these ancient people in a way that few other things can. The invisible influence of the charged molecules can activate our creative imagination.

The explorations of cultures that are deeply embedded in a reverential interaction with the natural world plays an important part in the consciousness of what it means to be a human in the highest sense of the word. As most of us are well aware, we are for the most part not as dependent on nature as people who lived in past times. When people are relying on nature to provide food, medicine, clothes, shelter and aesthetic enhancement of life, there is a very good chance that an inner feeling gets awakened towards the animate world that is more difficult to manifest when living in environments which are human created .
Yet nature always provides some means of keeping us sensitive to her radiant beauty .Even for those of us living in the midst of congested cities it is possible to cast off the visible and invisible forces which constrict our finer inner self by exploring the sublime wonders of aromatic essences. There is part of the human mind which registers experience beyond what is remembered with the rational mind. It remembers feeling, emotions and experiences that are not even part of the current life we are living. It is a sure thing that fragrance acts like a magical key to those domains. Those short ingresses into a kinder, gentler more loving awareness via aroma can help us rethink our lives and slowly orient ourselves towards lifestyles that inspire and rejuvenate us.

It is a great blessing that we have parks and wild places to retreat too. There we can be amidst plant communities that tell us wonderful stories which give us hope, courage and inspiration. Many times the plants have played a major role in the lives of people that we may have never known but with whom we an connect if we put aside our conditioned mental behavior for some time. People in other times and places have often used the trees, herbs, shrubs, vines, etc that we are seeing on a day-to-day basis. Their aromas may have given them aesthetic delight but the roots, bark, branches, leaves, heartwood, fruits, seeds, etc may have given them many other useful items for their physical, emotional and mental well being. The type of knowledge that comes from viewing the plant world in such a resourceful way creates in that person a unique perception of the animate world. The mind of such a person does not function like our minds do. They perceive a mysterious force working in all things and they know that to live in relationship with that force they need to live and act in a certain way. When they are able to do this they experience a world that is vibrant and humming with life. All the plants, animals, birds, insects, the rivers, oceans, mountains, stars, planets, speak to them in a special language filling their hearts with wonder, wisdom and delight. Then rather than demanding the universe to conform their small desires they offer prayers of thanks and gratitude to each and every particle of the creation for allowing themselves to be used for the betterment of others.

The odors themselves also speak to us of an ancient world which is associated with the very roots of an ancient culture that existed long before people came from Europe to this country. The native American culture had well established roots in the land for thousands of years and during the course of that time they had developed a total relationship with the plant world around them. Because they had made their hearts sensitive to the voice of nature the plants communicated to them a wealth of inner and outer knowledge that gave life to body, mind and spirit.

There is an opening poem and prayer to the Cedar Tree that I think captures this feeling very beautifully. In looking at the various writings regarding the Tree of Life which was applied to both Thuja plicata and Thuja orientalis I think we can begin to feel what it is to walk the path of beauty which so many Native American poets have spoken of. We too can make that path of beauty in our hearts which allows us to join with all the people of the world both in the past, living now and who will live in the future in walking on that quiet way.

Oh, the cedar tree!
If mankind in his infancy
had prayed for the perfect substance
for all material and aesthetic needs,
an indulgent god could have provided
nothing better.
Bill Reid

Cedar Bark Prayer
“Look at me, friend! I come to ask for your dress for you have come to take pity on us; for there is nothing for which you can not be used, because it is your way that there is nothing for which we can not use you, for you are willing to give us your dress. I come to beg you for this, long-life maker, for I am going to make a basket for lily root out of you. I pray you, friend, not to feel angry with me on account of what I am going to do to you; and I beg you, friend to tell our friend! Keep sickness away from me, so that I may not be killed by sickness or in war, O friend!”

