This majestic tree was used to build King Solomon’s temple because its fragrance was thought to lead worshipers to prayer and thus closer to God. The tree grows to 100 feet in height, lives more than 1,000 years, and resists insect damage. The ancient Egyptians used cedar as a preservative and for embalming, in cosmetics, and as incense.
More commonly, cedar is included in men’s colognes and aftershaves and is used to make cigar boxes, cedar chests, and panel closets. Cedarwood and its essential oil make clothes smell great, and on a practical level, they repel wool moths. Cedarwood has many aromatherapy applications.
You won’t find true cedar of Lebanon oil because of the shortage of trees, but Tibetan or Himalayan cedarwood (C. deodora, meaning god tree), and Atlas cedarwood (C. atlantica) have similar scents. The modern source of most cedarwood oil is juniper (Juniperus virginiana), known as red cedar. Don’t confuse cedarwood with thuja or cedar leaf (Thuja occidentalis).
Principal constituents of cedarwood: Cedrene, cedrol, cedrenol, sometimes thujopsene, and others
Scent of cedarwood: True cedar has a camphoraceous top note with a woodsy, balsamic undertone. Red cedar is sharper, like a freshly sharpened pencil.
Therapeutic properties of cedarwood: Antiseptic, astringent; brings on menstruation, clears mucus, sedates nerves, and stimulates circulation
Uses for cedarwood: Inhale the steam of cedarwood essential oil to treat respiratory infections and clear congestion. Add a few drops to a sitz bath to ease the pain and irritation of urinary infections and to cure the infection more quickly. Applied to oily skin, cedarwood essential oil is an astringent that dries and helps clear acne. Incorporate it into a facial wash, spritzer, or other cosmetic (10 drops of essential oil per ounce of preparation).
Added to a salve (15 drops of essential oil per ounce of salve), it relieves dermatitis and, in some cases, eczema and psoriasis. For bites and itching, mix cedarwood and an equal part of alcohol or vegetable oil, and dab directly on the area. Add two drops of essential oil to every ounce of shampoo or hair conditioner to ease dandruff and possibly slow hair loss.
Warnings for cedarwood: Both cedar and juniper are best avoided during pregnancy. Tibetan cedar (C. deodora) is considered the safest.