Aromatherapy: Cedarwood

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.


To learn more about Aromatherapy and other alternative medicines, see:

  • Aromatherapy: Learn about aromatherapy, how it works, what part essential oils play, and how to use aromatherapy.
  • Essential Oils Profiles: We have collected profiles of dozens of plants that are used to produce essential oils. On these pages, you will learn the properties and preparations for the most popular essential oils.
  • How to Treat Common Conditions With Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy can be used to treat a number of conditions, from asthma to depression to skin problems. Here you will learn how to treat some common medical problems with aromatherapy.
  • Home Remedies: We have gathered over a hundred safe, time-tested home remedies for treating a wide variety of medical complaints yourself.
  • Herbal Remedies: Herbal remedies and aromatherapy can be very similar, and they stem from similar historic roots. On this page, you will find all of our herb profiles and instructions for treating medical problems with herbal remedies.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathi Keville is director of the American Herb Association and editor of the American Herb Association Quarterly newsletter. A writer, photographer, consultant, and teacher specializing in aromatherapy and herbs for over 25 years, she has written several books, including Aromatherapy: The Complete Guide to the Healing Art and Pocket Guide to Aromatherapy, and has written over 150 articles for such magazines as New Age Journal, The Herb Companion, and New Herbal Remedies. This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.