The world of conifers, which includes Pines, Cedars, Firs, Cypress, etc has a deep natural resonance with many of us growing up in North America and Europe. These benign denizens of the botanical realm have filled our hearts and minds with their eloquent and stately images from our childhood on. Many of us have sweet memories going to forests to gain a sense of comfort and depth which we sometimes find lacking in our everyday lives. When standing amidst these tall and silent beauties inhaling the elixir exuded from their resinous trunks, needles, bark and cones one finds their breathing pattern naturally slowing down and the eyes begin to sparkle with a natural radiance which comes from feeling at one with the world around one.
This is a grand gift that the evergreen trees offer to those who enter their domain with even a little humility and gratitude in their hearts.
My association with the conifer forests of America began when a child of 4 or 5 growing up in the deserts of New Mexico(up to that time my life had been spent near the jungles in Panama which has its own sense of mystery about it). Occasionally we had family outings to Cloudcroft to the east of Carlsbad where I spent several years of my early life. The feeling of exhilaration that came when beginning our ascent into the mountains remains vivid to this day. The air became sweet and charged with the lilting aromatic melody of the conifer forests.
When very young the human heart and mind is more mailable in the hands of nature and so essential information is communicated without the interfering apparatus of the rational mind which segments and compartmentalizes the experiences that come from the world around. Innocence and openness is a great asset in seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling and tasting clearly and often when one is in that state of natural receptivity they perceive an essence which is to grand to be put into words. This is the magic of the universe. And if one happens to be in that state then one begins to feel the totality of what is around them-a sort of synthesis of all the senses in one. Children often have this feeling intact if they have grown up with a healthy exposure to the outdoors.
The sense of smell is a wondrous experience when in that state. The invisible currents of aroma ebb and flow in and through one providing a rare and intoxicating olfactory delight. This very experience is something that we can all recapture later on in life as well when we weary of the synthetic human made contrivances which overstimulate us and leave us weary and sad. It may be one of the reasons why the symphony of natural essences in the form of essential oils, CO2 extracts, etc beckons to us. We once again feel the doors of childhood opening leading us closer to that feeling of communion which makes our lives glow with meaning.

Since then there have been many opportunities to be amid the pine, cedar and fir forests both here and abroad. The awareness of their sublime and beneficial influence continues to expand. The appreciation of their beauty of their refreshing, revitalizing aromas has deepened with exposure to a greater range of well distilled oils and extracted absolutes. These aromatic gems give one a strong sense of the individual characters of the trees in the mixed forests from which they come.

Thuja etymology
The name Thuja is a latinized form of a Greek word meaning ‘to fumigate,’ or thuo (‘to sacrifice’), for the fragrant wood was burnt by the ancients with sacrifices.

Arborvitae etymology
From New Latin arbor vitae, tree of life : Latin arbor, tree + Latin vtae, genitive of vita, life; see vital. http://www.bartleby.com/61/8/A0400800.html

– Thuja, from the Latin – occidentalis, from the Latin “of the West”
– Common names: Northern White Cedar, Eastern White Cedar, Arborvitae, Eastern Arborvitae, Swamp Cedar, Cedro blanco, Cèdre blanc, Tuja (Swe), Amerikanischer Lebensbaum (Ger)
– A monoecious connifer with a narrow, almost columnar crown.
– Branches on open-grown trees extend to the ground.
– Trunk often divided into two or more secondary trunks of equal size.
– Foliage scalelike
– Bark fibrous,sometimes shredding
– Height at maturity 40’-50’ with diameter of 12″-24″, infrequently to 70’-80’ with diameters of 48″-60″.
Extremely slow growing; to 40’ after 50 years on good sites; perhaps only 15’ or less on poor sites.
– Age can exceed 800 years, making it the oldest tree in the North Woods, with the possible exception of some Aspen clones.
– Roots: Seedlings develop deep roots in well-drained soil and shallow roots in saturated soil. With age develops a wide-spreading root system well adapted to obtain water and nutrients from cracks in rocks.

free-bj.hinet.hr/ strk/slike.html
superb images of Thuja

Creatures who love Thuja
Mammals: White-tailed deer, snowshoe hares, and porcupines heavily browse the foliage. One of the best winter browse species for deer, it is often overbrowsed. Overbrowsing can retard growth and even kill a tree if it is less than 7′ tall. A high browse line is frequently evident on larger trees. Moose browse only when other food is scarce. Stands provide thermal cover for white-tailed deer, moose, and black bear.
Birds: Pileated woodpeckers feed on carpenter ants that, in turn, nest in and feed on the heartwood. Other birds abundant in White Cedar forests include White Throat Sparrow, Golden Crown Kinglet, Yellow Belly Flycatcher, Ovenbird, Northern Parula, Winter Wren, Swainson’s Thrush, Blackburnian Warbler, Cape May Warbler, and numerous other warblers. http://www.rook.org/earl/bwca/nature/trees/thujaocc.html

History: In pre-Christian times it was customary to burn sweet-scented thuja wood during sacrificial rites and to ward off evil spirits. The tree was introduced into France from Canada and planted in the grounds of the royal palace at Fontainebleau. Many Native American peoples prized thuja as a medicine for fever, headaches, coughs, swollen hands,and rheumatic problems. The 19th century Eclectic herbalists used it as a remedy for bronchitis, rheumatism, and uterine cancer. It has also been used to treat the side effects of the smallpox vaccination.

