The cedar tree is a conifer that is represented by several species that grow in many locations. The Eastern red cedar, or Juniperus virginiana, occurs east of the Mississippi River, but has spread throughout the Great Plains. Cedars grow as far south as northern Florida and as far north as southern Canada. They can grow to nearly 100 feet in height, and form pine cones with one to four seeds. Cedar leaf oil is made from the northern white cedar tree, which is a smaller tree than the red cedar. The essential oil is made through steam distillation, is yellow and viscous, and smells warm and sweet. Cedar tree oil has been used around the world for centuries and has many uses, from healing to insect control.
The ancient Egyptians are the first people known to have used cedar tree oil. They soaked papaya leaves in oil made from the Lebanon cedar tree and used them in mummification. The ancient Greeks used it to repel both insects and infections. Sumerians used cedar tree oil as the base for paint, which they mixed with cobalt compounds. During bubonic plague epidemics in Europe, terrified residents burned cedar tree oil to fumigate their homes. In the 1770s, the eminent British herbalist Nicholas Culpepper found that cedar tree oil could be a remedy for coughs, shortness of breath and tuberculosis. The American pioneers used cedar flakes on the floors of their homes to discourage many pests common to the areas where they lived. The Ojibwa Indians of Michigan used the northern white cedar ceremonially and in medicines. Cedar has been called "Arbor Vitae," or "tree of life."
Uses in Healing
Cedar tree oil has many uses in natural medicine. For 25 years, from 1971 until 1996, the St. Petersburg Institute of Bio-Regulation and Gerontology carried out scientific and clinical studies that showed cedar tree oil can slow aging and increase life expectancy. Cedar tree oil is especially noted for its beneficial effects on internal organs, such as the kidneys, spleen and pancreas. It is also used for the genito-urinary tract. It has antiseptic and diuretic effects, and is effective against respiratory ailments such as congestion and coughs of all kinds, bronchitis, pneumonia and tuberculosis. Some people swear by cedar tree oil for taking care of a variety of skin ailments. From acne to fungal lesions, it can possibly help to eliminate irritation and speed the healing of wounds. It also can help to make hair stronger and prevent hair loss and dandruff. One of the major uses of cedar tree oil is as a sedative. Many claim that use of cedar tree oil calms them and helps them to sleep, and that it is an effective aid against insomnia. Cedar tree oil also helps relieve pain due to its analgesic properties, so some rely on it as arthritis and other joint pain treatment.
How to Use Cedar Tree Oil
If you plan to use any essential oil, mix it with a carrier oil or lotion, because essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause burning of the skin if applied in undiluted form. Cedar tree oil has a pleasant scent to many people, who add a few drops to lotion, massage oil or an aromatherapy diffuser for its therapeutic and insect repellent properties. In aromatherapy, the oil of the cedar tree is believed to create an atmosphere of confidence and safety, respect and trust. Its aroma makes some people feel comfortable and secure. Aromatherapy diffusers are available at specialty stores and online, or you can add a few drops of cedar tree oil to 2 cups water in a glass pan that you simmer on a stove burner.
Cedar tree oil is believed by some people to be effective as a chemical-free, safe way to control fleas, ticks, ear mites, head lice, cockroaches, mosquitoes, bed bugs, silverfish and other insect pests. The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that products containing cedar tree oil need no regulation because those products are safe.
Cedar tree oil can cause skin irritation if used in high concentrations. Pregnant and nursing women should avoid its use. It is best to keep all essential oils away from children. Only use it externally, and be sure to dilute it properly.