Aromatherapy Uses:

EXTRACTION: essential oil by steam distillation from the leaves, twigs and bark
CHARACTERISTICS: a colorless to pale yellowy-green liquid with a sharp, fresh, camphoraceous odor
ACTIONS: antirheumatic, astringent, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, insect repellent, rubefacient, stimulant (nerves, uterus and heart muscles), tonic, vermifuge
CONSTITUENTS: Thujone (60%) fenchone, camphor, sabinene, pinene
USES: Should not be used in aromatherapy either internally or externally
Used in pharmaceutical products such as disinfectants and sprays; counter-irritant in
analgesic ointments and liniments; a fragance compound in some toiletries and perfumes.
Flavor ingredient in most major food categories (unless finished food is recognized

Thuja orientalis needle essential oil coloreless to pale greenish-yellow, mobile oil of an intensely sharp, but quite fresh, campheraceous odor. It bears great resemblance to the flowering tansy herb, artemisia herb, dalmation sage herb, with a sweet undertone reminiscent of bitter fennel.
Its green, sweet herbaceous, although medicinal camphoraceous -minty note blends well pine needle oils, citrus oils, lavandin and rosemary in chyrpe and fougere bases. The oil has been used as a piquant topnote in high class perfumes-Steffen Arctander Thuja plicata needle essential oil pale yellow to almost colorless liquid of strong Dalmation-sage and bitter-fennel like odor, terpeney and camphoraceous but sweet wood undertone-Steffen Arctander

Thuja Absolute
The absolute is prepared from the needles of Thuja orientalis. It is a very thick dark green liquid(at cool tempertures not easy to pour) Possessed of an incredible sweet clear pineaceous resinous bouquet. Soft and gentle yet radiant and long lasting. It bears little resemblance to the essential oil in olfactory profile.

Native American Traditions
Cedar, White
Ojibway name: gijikandug (“cedar like”)
Latin name: Thuja occidentalis
An evergreen tree that grows up to 20 m high. The leaves grow in flattened sprays, and feel sticky when rubbed. It develops bell shaped cones with loose scales.
Cool, wet and rocky woods provide ideal growing conditions. Found throughout the Maritimes, across to Manitoba and up to James Bay.
White cedar is prized for both the hardiness of its wood and its curative properties. Another name for it is Arbor vitae, meaning “tree of life”. The Ojibway utilized White Cedar for medicinal, domestic and ceremonial purposes. Tea brewed from the leaves and/or inner bark was used to treat colds, coughs and headaches, or as tonic believed to purify the blood. A poultice made from White Cedar eased rheumatism, aches and sores. Cedar wood was used in constructing the framework for Birch bark canoes. The tree’s strong, pleasant aroma makes it a good incense used in sweat baths, smudging (purification by wafting smoke over oneself) and ceremonies. According to local tradition, it is associated with yellow, Birth, and the East on the Medicine Wheel.
This tree may have been the one that the Iroquois introduced to Jacques Cartier as annedda during the winter of his 1535-1536 voyage through Quebec. (White Spruce and White Hemlock are also possibilities [Erichsen-Brown 1979:10-11].) Most of Cartier’s men were suffering from scurvy, a condition caused by lack of vitamin C. Native women taught Cartier how to harvest the branches and bark of annedda, and then boil them in water to produce a tea which cured the ailing Frenchmen (Cartier 1535-6; cited in Erichsen-Brown 1979: 9). Warning: “Leaf oil is toxic, causing hypotension, convulsions. Fatalities have been reported.” (Foster et.
al. 2000: 295). Image (45 KB) http://www.durham.net/~ssh-chin/ohilplantguide.htm

Historical and Cultural Uses: Called “the tree of life” by the Kwakwaka’wakw of the central coast of British Columbia, it surely was for Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest. The myriad uses are too many to name them all. Some of the more famous uses included the construction of canoes (hence “canoe cedar”), lodges and totem poles. Lodges were usually about 20’ wide and 40’ long, and the cedar boards used to construct them were about 2” thick and 2’-5’ wide. The wood was split in planks from living trees, using antler and pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia) wedges, and then the lodge timber construction was held together with rope made from cedar bark. The red cedar canoes were such amazing vessels that about 1900, J.C. Voss bought an average 38’ dugout red cedar canoe from Vancouver Island Indians, and with the addition of 3 masts and a cabin, he used it to sail around the world. Native Americans also used the fiber of the bark to make clothes, raingear, mats, ropes, and was so soft that it was used in baby diapers. The smaller, younger roots, and narrow withes were used in basketry and to make fishing nets and traps.

Other various uses include: wood for arrow and spear shafts, bark fibers for tinder and wicks, wood for ceremonial carving, rattles and toilet sticks (prior to the introduction of paper), and the low smoke, aromatic fire from red cedar was favored for smoking salmon. It should also be
mentioned that Thuja plicata is the official tree of British Columbia. Up until 1900, one could still see the stumps near Orofino Idaho, of the western red cedars that the Lewis and Clark expedition felled to make their canoes for the western half of the Corps of Discovery.

An infant child was placed in a cradle made of red-cedar boards and lined with yellow-cedar bark and sphagnum moss. The blanket, mattress and pillow were made of yellow-cedar bark, pounded until soft and fluffy.

In the spring, young girls went with their mothers and grandmothers to the forest to collect the bark. They searched for a tree about 40 cm (16 in.) in diameter, that was straight and tall, and had few lower branches. When they found the tree they wanted, they would stand under it and say a prayer, such as this one, said many years ago by a Kwakwaka’wakw woman:
Look at me friend!
I come to ask for your dress,
For you have pity on us;
For there is nothing for which you cannot be used…
For you are really willing to give us your dress,
I come to beg you for this,
Long-life maker
For I am going to make a basket for lily-roots out of you.

To strip the bark from the tree, the women made a horizontal cut in the bark, several feet from the ground, for a third of the circumference of the tree. Then they inserted an adze under all the layers of bark and slowly, taking care not to split it, pulled upward and outward until it came free of the tree leaving a long V-shaped scar. They separated the soft, pliable inner bark from the brittle outer bark and then rolled it up, sap side in, and took it home and hung it up to dry for later use. The dried bark was separated into layers and then cut into strips ready for making articles such as baskets, rope or mats. Preparation of yellow-cedar bark was more time consuming: it had to be soaked and boiled to remove the pitch. Woven robes, hats and capes made from the fine, soft yellow-cedar bark repelled water and protected people from the rain.
In more open areas, women pulled up cedar roots from the ground beyond the overhanging branches of a tree where the roots were new and pliable. They removed the outer bark from these roots and split them lengthwise in preparation for weaving baskets and cradles. By watching her elders, a young woman would learn how to weave storage and heavy-burden baskets.
Women also used the long, slender red-cedar branches or withes to make rope, binding material and open-weave baskets. They heated the withes over an open fire until the sap steamed. This loosened the bark so that it could be removed by squeezing the withes through wooden tongs. The women twisted the warm withes and stored them until they were needed.

Cedar was also an important part of everyday life for men. At a young age a male learned how to select a tree to make a house post, a totem pole or a canoe. He and his kin ventured into the forest, often kilometres from home, to find the right tree. To make a canoe, the men selected a straight, tall tree with even growth. They cut a small hole into it to”feel the heart” and to judge its soundness. Then they prayed, “do not fall too heavily, else you, great magician will be broken”. After felling the tree, the men roughly shaped it to lessen its weight. Then they dragged the preformed canoe to the nearest water and towed it back to their village for completion. Canoes could be small enough to suit one person or large enough for thirty people.

Young men learned how to split planks off standing trees, a technique that kept the trees alive. The Kwakwaka’wakw called these planks “begged from” cedars. Planks were used for many purposes including bent wood containers, house siding and
roofing. Bent wood boxes had many uses, from cooking to storage of ceremonial regalia.

Ojibwa Indians are said to have made soup from the inner bark of the young twigs. The twigs are used to make teas, perhaps more medicinal (for constipation, headache) than culinary. Speaking of the gums, Captain John Smith said, “We tryed conclusions to extract it out of the wood, but nature afforded more gums than our arts.” (Erichsen-Brown, 1979). The essential oil is used in cleansers, disinfectants, hair preparations, insecticides, liniment, room sprays, and soft soaps, sometimes an adulterant of oils of artemisia, dalmation sage, and tansy. Powdered leaves are reported to kill flies in 2 hours, the vaporized leaf powder to kill ticks
(C.S.I.R., 1948–1976). Wood contains a heat stable antibiotic useful as a food preservative. Potawatomi rolled up the bark into wads which served as torches. Deer browse the young shoots. Sometimes grown as a Christmas tree, e.g. in India. Attractive for hedges and windbreaks. The timbers were used to make the ribs in the Indians’ birchbark canoes (Erichsen-Brown, 1979). Valuable timber tree today, the heartwood lightweight and decay resistant. Used for poles shakes, shingles, and siding.

Spiritual significance
It was considered by these people to be bad luck to fell a tree so they removed planks by driving antler wedges into the living tree along the grain to split off planks. When a whole tree was required to make a canoe or a longhouse pole, then either a naturally fallen tree was used or there would have to be offerings made to the Gods before a tree could be cut. The power of the Thuja was said to be so strong that a person could receive spiritual healing by simply by standing with their back against a tree, and one myth suggests that the Great Spirit created Thuja in honor of a man who was always helping others: “When he dies and where he is buried, a cedar tree shall grow and be useful to the people – for baskets, for clothing and for shelter”. The inner cambium layer of the bark was even eaten in times of famine as a survival food. The Thuja was used for many medicinal purposes as well. The green immature cones were chewed and the juice swallowed as a contraceptive for women to prevent implantation of the egg. The smoke of the smoldering branches was used as a traditional ‘smudge’ to ward off evil spirits and to cleanse sick rooms. Similarly, the green branches were used to splash water on the stones during the traditional ‘sweat lodge’ ceremony. The branches were also used in the form of a strong tea to wash rheumatic limbs.
“In addition to these medicinal uses, the leaves and limbs of cedar are used for scouring the body in bathing, both for ordinary purposes and in preparation for ceremonial occasions. This was mentioned by Swan and also by present-day informants. Among the Lummi, a boy takes the boughs he has used to rub himself before a guardian spirit quest and fastens them to the top of a cedar tree. Whalers put piles of cedar branches under their beds to make themselves ready for the hunt and to ward off bad luck.

“There is a strong association between cedar and death. Lummi men, burying a corpse, chew cedar tips to avoid nausea. Cedar limbs, singed, were used by the Lummi as a broom to sweep off the walls of a house after the removal of the corpse. The Skagit burned cedar
limbs at night and waved them through the house to scare the ghost after death” (Gunther 1945).

True cedar is of the Thuja and Libocedrus genii. Some Junipers (Juniperus genus) are also called “cedar”, thus complicating things some. Some Juniper varieties are cleansing herbs, especially J. monosperma, or Desert White Cedar. But for smudging, the best is Western Red Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) and California Incense Cedar (Libocedrus descurrens). Cedar is burnt while praying to the Great Spirit (Usen’, the Source — also known to Plains nations
as Wakan Tanka) in meditation, and also to bless a house before moving in as is the tradition in the Northwest and Western Canada. It works both as a purifier and as a way to attract good energy in your direction. It is usually available in herb stores in chipped form, which must be sprinkled over a charcoal in a brazier. I like a piece of char-coaled mesquite for this purpose, rather than the commercial charcoal cake.

Thuja occidentalis
Edible Uses
Stem; Tea.
Pith of young shoots – cooked[105]. It can be added to soups[177]. Pleasantly sweet, the pith was used as the basis of the soup according to one report[183].
Inner bark – cooked. It is only used in times of emergency or scarcity[213]. The inner bark can be dried and ground into a powder, then used with wheat or other cereals in making bread, biscuits etc.
The leafy branchlets are used as a tea substitute[159, 177, 257] but are probably best avoided by pregnant women[165]. An aromatic flavor[183]. Another report says that the foliage and bark are used, the resulting tea is a good source of vitamin C[226].
Medicinal Uses

Alterative; Anthelmintic; Antiinflammatory; Antiseptic; Aromatic; Astringent; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Emmenagogue; Homeopathy; Rubefacient.
American arbor-vitae was much used by many native North American Indian tribes as a medicine to treat fevers, coughs, headaches, swollen hands and rheumatic problems[254, 257]. The plant has an established antiviral activity and is most commonly used in modern herbalism to treat warts and polyps, being prescribed both internally and externally for these conditions[254]. The plant can be used to induce menstruation and so should not be prescribed for pregnant women[238].
The recently dried leafy young twigs are alterative, anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, aromatic, astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic and emmenagogue[4, 7,
21, 165]. The plant is being used internally in the treatment of cancer[238], especially cancer of the uterus[254]. A tea made from the leaves is used in the treatment forbronchitis and other respiratory problems, colds, headaches and as a cough syrup[222, 254]. The plants diuretic properties make it useful in treating acute cystitis and bed-wetting in children[254]. The leaves are used in steam baths in the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis, colds etc[222]. Externally, the leaves are used as a wash for swollen feet and burns[222]. Extracts of the leaves can be painted on painful joints or muscles as a counter0irritant, improving local blood supply and thus facilitating the removal of toxins, easing pain and stiffness[254]. A tincture of the leaves has been used in the treatment of warts, piles, bed sores and fungal
infections[222]. The leaves and young twigs can be harvested as required and used fresh or dried[238].
‘Oil of white cedar’, obtained from the leaves, is an essential oil that is antiseptic, expectorant and rubefacient[213, 222]. It is used internally to promote menstruation and relieve rheumatism[213]. This volatile oil is toxic and poisoning from overdoses has occurred[213], it should only be used under the supervision of a qualified practitioner and should not be prescribed for pregnant women[238]. The oil also stimulates the heart and causes convulsions in high doses[213]. A tea of the inner bark is used to promote menstruation[213] and in the treatment of consumption and coughs[222].
A homeopathic remedy is made from the leaves and twigs, gathered when the tree is flowering[232]. It is used in the household as a treatment against warts, but also has a range of other applications that should only be prescribed by a competent homeopath[7, 232].
Other Uses
Broom; Essential; Fibre; Incense; Repellent; Tannin; Wood.
Tolerant of regular trimming, though not into the old wood, it can be grown as a hedge[226]. The fresh branches are used as besoms[4]. Their aromatic smell serves to deodorize the house whilst sweeping[226]. The leaves have been kept in the clothes cupboard as a perfume, incense and insect repellent[257]. The leaves and stems have been used as an incense[257]. An essential oil is obtained from the leaves and branches, it is used in perfumery and in medicines[46, 57, 61, 226]. It is poisonous if taken internally[65]. This essential oil also has insect repellent properties[106].
The tough and stringy bark has been used to weave fibre bags[257].
The bark is a source of tannin[257].
Wood – light, soft, not strong, brittle, coarse grained, very durable, easily worked, does not warp[61, 82, 171, 226, 235]. It weighs 20lb per cubic foot[235]. Used especially where contact with water cannot be avoided, for canoes, garden buildings, shingles, posts etc[11, 61, 82, 171, 226].
The principal commercial uses of northern white-cedar are for rustic fencing and posts; other important products include cabin logs, lumber, poles, and shingles.
Smaller amounts are used for paneling, piling, lagging, pails, potato barrels, tubs, ties, boats (especially canoes), tanks, novelties, and wooden ware (28). Recently,
white-cedar has been used for making kraft pulp and it appears excellent for particleboard. “Cedar leaf oil” is distilled from boughs and used in medicines and
perfumes; boughs are also used in floral arrangements (32).

The northern white-cedar type is valuable for wildlife habitat, particularly for deer yards during severe winters. The tree is highly preferred by white-tailed deer for both shelter and browse. Sapling stands produce a great amount of deer food (47) and clear cut stands in Michigan yielded almost 6000 kg/ha (5,340 lb/acre) of browse
from tops (16). White-cedar is also utilized by such mammals as the snowshoe hare, porcupine, and red squirrel. Its browse is generally rated as highly preferred by
hares (5,30) and is sometimes heavily utilized (6). Birds common in white-cedar stands during the summer include several warblers (northern parula, black-throated green, blackburnian, black-and-white, and magnolia), white-throated sparrows, and kinglets (9,11). The pileated woodpecker commonly excavates cavities in mature white-cedars to feed upon carpenter ants.

Northern white-cedar forms an attractive fringe around some lakes and peatlands. Stands with high basal area, large trees, and little undergrowth are especially attractive (35). The tree’s unusual bark and foliage patterns are esthetically appealing to many forest users (27).

Northern white-cedar is widely used for ornamental plantings in the United States (24), is now common in Newfoundland, and has been grown in Europe since the 16th century. White-cedar is particularly useful for barrier and shelter plantings (29), and it is one of the few conifers recommended for power line rights-of-way

Northern white-cedar has limited value as a watershed protector because it usually grows on gently sloping terrain. Although harvesting of white-cedar is presently on a small scale, clearcutting on peatland sites has little effect on annual water yields or water tables. Nutrient concentrations in streamflow or temperatures in trout streams should not increase significantly unless harvesting is on a massive scale (27,35).

Folk Medicine
According to Hartwell (1967–1971), the plant, usually as a tincture, is used in folk remedies for benign skin tumors, cancers, condylomata (of penis and vulva), excrescences, fungous flesh, neoplasms, papillomas, plantar warts, polyps, tumors, and warts. Reported to be anaphrodisiac, diaphoretic, diuretic, lactagogue, and laxative, arbor vitae is a folk remedy for burns, colds, consumption, cough, debility, distemper, dysentery, dysmenorrhea, fever, gout, headache, inflammation, malaria, paralysis, rheumatism, swollen extremities, toothache, and worms (Duke and Wain, 1981). The charcoal, mixed with bear gall, was introduced under the skin, after application, with needles in early Indian acupuncture, which resulted in black tatoos. Chippewa pricked the charcoal powder into the temples as an
analgesic and used the leaves in cough compounds. Hurons used the boughs for their bed as a snake repellant. Menominee used in herbal steam and smudges for skin ailments and unconsciousness; they decocted the inner bark for amenorrhea, and poulticed powdered leaves onto swellings. Montagnai decocted the bruised twigs as a diaphoretic. Ojibwa used the leaf decoction as an analgetic, antitussive, depurative, and smoked objects and steamed themselves with the smoke or steam as a ceremonial cleansing. Penobscot poulticed the leaves onto hands and feet, and used for cancerous warts. Potawatomi treated the plant almost like a panacea, and burned the leaves over the coals as medicine, ceremonial purification, and to repel evil spirits (Duke, 1983c). Sources cited in Hager’s Handbook report that homeopathic doses are effective against animal and plant viruses and that the plant affords protection against schistosomiasis. Hager’s Handbook also lists many homeopathic applications, e.g. amnesia, angina, blepharitis, cholecystosis, condylomata, conjunctivitis, gonorrhea, gout, melancholy, myalgia, neuralgia, otitis, pertussis, pharyngitis, pruritus, rheumatism, rhinitis, trachitis, etc. (List and Horhammer, 1969–1979).


Seeds contain 15% oil. Heartwood contains b- and a-eudesmol, occidol, and occidiol. Branches and attached leaves run from ca 0.3–1.0% essential oil, 15-year-old trees yielding 50% more than 30-year-old trees. Guenther lists as major components d-a-pinene, d-a-thujone, 1-fenchone, 1-borneal, acetic-, formic-, and isovaleric-acids. Hager’s Handbook adds terpineol, sabinene, camphene, camphor, valerianic acid, occidol, b-sitosterol, quercitrin, rhodoxanthine (C40H50O2), 5.9% tannin, resins, mucilage, vit. C, etc. (List and Horhammer, 1969–1979).occidentalis.htm

It was considered by these people to be bad luck to fell a tree so they removed planks by driving antler wedges into the living tree along the grain to split off planks. When a whole tree was required to make a canoe or a longhouse pole, then either a naturally fallen tree was used or there would have to be offerings made to the Gods before a tree could be cut. The power of the Thuja was said to be so strong that a person could receive spiritual healing by simply by standing with their back against a tree, and one myth suggests that the Great Spirit created Thuja in honor of a man who was always helping others: “When he dies and where he is buried, a cedar tree shall grow and be useful to the people – for baskets, for clothing and for shelter”. The inner cambium layer of the bark was even eaten in times of famine as a survival food. The Thuja was used for many medicinal purposes as well. The green immature cones were chewed and the juice swallowed as a contraceptive for women to prevent implantation of the egg. The smoke of the smoldering branches was used as a traditional ‘smudge’ to ward off evil spirits and to cleanse sick rooms. Similarly, the green branches were used to splash water on the stones during the traditional ‘sweat lodge’ ceremony. The branches were also used in the form of a strong tea to wash rheumatic limbs.


Indigenous knowledge and agriculture
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native americans and the earth bibliography
native american ethnobotany database
native american plant knowledge
native american medicines
traditional native american medicine
plant knowledge
links to plants and herbs of the Southwest
native american ethnobotany


6 thoughts on “Cedarwood Essential Oil; A Myriad of Uses, History, Quotes, Prayers & Interesting Info

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